Toby Price is already enshrined as a Dakar Rally legend on two wheels, a double winner who’s become a familiar, much-loved figure in the great race as he speeds across the rocky dunes at 120km on his KTM with his mighty mullet flowing.
But one of Australia’s most formidable sportsmen is getting fed up of his recent near misses in the Saudi Arabian desert and is hoping an upturn in luck may help him to that elusive hat-trick of titles when the 46th edition kicks off in Alula on Friday.
Last year’s agonising loss still lingers with the 36-year-old Red Bull KTM rider, who ended up missing out on victory after more than 44 hours in the saddle by the narrowest-ever margin – just 43 seconds.
“It was so close,” Price reflected on the race’s official website this week.
“Kudos to (Argentine race winner) Kevin Benavides, who did a great job. I missed three waypoints by a few metres on the last special stage and lost precious time going backwards. It’s so frustrating to lose by such a small margin.
“But I finished in good shape, without injury, and still came away with a trophy, and that’s the most important thing. I’m ready for another edition and look forward to it.”
Price had another near miss when winning the Rally of Morocco in November, as he ended up finishing second again in the overall season-long battle for the FIA World Rally-Raid Championship.
His conqueror on that occasion? Luciano Benavides, Kevin’s younger brother.
“I won the rally, but not winning the championship is hard to swallow. That’s just the way it is,” said Price.
“I did everything I could. I’ve always given 100 per cent. I only need my luck to change a bit.”
The Benavides brothers will again be among the field as Price seeks to regain the title he lifted in both 2016 and 2019.
Twice, Price has crashed out of the race, even having to be airlifted from the desert to hospital when he broke his leg in 2017.
“Sometimes, it is like going into a casino and rolling the dice because with racing motorcycles you are gambling with what you are doing,” he says.
“I’m not a superhuman or an alien. I’m just like everybody else. I’ve just been able to put a few races together and have some success like that.”
When he completes the race, Price is normally not far away from winning. In his nine attempts, he’s failed to finish only twice and in the other seven he’s finished first twice, second in 2023 and third on three other occasions.
He’s not the only Australian motorcyclist with his sights set on a big Dakar as Daniel ‘Chucky’ Sanders, the Red Bull GasGas rider, could also contend, seeking to improve on his fourth place on debut in 2021.
The great race, held in Saudi Arabia this year for the fifth time, features a prologue and 12 stages over 7,891km from Alula in the north to Yanbu on the Red Sea.
What began in 1978 as a race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital Dakar switched to South America in 2009 over security issues but then moved to its new Saudi Arabia home in 2020.