DARK TERRITORY: Toby Price left his Dakar Rally rivals in his wake heading into stage 10. Picture: Getty ImagesTOBY Price thrived in the heat on the Fiambala sand dunesto extend his lead in the Dakar Rally to almost half an hour afterstage nineas main bikes rival Paulo Goncalves dropped off the pace.
The Hunter rider was seven minutes and 10 seconds faster than the next-best, Honda’s Kevin Benavides, on provisional times at check point twointhe loop circuit at Belen in Argentina when thestage was called off early because of extreme heat. Price won his fifth stage of the rally andhad an overall lead of 24:47.
However, Price’s lead later extended to 28:59from second-placedKTM teammate Stefan Svitko on adjusted timesand his stage advantage pushed to 12:29. American Ricky Brabec was moved up to second on the stage standings.
Pricestarted the day 2:05 ahead of Goncalvesand had extended that lead by three minutes at check point one. His Portuguese rival’s hopeswerethen crippled when abranch put a hole in his radiator. He slowed down before stopping at check point twoto attempt stop-gap repairs.
Price finished the stage andincreasedhis lead before the race was halted.Goncalves’ position was uncertain until later given a group time and13th place on the stage,31:56behind Price, to be third overall and34:01off the pace. Although still in the race, Goncalves will have to fix his bike without assistance from mechanics because stage nine is the first in a two-day marathon section where competitors receive no outside support in between races.
Price, 28,was initially disappointed not to extend his lead further after powering through the tough section.
“I get to the finishing line and then they cancel the rest of it,that’s a bit of a shame, but that’s the way it is,” Price said.“We’ll just have to wait and see and see what call they come up with. It’s a bit of a bummer for me.I have to get to the finishing line and I’ve done that, but they’ve called it. I guess that’s just the way it is.
“It’s job done today, but everyone’s got lucky since we’ve stopped at CP1 and CP2. We’ll see if it will be all good.”
Price, though, was more than pleased with his own performance.
“We’ve got through pretty good,” he said.
“We made a couple of little mistakes around the 100km mark. We got a little bit lost but luckily we found the way point and got ourselves back on track and going again. Other than that, we’ve had a fairly decent day, a fairly solid day. It was just good that we didn’t get lost. It was definitely tricky navigation today.
“I still feel solid, I still feel really good. It’s definitely hot right now, but we’ll suit up again, get going, get some air flowing and it shouldn’t be too bad.
“The bike seems really good, really strong and still going really well. The mechanics have done a really good job over the lead-up to the race and during the event. I think we’re cruising along all right.”
Stage 10 is a278km special with a total distance of561km fromBelen to La Rioja. Ithas the longest dune section in Dakar history.