Australia’s two-time Dakar motorcycle champion Toby Price has been forced to exit this year’s race after crashing in the Saudi Arabian desert.
Price was airlifted to hospital by helicopter on Tuesday after injuring his left arm and shoulder and being left in a dazed state.
The 33-year-old Gold Coast ace had been second overall going into the 465km ninth stage around Neom in the country’s north-west but the dangers that can spring up in the race at any point are well know to him.
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He was not the only one to suffer, with Argentine rider Luciano Benavides also crashing on the stage and having to be flown to the same hospital.
Price was challenging for the lead on his Red Bull factory KTM when his concussive tumble happened after 155km.
He had led at the first way point before organisers reported that he had been flown off to hospital in Tabuk for X-rays on his injured arm and shoulder.
Defending champion Ricky Brabec, of the United States, and Britain’s Sam Sunderland stopped to assist Price and were handed back their lost time under rally regulations.
“He’s (Price) a little bit injured, I think it’s his left shoulder and left arm. He hit pretty hard on the left and didn’t really know where he was,” reported Brabec.
“He asked me probably seven times where he was and who I was. I came across him and just hung out with him until the helicopter got there.”
Price had posted images on the previous marathon stage of the ‘bush mechanic’ repairs he made to his gashed rear tyre using cable ties. New rules this year limit riders to six rear tyres for the event.
Chilean Jose Ignacio Cornejo stretched his lead in the bike race to 11 minutes and 24 seconds over stage winner Kevin Benavides – Luciano’s brother – with Britain’s Sam Sunderland third.
The top Australian in Price’s absence is now KTM’s Daniel Sanders, who continued his fine rookie race to lie sixth overall.
“Everyone is starting to push, to play their last cards, to try to advance or to get overall victory. Everyone wants it, you know, so I understand them,” leader Cornejo said.
“When you push to the limit, sometimes you make mistakes. You have to try to control the danger as much as you can, but sometimes too many things happen: Rocks, you’re navigating, going fast … it’s tough to finish without any crashes.”
Brabec and Sunderland lost 15 and 14 minutes respectively while waiting with Price for medical assistance to arrive, but both were able under the rules to retrieve the time at the end of the stage.
Overall car race leader Stephane Peterhansel finally won his first stage this year to leave his closest rival Nasser Al-Attiyah trailing.
The 55-year-old, nicknamed ‘Mr Dakar’ for his record 13 wins on two wheels and four, stretched his advantage over the Qatari to 17 minutes and 50 seconds with three stages remaining.
France’s nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb was forced to retire from the event.
© RAW 2021