Toby Price concedes that this year’s Dakar has not gone his way after Ricky Brabec kept his lead above 20 minutes with three stages to go.
Price was slower than only Pablo Quintanilla on Stage 9 from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh and moved up to third in the overall classification, largely due to the woes of Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo.
However, Price is still 26:43s behind the pace-setting American and his hopes of holding on to the #1 plate appear slim.
“Ricky’s riding really, really well, like he was last year as well,” observed the Red Bull KTM rider.
“We always knew he was going to be a threat with the race this year and, so far, everything’s going really well for him.
“It hasn’t quite been our year with this race, but that’s the way it is; you have your good ones and you have your bad ones and unfortunately 2020 hasn’t quite been well for us but we’ll still keep it to a good fight and see how we go.”
The long, wide open stretches played into Brabec’s favour, while Price was also still conscious of the tragic events of two days earlier when he was first to come across what proved a fatal accident for Paulo Goncalves.
“It’s definitely a difficult time,” said the Australian.
“Once you get on the bike, you’ve got to focus on what you’ve got ahead and be full gas, and that’s what it was today, unfortunately.
“The first 60 to 90 kilometres was not so bad, pretty good and a little technical through there, but from pretty much the hundred kilometre mark, it’s just been pretty much full gas and wide open.
“It’s a little boring, you can’t make time on anyone or do anything because it’s pretty much point and shoot and full gas and wide open.
“So, it’s difficult but, all in all, we’re happy we’ve made (it through) another stage and we’ve got a couple more to go.
“There’s still plenty of kilometres, but it’s coming closer towards the end.”
That a marathon stage is up next does enhance Price’s prospects but Brabec has a simple strategy as he seeks to become the first American to win the Dakar Rally.
“We are another day closer to the American dream of winning the Dakar,” said the Monster Energy Honda rider.
“There’s three days left and tomorrow is the marathon. We have a lot of racing to do.
“The main goal now is to focus and stay positive after the incident that happened a few days ago.
“There’s a 21-minute gap in the general. Tomorrow, Quintanilla and Toby start in front of me so the plan is to maybe catch them or maybe keep them in my sights. That way they will start in front of me for the next few days.
“I’m not really sure what is going to happen so we are just going to stay focused and not lose the 21 minutes.”
Quintanilla, from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team, is currently second overall.