Aussie Toby Price (Red Bull KTM) got his 2021 Dakar Rally campaign off to a great start with a victory on stage one. Price’s teammates Matthias Walkner and Sam Sunderland also delivered strong performances on the opening day, finishing third and fourth respectively.
Pre-race favorite – Monster Honda rider Ricky Brabec – opened the road on the 277km timed section from Jeddah to Bisha following his victory on Saturday’s short Prologue stage, but hit navigational trouble almost immediately as he dropped more than 13 minutes in the opening 37km.
Things didn’t get any better for the American rider after that, who completed the stage down in 24th having dropped 18 minutes and 32 seconds to KTM rival Price.
The opening day of the 2021 Dakar Rally had riders navigating with a 623km stage which included 277km of timed special section. Held entirely on rough sandy tracks, the stage immediately challenged competitors with plenty of navigational challenges. The rocky nature of the course also made bike preservation a priority, especially with the new-for-2021 tire rules that allow the top riders a maximum of only six rear tires over the course of the event.
Ninth fastest in the qualifying Prologue, Toby Price used the first 75km of stage one to slowly build his confidence and speed. Placing second at kilometer 92, the two-time Dakar champ then moved into the lead, maintaining a strong pace to the finish. Leading the provisional standings by 23 seconds, Price will open Monday’s stage two.
Toby Price: “Overall, the day has gone well. Navigation was certainly tricky today – it was hard to find the right pistes and valleys and annoyingly I managed to get lost a little bit on the last few kilometers to the finish. Other than a few other little mistakes, the rest of the stage was good.
I’m happy with how I looked after the bike and the tires because with the new rules we really have to be careful. Looking ahead at the whole race, I think there are going to be some big swings in the standings – the plan is to try and stay consistent and not lose too much time. I’m opening tomorrow so hopefully I won’t make too many big mistakes and we can keep this momentum going.”