Toby Price extended his huge lead on the penultimate stage of the Dakar Rally and is just one ride away from making history as the first Australian to win the famous race.
Price (KTM) finished second in the 481km 12th stage between San Juan and Villa Carlos Paz in Argentina, 7min 32sec behind Portugal’s Helder Rodrigues (Yamaha), who clocked 5hr 57min 24sec.
The finish saw Price push his overall lead in the motorbikes category out to 37min 39sec over Slovakian teammate Stefan Svitko, who was fourth on Stage 12, 9min 48sec behind Rodrigues. Chilean Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna lies third at 53min 10sec.
While nothing is guaranteed in the Dakar, Price would need to strike navigational or bike problems on the final stage to be denied the race victory.
Price, 28, is poised to claim his first Dakar win in Rosario on Saturday (local time), which would earn him a slice of history as the race’s first Aussie champion.
“I haven’t really looked into the history of results yet,” Price said.
“I’ll look at that tomorrow once it’s all done. If that happens it will be a bit of history and I’ll be pretty stoked with that.”
Price said he had made the tactical decision to let Rodrigues go ahead unchallenged for the stage win, given the Portuguese rider was not an overall threat and conditions were treacherous.
“It was on really sharp shale-like rock. It was really sketchy, really skatey and it felt like I was riding on ice,” he said.
“We had a couple of excursions off the track a couple of times so we thought we’d whack it down and make sure that we get to the finish. I looked back and saw Helder and he was on the gas. He’s in the running, but for me he’s no problem if he passed me, so I didn’t put up a fight. Once he got there, I let him through, then just continued on with my own race. We’re here at the finishing line and that’s the main thing.”
Price had a relatively trouble-free day, as French teammate Antoine Meo rode with him under team instructions. Meo had been sitting third before the longest stage of the endurance race but dropped to sixth overall after losing half an hour during a heavy fall 50km from the finish.
“There’s one stage left, right? Ah, I didn’t dream it,” Meo said.
“I don’t remember anything, just the Iritrack buzzing to call me after the fall. I know that I went to look for a way point at one moment. I’d lost time and was riding with Toby... is that right?
“It’s a pain in the arse. It was one hell of a crash. I’m hurting everywhere, my hand, my neck, my head… everything except my arse!”