After the earlier prologue stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally where he finished ninth, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price heads the leader board after the weekend’s first stage. Price, who hails from Australia, won the 623 km stage in a time of 3 hours, 18 minutes and 26 seconds.

In second place was Kevin Benavides of Argentina, riding for Monster Energy Honda Team, who finished the stage 23 seconds behind Price with a time of 3:18:58. The leaderboard standings have Price in first, Benavides in second and Austrian Matthias Walkner, also of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, in third.

The route started in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, traversing rocky terrain towards Bisha. Of the 623 km race distance, 277 km consisted of a special timed stage, testing competitors’ navigation and bike handling skills with a long 311 km liaison section on tarmac.

This year’s Dakar Rally is especially challenging for two-wheeled competitors, with navigation skills being tested along with the ability to manage race pace on the bike. For 2021, two-wheel racers are only allowed six sets of tyres for the 14-day, 7,646 km long race, which has to last them the duration of the rally, and navigation maps or race roadbook issued 10 minutes before the start of the race.

Meanwhile, female competitor Laia Sanz, riding for GasGas Factory Racing on a GasGas RC450F, came in 34th due to navigation errors, a mistake which also cost Price time, near the end of the stage. Now in her 11th year of campaigning the Dakar Rally, Sanz said, “that was certainly a very real Dakar stage – there was a little bit of everything with some very technical sections. I’m quite happy with the way everything went for me, I’m really not pushing too hard and just trying to find my rhythm and speed again.”

Today’s second stage heads from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir across the Wajid Plateau, covering a race distance of 685 kilometres, with a 228 km long liaison stage and 457 km special stage. Challenges on this stage will includes racers’ first encounter with Saudi Arabia’s desert sand dunes.