The results are in, and this years Dakar rally was unlike any other. With the surprising first overall finisher taking his victory on the back of who would become fourth place, some highly controversial tampering with a motorcycle, and for the first time ever the rally was held in just one country. Yet again the Dakar saw the test of man and machine, where almost half of the competitors did not make it across the finish line. The 2019 Dakar rally, another unbelievable year in the books.
And the winner is…
Headlines have running ramped recently with the name of Australian Toby Price. After the ten-stage race through Peru and having not won a single stage prior to the last one, it would seem a classic tale of the tortoise and the hare still holds true. In this case, however, the tortoise can go 60mph, and the hare is jacked up on Red Bull! Price’ tortoise-like consistency had him running a good race right from the onset, with minimal on-course setbacks, but riding each day with an injured wrist. To endure days of pain and still compete let alone come out the winner is something incredibly difficult to do in an extreme skills-testing race like the Dakar. This win would tally 18-straight Dakar wins for KTM!
As the racers were coming into the final stage of the more than 5000-km (3000-mile) race, it looked like Pablo Quintanilla from Chile on the Husqvarna was likely going to come out the winner. At this stage of the race, Price was barely ahead with just a 1min and 3sec lead on Pablo. However, like any stage of the Dakar rally, you never know what to expect. Especially here in the final stage where drivers are incredibly fatigued, and in this year's case often injured. As the races took off near the area of Pisco (think Pisco Sour), to ride the 70-mile track of mostly dunes back to the countries capital of Lima, it wouldn’t take long for fates to change. Here the Chilean who was running in first place, would misread a dune and come to a crashing halt in the sand injuring his foot and putting him back 19-minutes in the race. That twist of fate was enough to push Quintanilla back to fourth place and allow Price to take the finish.
Against All Odds
Not that winning the Dakar isn’t difficult enough on its own, Price had endured a broken scaphoid bone in his throttle wrist less than a month before the race was set to kick-off and didn’t think he’d get much further than stage two of the race. It’s not like this was his first time riding fresh off an injury though, you might even say he rides better with a wrist injury.
Back in 2003, Toby broke both of his wrists while training for a motorcycle race. Then, just twelve weeks after those broken wrists, he won two championships. Both the 15-Year-old 125cc class as well as the 13-16-year-old 250cc 4-stroke class. Then in 2012 at the International Six Days Enduro competition in Germany, price broke his ribs during a race and continued to ride, garnering him 3rd in that race and 10th overall. Jump ahead to 2013 where Price was racing in America at the AMA Hare and Hound National Championship. During the race, he would be part of a crash that broke three bones in his neck and sidelined him for 5-months. After healing up he returned to America as support for the Baja 1000, it’s here his teammate Kurt Caselli would be fatally injured during the race. Then in 2015 while preparing for Finke Desert Race, he smashed his foot into a stick that broke his foot and right ankle. Despite the broken bones, he continued to race and won both days of racing to take home the championship.
It seemed like the Dakar was just another race with broken bones, and he rustled up some of that old mental toughness, along with encouragement from friends and family and rode on to win again.
Price: "I thought I would only be able to do two stages and then pull out, and that would have been me done, but the support from everyone back home in Australia, and then having some things go my way and a bit of luck, it just worked out in the end."
Toby has certainly had his ups and downs at the Dakar rally and won his first Dakar in the motorcycle division in 2016, at just 28 years old. Then in 2017 Price ended up breaking his leg on the fourth stage of the race and was forced to drop out. Back at it again in 2018 he would claim the 3rd place on the podium and keep his eyes on the price for 2019.
Price: "It was so tight going into the stage this morning, both Pablo and I knew we would have to push right from the start. Unfortunately for him, he went too hard off a dune, but he really deserves a win too – everyone that starts this race deserves a win. The plan now is to go home and relax for a little while, I know I need to have my wrist seen to, so I'll get that sorted and then it won’t be long before we start it all over again.”
The Rest Of The Podium
Second place is the first loser, or so are the words of the highly competitive types. At the Dakar though, anyone who makes it across the line is considered a winner in their own right. With 138 motorcycle riders starting the race this year, the odds are entirely against the racers from the outset. In the case of this years race, second place went to another Australian, Matthias Walkner, who was no surprise to followers of the Dakar. If you recall, Walkner won the Dakar in 2018. This year he came in a sandy second, just 9min and 13sec behind Price. Third place went to the most controversial rider in this year's race. The Britt, Sam Sunderland, was cited with a one-hour penalty during the race for what was alleged as purposely causing a fault within the electronic part of his navigation system in an effort to not open the next days' stage of the race. After an appeal with race officials that Sunderland eventually won, and with the penalty removed, his was moved into his third-place standing. Having won the Dakar in 2017, Sunderland was hoping to come out successive again, but third overall is an impressive finish.
A glimpse at some of Toby Price achievements
• 2014 International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) E3
• 2014 Day In The Dirt
• 2016 Dakar Rally
• 2016 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
• 2016 Rallye OiLibya du Maroc
• 2018 Rallye OiLibya du Maroc
• 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship
• 2019 Dakar Rally
• 2009 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC)
• 2010 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC)
• 2010 Finke Desert Race
• 2010 Hattah Desert Race
• 2010 Australian 4 Day Enduro (A4DE)
• 2011 Hattah Desert Race
• 2011 Australian 4 Day Enduro (A4DE)
• 2012 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC)
• 2012 Finke Desert Race
• 2012 Hattah Desert Race
• 2014 Finke Desert Race
• 2014 Hattah Desert Race
• 2014 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC)
• 2015 Finke Desert Race
• 2015 Hattah Desert Race
• 2015 Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC)
• 2016 Finke Desert Race
• 2018 Finke Desert Race
The Dakar came about like any well thought out plan, like those typically found on the back of napkins in shady saloons. In 1977 the wild-cat motorcycle-racer Thierry Sabine found himself lost in the Tenere Desert during the Abidjan-Nice Race. It was here that instead of maybe steering away from future racing like most sensible grownups would, he instead thought the desert would be an ideal place to hold a race. A real test of man's capabilities along with his chosen machine for the race. With that idea he then held the first ever race from Paris France to Dakar Senegal, attracting 182 original participants, with only 78 crossing the finish line over 6000-miles later. It seemed the idea of racing to potential failure caught on, and in the years to come the race would grow from a group of adrenalin-junkie amateurs. To include some of histories most esteem off-road racers, that peaked at 603 racers in 1988 then tapered off a bit until it hit another record of 688 rally racers in 2005!
Sabine would spend the rest of his life promoting and organizing the Dakar rally until his untimely death in 1986 where the helicopter his was riding in crashed during a desert sand storm. The Dakar rolled on as usual until 2008 where the race was canceled entirely due to safety concerns of terrorist attacks in Mauritania. Racers, organizers, and spectators feared the worst for the race until South American countries Argentina and Chile reached out to offer some of their pristine countrysides as race territory. It worked, and 501 competitors showed up for the event. Oddly enough neither of those countries were included in this year's legs of the race. From 2009 to date, the Dakar Rally has been held in South America.
Want to enter the Dakar?
Is your 450cc KTM longing for 10 days in the desert? Do you feel that the bones in your body are too straight as it is? Do you want to feel the fame and stardom of working on your own bike late into the night while sponsored professionals fall asleep to the soothing massages and full mechanical teams that only corporate money can buy? If you answered yes to these questions, then the Dakar might just be the event for you!
It’s actually easier to enter than you might imagine. You just need to be 18-years old and prove that you have some rally experience, and have a bike of 450cc or less motorcycle. Knowing some mechanics probably helps too. The entry fees are currently sitting at 16,500 Euros ($18,750) for a motorcycle and includes a few perks like; food, a bit of fuel and a beacon in case you get lost. Really though is probably going to run you closer to $30K as an amateur in closer to $100K if you’re slightly more professional. Reddit has a rough estimate by a contestant who ran the race on his own. As well, Charlie Boorman of the popular Long Way Round adventure motorcycle series estimated his run around 100K Pounds.
The next Dakar is already being planned out, with entries being lined-up. With a year of practice under your seat it’s likely to be an event you won’t finish, or ever forget!
*Header Image: MOTUL