Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price was in form on Thursday to take his second Dakar Rally stage win in the current edition as this offroad epic crossed from Argentina into Bolivia. The Australian rider competed the stage, which was also characterized by a climb to 4600 meters altitude, in four hours three minutes and 44 seconds. He moved from seventh in the overall rankings up to third and is now just one minute 47 seconds behind the leader.
It was a good day for KTM riders and Price was the first of four fastest to reach the finish at Uyuni to also safely wrap up the second half of the marathon stage. KTM factory teammate and Dakar Rookie Antoine Meo was second in the stage and is looking increasingly comfortable after his switch from world-class enduro racing to rally raid. Stefan Svitko of Slovakia was third on his KTM, and factory rider Matthias Walkner finished fourth. The team’s other two riders, Jordi Viladoms and Laia Sanz finished 15th and 20th
Price was on the pace on Thursday, clocking the fastest time throughout the 328km timed special. Speaking about the two-day long marathon stage he commented: “They were long stages and I had to look after the bike and make sure we made no mistakes, and also look after the tires. Yesterday we were back a little bit but we still made some good times. Today was a stage win and we’re back in contention again and hopefully we can get a good day in tomorrow. Today was really fast tracks but the bike is holding up well. The special went from wide open to tight technical and I had to adjust to that. Now I have to maintain a good position each day.” Price also confirmed that he had no problems with the altitude, which has proved difficult for some riders.
Meo too was satisfied with his ride: “I’m quite happy with my riding style and yesterday I tried to stay careful, to look after the bike and not damage anything. I did have a little crash in the first half of the marathon stage yesterday and the tire was very slippery on the back. Today my front fork was leaking so I had no front brakes but I told myself it doesn’t matter. I rode quite well. I didn’t do anything crazy and I stayed on two wheels. It was a great day and I’m very happy.”
Summing up his two-day marathon stage, Walkner said: “Yesterday was flat out on the straight. I didn’t go too fast because I wanted to save the tire but in the end it was wrong to do this because they were holding up and I lost some time. Today I pushed as much as I could. I made some small mistakes with the navigation because it was trickier than on the other days. In the end it was pretty good and tomorrow I start out at fourth. It was a really cool day.”
The stage was a total of 642km with more difficult navigation on the way from Jujuy into Uyuni. The climb to 4,600 meters at the end of the special was the highest point so far in a Dakar Rally.
Friday’s Stage 6 is a loop around Uyuni, but it is also the longest timed special of this year’s edition over a total distance of 723km, including 542 km under the clock. Altitude may also create problems as the ride is between 3,500 and 4,200 meters and organizers have promised a constant change of pace and terrain.
Header: Toby Price (AUS) of Red Bull KTM Factory Team by Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool