"Being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane” Toby Price is the 2016 Dakar Rally champion.
Etching his name into the legendary roll call as a Dakar Rally winner, Price pulled off a master stroke, in only his second attempt, to win the toughest motorcycle race in the world.
Toby Price is a fast learner. Very fast. KTM's Australian leader, third in his debut last year, rode smartly to grab a clear win. Price, a good navigator impervious to pressure, which came especially from the Honda camp, wasted precious little time wandering around.
If KTM wants someone to fill Marc Coma's boots, the Austrian maker need look no further: the heir is here! 29-year-old Toby Price, the first Aussie to win the race, looks every bit the new Dakar boss in a category that is undergoing a major renewal.
"I don't know what to say, I don't know what to think... I'm in shock, I never would've thought I could win this race in my second participation,” told Price. “This is incredible for my family, my friends and my fans back in Australia!
“Winning in my second participation is awesome, but being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane. I would've never imagined this two years ago. Finishing the rally is already a triumph. Winning it is amazing!
“I tackled the race in true Aussie style. I attacked when I had to, when the time was right, and I kept an eye on my bike during the all-important marathon stages. I also navigated rather well. I hope this is just the start, to win again. It won't be easy, so I've got to savour this victory.”
Štefan Svitko (KTM) continues to make progress. Ninth in 2014 and fifth last year, he achieved his goal for this year's edition by finishing on the podium for the first time.
Pablo Quintanilla took the bottom step. The Chilean may not have been as consistent as the two riders in front of him, but he still managed to produce an excellent performance by winning the final stage.
"The last stage was extremely hard,” said Quintanilla. “There was a lot of tension and nerves before the start. The entire race came down to this one stage. I started fast and, thanks to today and the team's work we defended our third place. I'm delighted.”
As for the rookies, fourth-placed Kevin Benavides stormed onto the Dakar scene, just like Frenchmen Adrien Van Beveren (sixth) and Antoine Méo (seventh).
Van Beveren, a two-time winner of the Enduropale du Touquet, got stronger as the race went by and steadily climbed up the general classification, but Meó was surely the unluckiest rider in the Dakar.
Sitting third overall with two days to go and two stage wins in the bag, Méo sacrificed his podium spot in a heartbeat in order to support Toby Price. However, a heavy fall in the penultimate stage turned the end of the Dakar into a nightmare for the five-time world enduro champion. Not the reward he deserved for the last fortnight.
Although unable to match her incredible result of 2015, Laia Sanz once again delivered an impressive performance to place 15th overall.
Shadowing Sanz for the majority of the rally, Ivan Cervantes, another EWC champ turned rally rookie, ended his first Dakar experience in 16th.
All in all, 84 motorcycles, 23 quads, 67 cars and 44 trucks completed the 9,500 km long race, out of 358 competitors on the start line of the 38th edition —a finish rate of more than 60%.
© Flavien Duhamel/Red Bull Content Pool