SINGLETON’S 2016 Dakar Rally motorcycling champion Toby Price has made an encouraging start to the latest edition of the endurance test in South America.
Price, representing the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, was sixth after the opening 84km stage from Lima to Pisco, trailing Spanish leader Joan Barreda by three minutes and eight seconds.
“My wrist is giving me some pain so I know the next nine days are going to be tough but I can't complain, I’m happy with sixth place today,” he said.
“Conditions out there were OK.
“You just have to be careful in the dunes that you don’t send it off one of the big drops - I can’t afford to risk anything like that so I need to be a little careful.”
Barreda's closest challenger was led Chilean Pablo Quintanilla, who is one minute and 34 seconds adrift.
Australia has a four-strong contingent with Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) the next best placed in 29th, 11min 27sec off the pace.
Ben Young and James Ferguson ended the stage 35min 44sec and 53min 30sec behind the Spaniard in 87th and 119th respectively.
Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah led the car category as he guns for a third Dakar victory.
Driving for a South African Toyota team, he led Spain's reigning champion and double Dakar winner Carlos Sainz by nearly two minutes.
“It was quite a short start to the rally but quite difficult,” said Al-Attiyah.
“We tried to catch Carlos over the last 10 km from the finish.”
A total of 334 vehicles started the 41st edition of the rally, which is run entirely in Peru this year, with 541 competitors.
The endurance rally, regarded as the world’s toughest motorsport challenge and staged in South America since being switched from Africa in 2009 for security reasons, ends in Lima on January 17.