Australian motorcyclist Toby Price has overcome issues with his navigational road book to make a strong start to his Dakar Rally title defence by winning the first stage of the 2020 race in Saudi Arabia.
Price’s lead over American Ricky Brabec is just five seconds with the Aussie handed a two-minute penalty after his road book tore in half during the 752km race from Jeddah to Al Wajh.
The reigning champion finished the first stage in 3 hours 21 minutes 33 seconds with his penalty taken into account, ahead of Brabec (3:21.38) and Austria’s Matthias Walkner in third (3:22.13).
Price won the Dakar Rally in 2016 and 2019 having made his debut in the race in 2015.
“My road book walked out on me after 15-odd kilometres, so it was strange,” the 32-year-old Price said.
I was quite lucky in one way because I managed to follow on some dust and just keep up with the guys. Once the road book is gone, then you’re pretty much driving blind.”
Aussie riders Rodney Faggotter (25th), Ben Young (92nd), Trevor Wilson (127th) and Matthew Tisdall (129th) are also competing in the rally.
Lithuania’s Vaidotas Zala won the first stage of the car category ahead of France’s Stephane Peterhansel, with double Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso finishing 11th in his debut Dakar Rally stage.
This year’s Dakar is being held for the first time in the Middle East, with the event moving from South America a decade after it had left sub-Saharan Africa for security reasons.
Stage two takes place on Monday from Al Wajh to Neom.