Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price returned to the overall lead of the 2016 Dakar Rally with a win in the dune-filled Stage 8.
Red Bull Toby Price had been waiting for a moment like today in the 2016 Dakar Rally.
The young Australian, who finished third during his debut in the 2015 Dakar Rally, had excelled at navigating in the dune stages then, and with today’s Stage 8 from Salta to Belen, in Argentina, marking entry into the dune sections and presenting the first real navigational test for the riders, Price took full command. Price completed the 374-kilometer timed special with a time of 4 hours, 33 minutes and 14 seconds, turning a 3-minute and 12-second deficit to overall rally leader Paulo Goncalves into a 2-minute and 5-second overall lead of the event.
“It was never perfect,” Price said of his winning stage performance. “We still made a couple of little errors in there. I think we got a little bit lucky on a couple of caps. When we got to the end the way point opened for me and I was all good to go. If I’d had to lead out a stage like that I think it would’ve been pretty good. It’s been a good day. We’re in first at the moment. There are still a few guys coming through, so anything can happen between now and then. We really got a good day in and I’m stoked to be here for day.”
While Price turned in a nearly flawless ride, some of his success was due to the problems suffered by Goncalves, who crashed his Team HRC Honda CRF450 Rally during the stage and damaged his navigational instruments. Even so, the gritty Portuguese rider sucked it up and soldiered on to a second-place finish in the stage, coming home just 5 minutes and 17 seconds behind Price to remain well in the hunt for the overall lead. Video footage of Goncalves’ crash can be viewed below.
“In the middle of the stage on the off-piste area with a lot of bumps I had a crash,” Goncalves said. “I was lucky not to have any injuries. The bike only broke a little on the tower. At the end I needed to ride more slowly to fix the tower back on with my hand and avoid breaking the cables whilst trying to finish as best as possible. In the end, I’m happy because at the end it was a normal day because I caught the riders who started in front of me. The guys, especially the fast riders, started behind me so they caught up with me, but it’s like this. I’m happy, and tomorrow I really hope to have a good day. For the moment the damage is not really bad because I finished, but it could have been serious if the tower had broken completely. Maybe the bike would have stopped. But luckily it’s a strong bike and I finished well. I’m a lucky guy.”
Pablo Quintanilla of Chile had a good day aboard his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, finishing third in the stage, just 6 minutes and 32 seconds behind Price. Husky’s sole remaining factory man is still in decent shape to challenge for the overall win, running fourth overall and just 21 minutes and 26 seconds adrift of the lead time, but he will have has work cut out for him during the second half of the rally this week.
“This was the first day in the desert and with navigation,” he said. “It was a difficult stage, but also a positive one. I felt good during the day, so I think we made a good step. I finished third and that was the intention at the start of the day, so I think it was a really good day.”
Today marked somewhat of a rebound for Slovakian rider Stefan Svitko, who has doggedly held on to a position inside the top five overall for most of the rally. The KTM Slovnaft rider finished fourth in Stage 8 and finds himself just 14 minutes and 14 seconds out of the lead even after incurring a 1-minute time penalty today.
Having won his career Dakar Rally stage just before the rest day, Red Bull KTM’s Antoine Meo had a rougher start to the second half of the rally. Meo opened the road for the 112 of 136 motorcycle competitors remaining in the rally, and he ended up getting lost in the dunes, dropping 11 minutes to Price before he could get situated and make it to the final checkpoint in eighth place, behind on time to Honda South America’s Kevin Benavides, Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube’s Helder Rodrigues and Himoinsa Racing KTM’s Gerard Farres Guell. Meo still holds sixth in the overall rally standings.
“I opened the stage from the start to the finish,” Meo said. “On the first part I rode pretty well. I was just 20 seconds behind [Kevin] Benavides, so it was not bad. On the second part I preferred to slow down a little bit to make sure I did some good navigation. I think it was a good option, because I didn’t make a mistake for my first time opening. Just in the last part Paulo [Goncalves] and Benavides passed me, but he made a mistake and I passed him again, so I’m very happy”.
Despite retaking the lead in the rally, Price is naturally maintaining his focus on taking it one stage at a time.
“We [the leaders] take time off each other, and I think it’s going to come down to minutes and seconds by the end of the week. He [Goncalves] is a real strong competitor, and he’s got a lot more navigation skills than what I do, but we’re trying our best and keeping ourselves in front as much as we can. It is a little bit stressful, but once you throw your leg over the bike and you get going, we just have to make sure we make all the right calls and be confident with what we decide to do. We did that today and we’ve come out pretty good. If it all goes to plan I’d say we might be leading out tomorrow, and we’ll just make sure we get through and in one piece. For sure this is another important part of the Dakar now. Having the marathon stage, we’ve got to make sure on the first day that we don’t do anything silly and break the bike or damage the bike in any way because it makes the second day a whole lot worse. We’ve just got to make sure we get through and look after ourselves those two days.”
American Team HRC rider Ricky Brabec had another solid stage, finishing 14th. Brabec is now 11th overall, just 6 minutes and 28 seconds outside of the top 10. While he is over 51 minutes off the lead time, Brabec still has a realistic chance at a top-five finish if he can put together a strong second half of the rally.
2016 Dakar Rally
Salta to Belen, Argentina
Results: January 11, 2016 (Stage 8 of 13)
1. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/4 hours, 33 minutes, 13 seconds
2. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+00:05:17
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:06:32
4. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:08:02
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:08:06
6. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-Yam/+00:09:19
7. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+00:10:47
8. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:10:50
9. Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP)/+00:11:08
10. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA)-Yam/+00:15:07
2016 Dakar Rally Standings (after 8 of 13 rounds)
1. Toby Price (AUS)-KTM/27 hours, 28 minutes, 56 seconds
2. Paulo Goncalves (PRT)-Hon/+00:02:05
3. Stefan Svitko (SVK)-KTM/+00:01:14 (1-minute penalty)
4. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL)-Hus/+00:21:26
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG)-Hon/+00:25:55
6. Antoine Meo (FRA)-KTM/+00:28:44
7. Helder Rodrigues (PRT)-KTM/+00:30:51 (2-minute penalty)
8. Gerard Farres Guell (ESP)-KTM/+00:37:32
9. Juan Pedrero Garcia (ESP)/+00:39:41 (2-minute penalty)
10. Alain Duclos (FRA)-She/+00:45:11
11. Ricky Brabec (USA)-Hon/+00:51:39