FORMER Dakar champion Toby Price has described stage three of the 2019 rally as being “more about survival than racing”.
The ex-Singleton Sports Star of the Year finished ninth on the leg and is fifth overall 15min;17 seconds behind leader Chilean Pablo Quintanilla from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team.
Survival was the key with overnight leader Honda rider Joan Barreda having to be hauled out by helicopter from the bottom of a steep ravine after plunging down the deep descent, thankfully unscathed.
After searching in vain for a way out, Barreda gave up and called for a helicopter to evacuate him. It was he fourth time in nine Dakar starts that he has failed to finish the rally.
Yamaha rider Xavier de Soultrait, from France, won stage three and jumped six places in the process to sixth place, 1 min;35 sec behind Price.
Price’s Austrian teammate Matthias Walkner showed the fluctuating fortunes of the Dakar, dropping from second spot one minute 31 seconds off the lead to eighth more than 21 minutes off the pace.
“I think it was more about survival than racing today,” he said after the 798km stage with a 331km time section.
“It was a really tough stage but I got through it and I’m feeling good.
“That’s what matters.
“I got lost early on and that cost me some time to the front-runners.
“Then at about the 130-kilometre mark, there was a lot of fog in the mountains.
“The road book didn’t have too many details and there were a few cliffs you could have dropped off.
“Luckily, I missed them. I’m still trying to hang on and get to the end of each stage but overall things are good.”
After finishing stage one in sixth place, three minutes off the pace, Price was fourth home on stage two to move up to fifth overall 4 min; 33 sec off the lead.
Stage four overnight Thursday is 511km, with 405km timed.
Price, who won the 2016 Dakar Rally and finished third in 2015 and 2018, is carrying a broken bone in his wrist into the event.
PABLO QUINTANILLA: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna 08H 34' 28''
KEVIN BENAVIDES: Monster Energy Honda + 00H 11' 23''
ADRIEN VAN BEVEREN: Yamalube Yamaha + 00H 12' 12''
SAM SUNDERLAND: Red Bull KTM Factory Team + 00H 13' 29''
TOBY PRICE: Red Bull KTM Factory Team + 00H 15' 17''
XAVIER DE SOULTRAIT: Yamalube Yamaha + 00H 05' 54''
RICKY BRABEC: Monster Energy Honda + 00H 16' 52''
MATTHIAS WALKNER: Red Bull KTM Factory Team + 00H 18' 02''
JOAN BARREDA: Monster Energy Honda 00H 21' 14''
PAULO GONCALVES: Monster Energy Honda + 00H 25' 11''
ANDREW SHORT: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna + 00H 29' 15''