Leading the overall standings by just over one minute going into Thursday’s 10th and final stage, Toby Price had no choice but to give his all on the day’s short 112-kilometre timed special. With competitors setting off in the reverse order to that of their position in the overall standings, Price was the very last motorcycle rider to enter the stage.
Pushing right from the start, Toby knew he couldn’t spare a single second on the well-travelled route. Just 10 kilometres into the stage however, the Australian’s nearest rival fell, leaving Price free to complete the special at a steadier pace. Putting in a champion’s ride, he still pushed on to ultimately claim the stage win and with it, his second Dakar title.
In what has been a superb display of riding, determination and bravery, Price has overcome all the odds to take a well-deserved win. Breaking his wrist just weeks before the event put doubts on whether the 2016 Dakar winner would even complete the rally. Showing immense resolve, Toby took each stage as it came, riding consistently, and at the end of the 10-day event his perseverance paid off. It’s been a great few months for Price and KTM – 2018 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Champion and now 2019 Dakar Rally Champion.
Toby Price: “It feels amazing to stand here knowing I have won the Dakar, I don’t think it has really sunk in yet. I thought at the beginning of the event I would be lucky to even make the rest day. My Red Bull KTM bike has been amazing, I want to say a big thank you to my mechanic for that. The whole crew here do an amazing job – without them I would be no one. The team put in so much work on the lead up to the event and when we get here it’s down to me out there on the track so it feels amazing to be able to reward them all with this result and keep KTM’s winning streak going.
“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.”
Finishing third fastest on today’s stage has secured Matthias Walkner the runner-up spot at the rally. Hurting his ankle earlier on in the event following a hard landing off a dune was not enough to slow the Austrian’s progress through the race. Excelling on the stages where accurate navigation was supremely important, Walkner stayed in touch with the rally’s leaders right to the finish.
Matthias Walkner: “This means so much to me. I wanted so badly to be back on the podium. The race has been so close this year and I truly believe I have ridden my best Dakar ever. The whole 10 days have gone well and I have made the minimum of mistakes. There have been a couple of times where the start position has been tough or we’ve had trouble with the road book, but overall, I feel really happy with my performance. I did hit one of the dunes very hard today and nearly came off, it sounds like that’s what happened to Pablo, so I wish him all the best. Of course, I want to say congratulations to Toby too, he’s like an animal to ride with his wrist like that, and win. It’s such an emotional race for me – to put so much into something, so much hard work, and to get something back at the end is an amazing feeling.”
Following the removal of the one-hour penalty issued for missing the start of stage eight, Sam Sunderland has been promoted to third overall at the close of the rally. Riding to fourth on stage 10 to claim the final step on the podium, Sam’s result makes it a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing one-two-three.
Sam Sunderland: “It always feels good to cross the finish line at the Dakar. It’s been a seriously tough race for all involved, not just for me, but for all the teams, the riders and the organisation. The bike has been flawless all week, so I have to thank my mechanic. I’m over the moon to take third position, it’s not quite the result I was hoping for but even a finish at the Dakar is an achievement in itself. Congratulations to Toby, he has put in such a brave ride all week.”
Entering the closing stage of the event just one-minute behind the provisional race leader, Pablo Quintanilla launched an attack for the overall win. Pushing hard to make up time, the Chilean rally star suffered a heavy fall early in the stage and was forced to battle through pain for the rest of the special stage, as well as the subsequent liaison section into Lima.
Unquestionably a force to be reckoned with since the start of the two-week-long adventure in Peru, Pablo wrapped up his seventh participation at the prestigious rally pleased to have successfully completed the event, but, following his final stage crash, also naturally disappointed at having failed to secure the winning result he set out to claim at the start of the competition.
Pablo Quintanilla: “Today I gave it all for the overall win, but things did not go as planned. A few kilometres into the stage there was a broken dune and it was hard to see it. I jumped it and landed heavily on my foot. Luckily the medical crew arrived a few seconds later and they helped me get back on the bike. The rest of the day it was just a struggle to get to the finish. If you want to win the Dakar you do need to take some risks and that’s what I tried to do today. I was really trying my best today for myself and for the team. It was a tough day but still I’m happy I’ve finished this Dakar. I take my fourth-place result and focus on the future. Overall, I’m happy I gave 100% at this Dakar and took some risks while battling for the win. I will come back even stronger next year.”
Claiming yet another top seven stage result on Thursday, Andrew Short followed Pablo by placing fifth in the overall standings – an outstanding result for the still relatively inexperienced American racer. The second Husqvarna mounted rider inside the top five, Andrew’s impressive result further strengthened Husqvarna’s success at this 41st edition of the Dakar.
Andrew Short: “It’s been a long two weeks and I’m over the moon with my fifth place in the overall standings. I entered this Dakar with more experience and having spent a good amount of time working hard to be better. I am really happy it all worked out well for me this year. I knew what to expect and this made the whole race easier for me. I’m also happy because I managed to make some big improvements during the race and I think this also showed in my results. Making it to the end of this Dakar today has been the most rewarding part of the last two weeks. All the team worked really hard and this top five result is the best reward for all their hard work.”
2019 Dakar Rally – Provisional Overall Standings
1. Toby Price (KTM) 33:57:16
2. Matthias Walkner (KTM) 34:06:29
3. Sam Sunderland (KTM) 34:10:50
4. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna) 34:18:02
5. Andrew Short (Husqvarna) 34:41:26