Red Bull KTM factory rider Toby Price has won the 2016 Dakar Rally to give KTM its 15th victory in the most famous of the desert races.
On debut last year Price finished third, and becomes the first rider to win in only his second attempt at the event.
Price won by almost 40 minutes after 9000km the 2016 Dakar was run over. In second place was KTM rider Stefan Svitko of Slovakia. Pablo Quintanilla of Chile was third overall, his best ever Dakar result.
Speaking after the stage, Price said: “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 quite well. I hope this is just the start, to win again. It won’t be easy, so I’ve got to savour this victory.”
The Aussie dominated the Rally, apart from a navigational error in the second stage which dropped him down the standings, but with almost every ensuing stage he would close the gap. He dealt with the extremes of weather better than most – from freezing temperatures to having stages shortened due to extreme heat – and thunderstorms and flooding.
It was in the middle stages of the race Price really showed his strength, winning four of the stages 5-9. Smart riding in the final stages meant he might not have won any given stage, but to in you must first finish, end by the end Price wad extended his lead overall.
It was a best ever result for Svitko who raced his first Dakar in 2010 and who was fifth overall last year. He was the stage 10 winner and despite a small setback in the next stage was consistently among the top three all the way to Rosario.
Third placed Quintanilla finally took the third overall after a great rivalry between him and Red Bull KTM’s Dakar rookie Antoine Meo. Right up to stage 12, the third place could have gone to either rider but Meo crashed hard 40km from the end of the penultimate stage. He struggled through to the end of the final stage clearly suffering from the effects of the crash but still managed to finish seventh overall. Meo, a multi enduro world champion, has made a smooth and impressive transition into rally raid and leaves the competition as the stand out rookie and a double stage winner.
KTM factory rider Laia Sanz finished an impressive top 15, thus achieving her pre-rally goal. She also did it after riding the last two stages with a high temperature and a broken collarbone and in doing so underlined her skill and her enormous fighting spirit. Factory team-mate Jordi Viladoms laboured during the first week with the effects of a fever and although his health improved in the second half of the rally, he had to settle for overall 17th.
KTM Factory team manager Alex Doringer said he was happy and proud of all of his team, but also underlined the two weeks of the rally had been very, very tough. He said that the retirement of five-time Dakar winner Marc Coma last summer had in fact opened the door to a new generation and the reward was to be seen on the podium.
Doringer: “I could see Toby was a top guy with potential and good navigation skills. He did an amazing job and I am very happy for him. When I brought him into the team I was very happy to do something for my old friend Kurt Caselli. He was the one who encouraged me to try to get Toby to the Dakar and today we see the result. I am also very proud of Antoine (Meo). He did so well in his first Dakar and he will be very good in the future. He was incredibly brave to ride to the finish today after he had a very big crash yesterday, but he wanted to be with the team at the end. It has also great to see the team spirit and the friendship that has built up between Toby and Antoine. Even though Toby was heading for the win, today he rode all the way behind Antoine to make sure he was going to make it to the finish.
“Jordi (Viladoms) had a tough two weeks because he was sick almost the whole time and he wasn’t able to get back his strength to have a good result. But he is incredibly important for the team, and especially the way he helps and advises the young guys. And Laia (Sanz) well, she is unique the way she is able to fight, and we all have a huge respect for her. Everybody likes her and we’re so happy and proud that she is riding with us. It was perhaps not the result she was hoping for, but considering that she had a big crash and was also sick, she did an amazing job. We are also super happy to have one of our customer bikes on the podium and this is what we work for.”
Doringer paid tribute to all of his extended team for their efforts and also thanked the KTM Board members and KTM Motorsports for all the support and encouragement they offered to the factory rally team.
The Dakar Rally 2016 was very successful for KTM. Five of the top 10, and 12 of the top 20 finishers rode the Made in Austria KTM bikes.
Final Overall Results after 13 stages and over 9,000km
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 48 hours nine minutes 15 seconds – 15th win for KTM, first victory by an Australian
2. Stefan Svitko (SVK), KTM, + 39 minutes 41 seconds
3. Pablo Quintanilla (CHI), Husqvarna, + 48.48
4. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, + 45.47
5. Helder Rodrigues (POR), Yamaha, + 55.44
6. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, + 1 hour 46.29
7. Antoine Meo (FRA), KTM, + 1:56.47
8. Gerard Farres (ESP), KTM, + 2:01.00
9. Ricky Brabec (USA), Honda, +2:11.22
10. Armand Monleon (FRA), KTM + 3:27.49
15. Laia Sanz (ESP), KTM, + 4:33.28
17. Jordi Viladoms (ESP), KTM, + 4:51.04
Final Stage 13 Results
Villa Carlos Paz – Rosario
Total distance 699km; timed special 180km
1. Quintanilla, 1 hour 51 minutes 27 seconds
2. Benavides, + 1.41
3. Rodrigues, + 2.37
4. Price, + 4.22
5. Svitko, + 6.24