Two-times winner Toby Price is off to a great start in pursuit of a third Dakar Rally triumph by winning the prologue in Saudi Arabia.
Price, the winner in 2016 and 2019, posted the fastest time on Saturday on a KTM, a second ahead of Daniel Sanders for the GasGas factory team, who made it a one-two for Australia.
Britain’s defending champion Sam Sunderland was 10th fastest for GasGas.
The Dakar Rally began in 1978 as a race from Paris across the Sahara to the Senegalese capital but switched to South America in 2009 for security reasons. It moved to Saudi Arabia in 2020.
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Price won the prologue of the 45th Dakar, covering a little more than 10 kilometres in 8 minutes 22 seconds.
The Australian can choose his starting position for Sunday’s first stage.
“It’s a really good start. I don’t know if it’s a good thing. For sure, it’s nice to pick your starting spot, but I don’t know if it’s going to be an advantage or a disadvantage,” Price told dakar.com.
“Last year, the strategy we had was basically completely the wrong direction of what I needed to do. I’ll just leave my mind open. Long stages to go. In 14 days a lot can happen.
“It’s nice to win the prologue today, but it’s not gonna guarantee nothing. We’ll stay on two wheels, have fun and enjoy the desert.”
Meanwhile, Audi’s Mattias Ekstroem took an early advantage in the car rally by winning the flat 13km prologue to the event that starts from the shores of the Red Sea.
Ekstroem was one second faster than nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb, driving for Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX), with Audi teammate and 14-times Dakar winner Stephane Peterhansel third.
Qatar’s defending champion Nasser al-Attiyah was fourth in his Toyota.