KTM Australia‰Ûªs off-road racing legend Toby Price has achieved a 'dream come true' contract with the KTM Factory Red Bull Rally Racing Team to take in the World Motorcycle Rally Championships and the famous Dakar Rally for season 2016 and 2017.
Price received his contract in the final hours of yesterday evening, and after six years with KTM Australia he will fill the position left vacant by five-time Dakar winner and Rally legend Marc Coma, after the Spaniard announced his retirement just a few days ago.
Price‰Ûªs story is an incredible one of sporting recovery and triumph over career-threatening injury. In April of 2013 he suffered a broken neck while racing in the US, but after completing a long and painstaking recovery, Price returned to higher levels than ever.
Victory in Australia's biggest Desert race, the 2014 Finke Desert race, announced Price‰Ûªs return to the top, and the Maitland racer has done nothing but gain momentum ever since, winning the Hattah Desert Race and Australian Off-Road Championship and finishing eighth overall in his debut ride in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Nothing got the attention of the world motorcycle media and fans however, more than when he completed a spectacular display of consistency and strategic intelligence in finishing third on debut in the world's largest off-road race ‰ÛÒ the 9000-kilometre, 14-day Dakar Rally - and won the penultimate round despite having only just learned how to read road maps.
This year has seen Price‰Ûªs tour of domination roll on, and having already has placed both the Hattah and Finke Desert race trophies in his cabinet, he currently leads this year's Australian Off-Road Championships.
Price will complete his commitments with the Australian KTM Enduro Racing Team for 2015, however his obligations with the KTM Red Bull Rally team will begin much sooner, when he starts suspension testing nearing the end of August.
‰ÛÏAbout two days ago I received confirmation that it was all going to happen, and then about 11 o'clock last night the contract came through ‰ÛÒ it‰Ûªs now official and good to go, so I‰Ûªm looking forward to beginning a new career path. I‰Ûªm a little bit speechless still, but that's where we wanted to end up and it‰Ûªs a dream come true." Price explained.
"It's a full factory Red Bull KTM Rally ride, so it‰Ûªs the whole deal. It might actually free a little bit of time up compared to the schedule I've had this year, but we have got a good schedule of rally racing and Dakar on the cards and we‰Ûªre going to work hard on things and try to get a bit more experience at reading of the road books and things like that.
"It's a two-year deal straight up, so we've just got to do things smart and make sure we look after ourselves. It‰Ûªs a bit different to the bike that I rode at Dakar this year, so we are looking forward to getting on it and seeing the potential of it and where we can go with it.
"It's definitely a bummer that Coma has retired and gone out of the racing, but at the end of the day it opened the door for me to be able to get onto the team, and start learning from the best crew out there. That said, we‰Ûªre definitely not expected to fill anyone's shoes, Coma is his own rider, and we‰Ûªll just look to seeing what Toby Price can do.
"This is the best place to be, that proved they've got the winning team, and a good crew of people there to do the job right, so we are in good hands and we‰Ûªve just got to grab this experience with both hands and just try our best to learn as quickly as possible and learn the smart way to do things and have a good time doing it.
"After suspension testing in August, it will pretty much kick off for me, and the rally bike will get shipped back to Australia for me to train and practice on. Then I think the first ride will be the Atacama Rally, then Peru, Morocco and it leads up into Dakar." Price continued.
"My schedule is going to be a lot busier by the end of the year with all the testing, but we‰Ûªre looking forward to doing it. I'm also looking into the possibility of trying to race Finke and Hattah next year. They are my two favourite races on the calendar, and desert racing is the direction I'm heading so we‰Ûªre looking forward to seeing if it fits. The factory has reacted positively to those suggestions, but it‰Ûªs up to them ultimately.
"It's exciting times, and we‰Ûªll put a lot of work in and definitely go back to Dakar better prepared than what we were this year.
"I'd really like to acknowledge the help and support of Jeff Leisk and Grabbo this year, it‰Ûªs been astounding and I can't thank them enough. Jeff has always had my back with my goals and visions that I've had, and he's let me chase them as much as I possibly can without doing anything too silly to compromise my racing year.‰Û