Toby Price's victory will certainly be marked in history as the 28-year-old is the first Australian rider to have taken the title and it is also the first time at the incredibly challenging event that a rider has won it on a second attempt. Price raced his first Dakar last year where he took a podium third.
Price wrapped up the more than 9,000 km ride in 48:09.15 hours aboard his KTM 450 RALLY factory machine, finishing an impressive 39.41 minutes ahead of second placed KTM rider Stefan Svitko of Slovakia. Pablo Quintanilla of Chile was third overall.
Speaking after the final stage, Price said:
"Winning in my second participation is awesome, but being the first Australian to win the Dakar is just insane. I would've never imagined this two years ago. Finishing the rally is already a triumph. Winning it is amazing! I tackled the race in true Aussie style. I attacked when I had to, when the time was right, and I kept an eye on my bike during the all-important marathon stages. I also navigated quite well. I hope this is just the start, to win again won't be easy, so I've got to savor this victory."
The Australian was a dominating presence throughout the rally, which this year also had to deal with extreme weather conditions ranging from thunderstorms and flooding to intense temperatures. Aware that he had to prove his third place podium in 2015 was no coincidence, he prepared well and picked up his first stage win in the second stage after the first one was washed out by thunderstorms. He went on to survive the high altitudes of Bolivia, won Stages 5 and 6 and before the rest day in Salta he had moved into second overall. Refreshed and recharged, Price went on to win the eighth and ninth stage to firmly establish himself as the man to beat.
As the rally went into more difficult navigation and at times blistering temperatures, Price continued to manage the final four stages to start the final day with an impressive 37.39 minute advantage. By the finish he had added another minute and a half to this time advantage.
It was a best ever result for Svitko who raced his first Dakar in 2010 and who was fifth overall last year. He was the Stage 10 winner and despite a small setback in the next stage was consistently among the top three all the way to Rosario.
Third placed Quintanilla finally took the third overall after a great rivalry between him and Red Bull KTM's Dakar rookie Antoine Meo. Right up until Stage 12, the third place could have gone to either rider, but Meo crashed hard 40 km from the end of the penultimate stage. He struggled through to the end of the final stage and still managed to finish seventh overall. Meo, a multi Enduro world champion, has made a smooth and impressive transition into rally raid and leaves the competition as the stand out rookie and a double stage winner.
KTM factory rider Laia Sanz finished an impressive top 15, thus achieving her pre-rally goal. She also did so despite riding the last two stages with a high temperature and a broken collarbone, which underlines both her skill and her enormous fighting spirit. Factory teammate Jordi Viladoms labored during the first week with the effects of a fever and although his health improved in the second half of the rally, he had to settle for overall 17th.
Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team Manager Alex Doringer said he was happy and proud of all of his team, but also underlined the two weeks of the rally had been very, very tough. He said that the retirement of five-time Dakar winner Marc Coma last summer had in fact opened the door to a new generation and the reward was to be seen on the podium.
"I could see Toby was a top guy with potential and good navigation skills. He did an amazing job and I am very happy for him. When I brought him into the team I was very happy to do something for my old friend Kurt Caselli. He was the one who encouraged me to try to get Toby to the Dakar and today we see the result. I am also very proud of Antoine (Meo). After doing so well throughout the event, he was incredibly brave to ride to the finish today after he had a very big crash yesterday, but he wanted to be with the team at the end. It has also great to see the team spirit and the friendship that has built up between Toby and Antoine.
had a tough two weeks due to being ill throughout the event, but he is incredibly important for the team, and especially in advising the young guys. And Laia (Sanz) well, she is unique in the way she is able to fight. We all have a huge respect for her, and we are very proud to have her riding with us. It was perhaps not the result she was hoping for, but considering that she had a big crash and was also sick, she did an amazing job. We are also super happy to have one of our customer bikes on the podium and this is what we work for."??
Doringer paid tribute to all of his extended team for their efforts and also thanked the KTM Board Members and KTM Motorsports for all the support and encouragement they offered to the team.
The Dakar Rally 2016 was very successful for KTM. Five of the top 10, and 12 of the top 20 finishers rode the Made in Austria KTM bikes.