Although he entered this year’s Dakar as a rookie who only planned to learn the ropes, KTM’s Toby Price seems to be a man on a mission now.
Price scored his first stage win in Stage Twelve, almost two minutes ahead of Honda’s Joan Barreda, who can’t win at this point, but continues to push hard despite his reliance on an engine that’s likely well-knackered.
The win puts Price well up on fourth-place Pablo Quintanilla (KTM), and leaves open the possibility that he might pass second-place Paulo Goncalves (Honda) in Stage Thirteen. If he does, that will leave Price as the highest-ever ranking Dakar rookie. As it stands now, he’s less than eight minutes back, but Goncalves also has 00:16:00 in penalties.
It would be an amazing accomplishment for Price to pull off a podium in his first Dakar, and as long as he doesn’t wreck tomorrow, he’ll pull it off.
Meanwhile, Goncalves will have to race like mad in the last stage, where competitors often take it a little easier. Chances are, he likely can’t catch first-place Marc Coma (KTM) now, but highly placed competitors have binned it in the last stage before.
Coma, meanwhile, knows his strategy is simple; he finished sixth, leaving the heroics behind in a careful attempt to finish with few problems.
“There was a lot to lose and it was important to not make any mistakes or crash and just to arrive at the finish,” he said. “Now we can see that the end is close. There are still some kilometers left, but the end is getting closer now.”
Price said his rally has been a good learning experience so far.
“There have been a lot of highs and lows and good learning curves as well as a few mistakes, but we’re trying to fix them as best as we can and get to the finishing line,” he said. “We were fairly well prepared coming into the event. We’re just going to come back next year hopefully, now that we know what we’re in for and be an even bit better prepared again.”
If Price does return, it will almost certainly be on a KTM, and that would mean Sam Sunderland and Barreda have even more competition to deal with in their quest to wrest the top spot from Coma.
Laia Sanz (Honda) finished tenth in Stage Twelve; she’s still in eighth, although KTM’s Ivan Jakes is making a strong bid to bump her down the standings.
The Shercos once again had a rough day, with Alain Duclos again dropping in the rankings after experiencing mechanical trouble. He’s in 25th now, and teammate Fabien Planet is in 29th.
There was a bit of a stink at the end of the day, as race officials allowed some bikes and quads to be loaded into trucks and hauled, instead off ridden through the final 400+ kms of the last linking stage. While this concession had been announced at the start of this year’s rally, it’s only a benefit to the big teams who own transportation; many privateer teams don’t have trailers, and the Malle Moto class (a privateer class who has the rally take their tools in a box, doing all their own maintenance, with no support vehicles at all) is really screwed.
Unless those competitors without transportation are able to find locals to haul their bike, they’ve got a lot of extra riding ahead of them before tomorrow’s final stage.
Dakar 2015 : Bike rankings after Stage 12
1. Coma (KTM) – 45:08:32
2. Goncalves (Honda) – 45:26:21 (00:17:49) (00:16:00 penalty)
3. Price (KTM) – 45:33:50 (00:25:18)
4. Quintanilla (KTM) – 45:45:29 (00:36:57)
5. Svitko (KTM) – 45:55:15 (00:46:43)
6. Faria (KTM) – 46:59:11 (01:50:39) (00:40:00 penalty)
7. Casteau (KTM) – 47:03:41 (01:55:09)
8. Sanz (Honda) – 47:28:09 (02:19:37)
9. Jakes (KTM) – 47:30:01 (02:21:29)
10. Pain (Yamaha) – 48:12:53 (03:04:21)