Toby Price into world championship lead with Abu Dhabi podium

Toby Price

Toby Price

KTM rider Toby Price has taken the lead of the FIM World Rally-Raid Championship thanks to a surprise podium in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.

The two-time Dakar champion started the final day of Round 2 of the season just sixth overall after struggling as the road opener on Stage 4.

However, that left Price seventh to set off on the fifth and final stage, and he charged to a 2:23s win on the 206km timed special, having also prevailed on Stage 3.

It moved the Australian up to third overall in the Abu Dhabi event, by a two-second margin over Ross Branch (Hero).

Weeks earlier, Price had finished second in the Dakar Rally by just a 43-second margin behind Red Bull KTM team-mate Kevin Benavides, who is out injured after a crash in shakedown tests days ago.

Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren won the Abu Dhabi event by over four minutes and is now second in the championship, four points behind Price and four points ahead of Kevin Benavides.

Husqvarna’s Luciano Benavides is fourth on the table at a further three points back after claiming second in the latest round.

“I had to push really hard today,” said Price.

“Opening on the long day four really knocked me back in the overall such were the conditions.

“I knew my only choice today was to push hard, and so I went as hard as I could possibly go for the whole 206km.

“To only just make the podium by two seconds is crazy. It shows the level of the riders at the moment in rally, with the results often coming down to seconds and not minutes – I think that’s really good for the championship.”

Red Bull KTM Rally Team Manager Norbert Stadlbauer remarked, “Toby did an incredible job today.

“We hoped for a podium, but also knew it would be a huge ask on this shorter, final stage. However, Toby put in an incredible ride to take third place by just two seconds – a true testament to his skill and speed.”

Price won the FIM W2RC’s predecessor, the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, in 2018.

Round 3 of the 2023 campaign is the Sonora Rally in Mexico from April 22-28.

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