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Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win

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Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Toby Price stopped the clock in three hours, 19 minutes and 33 seconds but was penalised two minutes taking his over two minute win to just five seconds. Photo: Rally Zone
Reigning champion Toby Price has won the opening stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally ahead of Ricky Brabec and Matthias Walkner.

The opening day of the 2020 Dakar Rally presented riders with a huge challenge right from the start. Comprising 433 kilometres of liaison and a 319-kilometre timed special, the gruelling route led competitors north from Jeddah along the Red Sea coast to Al Wajh. With a mixture of fast, rocky pistes and soft sand dunes, the first day of racing in Saudi Arabia gave the riders a taste of what is to come in this new chapter of the Dakar.


Carrying the number one plate, reigning champion Toby Price had the advantageous position of being the 23rd rider to enter the day‰Ûªs stage. The Aussie star immediately pushed hard from the start, posting the second fastest time to the first waypoint. A small issue with his navigation equipment looked set to reduce Toby‰Ûªs pace with a seized road book making navigation difficult. Thankfully he was able to tag on to the back of teammate Walkner and the pair brought their KTM 450 RALLY machines home safely and in good time, with Price fastest overall. Price was penalised two minutes taking his over two minute win to just five seconds

‰ÛÏI had a really good day today up until about 140 kilometres where my road book started to play up a bit," Price explained. "Something had got in there and jammed the rollers and so I was left without a road book for a while. Luckily, I caught Matthias after he lost a little time and I was able to stay with him towards the finish. My result looks good on paper, but it turned out to be quite a tricky day. I‰Ûªm also opening the stage tomorrow, so hopefully that‰Ûªll go well, too.‰Û
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Ricky Brabec enjoyed the terrain saying it was similar to his home and is hoping the rest of the event is the same. Photo: Rally Zone
Monster Energy Honda Team rider Ricky Brabec began the Dakar 2020 at white-knuckle pace, intent on building on the fine work done in the previous edition. The American registered notable times in the earlier stages to eventually take the stage‰Ûªs second fastest overall time.

"The start of the Dakar Rally with the new roadbook things were looking tough," Brabec said. "It came full of notes and was coloured already for us. My starting position wasn‰Ûªt the best. I had all the KTM, Yamaha and Husky boys behind me. It was hard for me to judge how fast they were going. I tried to do my best and not make any big mistakes. I was very fortunate to have a solid day. I hope to keep the speed all the way to the end. It‰Ûªs only the first day ‰ÛÒ we have eleven left. I‰Ûªm hoping the pieces come together and we can have a good finish."
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Matthias Walkner. Photo: Rally Zone
2018 champion Matthias Walkner also made a great start to his 2020 Dakar campaign, safely completing the long stage in third place. After dropping down to fifth midway through the timed special, Walkner was able to regroup and push on toward the finish to ultimately clock in just two minutes and 40 seconds behind teammate Price.

‰ÛÏIt took me a while to get used to things today, maybe because so many things are different here in terms of the terrain and navigation," Walkner explained. "For the first 80 kilometres I took things quite steady, it was quite stony and easy to make a mistake. After that I found my rhythm, especially in the dunes, and was able to make up some time. I was quite surprised with third position although it doesn‰Ûªt give me the best start for tomorrow, but I‰Ûªm happy and we‰Ûªve got a long way to go.‰Û
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Kevin Benavides. Photo: Rally Zone
Brabec's Monster Energy Honda Team-mate Kevin Benavides was also setting an infernal pace, showing that he clearly intends to be among the frontrunners this year, posting fourth fastest time at the end of the special, but citing good sensations on such a tough opening to the rally.

"On this first day of the 2020 Rally I didn‰Ûªt try to win the stage, but I wasn‰Ûªt aiming at fourth place either. But the truth is that I felt very comfortable and I kept up a good pace," Benavides said. "I started at mid-stage so I wasn‰Ûªt able to keep the others in check much, but in truth I‰Ûªm very happy with this first day. Riding in this desert will be very interesting, so let's take it step by step. You have to have a lot of focus on navigation and be very attentive throughout the special. It will be a long but fun race."
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Sam Sunderland. Photo: Rally Zone
With the organisers really testing all riders‰Ûª navigational skills throughout the stage, Sam Sunderland knew a solid ride while maintaining a consistent pace would be key to a strong finish. A small crash in a slower rocky section couldn‰Ûªt slow the 2017 Dakar Champion‰Ûªs progress and he was able to carry on to complete the stage as fifth fastest, just over five minutes behind Price.

‰ÛÏWell, they certainly threw us in the deep end for our first day here in Saudi," Sunderland said. "We had a big mixture of terrains including dunes, river beds, and really technical, stony places. I did have a small fall early on but luckily I didn‰Ûªt hurt myself or damage the bike. It was tricky to adapt to the new road book and terrain but that is the same for everyone. I‰Ûªm happy to get the first day done, but we‰Ûªve still got a long way to go.‰Û
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Pablo Quintanilla. Photo: Rally Zone
Pablo Quintanilla finished sixth just five-and-a-half minutes down on the day‰Ûªs winner Toby Price. The Chilean rider made a steady start to the 319-kilometre timed special before building his pace towards the finish as he became more comfortable with the Saudi Arabian terrain. The two-time Cross-Country Rallies World Champion will now enjoy an advantageous start position for Monday‰Ûªs stage two.

Joan Barreda, in stark contrast to last year‰Ûªs rally, was taking things cautiously, knowing full well that today‰Ûªs start order was not the most favourable to his strategy. The Spaniard will now await the most opportune moment to pounce after finishing the stage in seventh.

Making his way to the head of the field by the first waypoint, Luciano Benavides rode a fantastic stage one, opening the remainder of the stage. Despite laying the first tyre tracks in the Saudi sand, the young Argentinian maintained a solid pace, making very few errors to post the eighth-fastest time at the finish.

Andrew Short, competing in his third Dakar Rally, also chose to take time to get comfortable and completed the long day of racing in ninth place. Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider Adrien Van Beveren rounded out the top ten.

Australian privateer Rodney Faggotter finished in a respectable 19th place.

"Started as per number in 56th and chased in the dust all day. Made some good passes and enjoyed the track and the racing. Raced all day with madman Yankie Skyler Howes - top fun!" Rod said on social media. "Super rugged rock sections today to make a grown man cry - especially on a 30 litre fueled rally bike - was very thankful that I chose to fly over and fit my trick Shock Treatment front suspension. Happy."

Stage two of the 2020 Dakar Rally, the shortest of the event, Leaves Al Wajh and heads north to Neom. Covering a total distance of 393 kilometres, the stage includes a short 26-kilometre liaison and a timed special of 367 kilometres. The day marks the first half of the event‰Ûªs ‰Û÷Super Marathon‰Ûª stage ‰ÛÒ riders will only have 10 minutes to work on their bikes at the bivouac after the day‰Ûªs racing.
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win
Australian privateer Rodney Faggotter finished in a respectable 19th place. Photo: ASO
Top 20 Results Stage 1 2020 Dakar Rally

Full results: Click Here
Toby Price kicks off Dakar Rally title defence with opening stage win

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