Australian rider Toby Price is poised to begin his quest to win the 2016 Dakar Rally.
The New South Wales rider returns to the prestigious rally event after finishing a stunning third on his Dakar debut in last year’s gruelling South American endurance.
Following his breakthrough performance, Price will join the factory Red Bull KTM outfit which has dominated the bike division in recent years.
Buoyed by the success of last year, the 28-year-old from Newcastle is feeling confident about his chances although wary that only a near perfect rally will deliver the ultimate goal.
This year’s event will see 354 competitors on both two wheels and four tackle 9,332km of challenging terrain in Argentina and Bolivia from January 3-16.
“It feels amazing to ride the factor Red Bull KTM rally bike and hope I put it through its paces but also look after the bike as much as possible,” said Price.
“This race is not a sprint race, it’s a marathon race and to finish well – you have to finish each day with very little problems.
“Seriously I cannot thank everyone from Australia and worldwide enough for the support and messages, it’s been insane to hear from everyone.
“Being the only Australian in the Moto class division, there is loads of work ahead, and I hope I don’t disappoint myself, my team and my country.
“I’m chasing that dream to be the first Australian to stand on the top step, but first I need as close to a perfect race.
“You never know what to expect in this race, but I have a plan in place and hope it works out for the best.”
Price will be joined by just one other Australian entry in the event with Czech Republic born Aussie Peter Jerie and his co-driver Dale Moscatt teaming up to tackle the car division in a Toyota Hilux.
The car category will feature arguably one of its strongest ever line ups headlined by nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb, who is making his debut in the event for Peugeot.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for this and it’s cool that it’s nearly upon us,” said Loeb.
“We’re mainly here to enjoy ourselves and my aim is to be competitive, at least on the special stages where everything goes to plan. We’ll have to make sure we don’t get carried away. It’s the start of a big adventure.”
Loeb will be joined at Peugeot by two-time WRC champion Carlos Sainz, Porsche FIA WEC driver Romain Dumas, Stephane Peterhansel and Cyril Despres.
The field will also include former WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen (Mini) and former NASCAR and IndyCar racer Robby Gordon.
The Dakar Rally will begin with the 662km run from Buenos Aires to Villa Carlos Paz on January 3.
VIDEO: The 2016 Dakar Rally Route