Price seizes Dakar lead with Stage 2 win

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Toby Price of Australia has claimed the Dakar Rally lead in his title defence.

Will DaleFOX SPORTS

TOBY Price stormed into the overall lead of the 2017 Dakar Rally with an emphatic win on Stage 2 of the event.

The 2016 overall winner of the Motorcycle class charged from 17th at the start of the day to turn a 90 second deficit to a lead of almost three minutes.

Temperatures of around 40 degrees again prevailed for the 275km competitive test between Resistencia and San Miguel de Tucuman, a fast one reminiscent of the African Savannah, proving a strong one for the Australian contingent which had three riders finish inside the Top 20 on the stage.

The test was also kind to Sebastien Loeb who marched into the lead of the car category as Peugeot strikes back in what is expected to be an event-long duel with Toyota.

MOTORCYCLE CLASS

Price’s low finish on the opening stage gave him a prime starting position for the second and he made full use of it from the start.

He led at every major timing waypoint, putting over 2m30s over his nearest rival by just the halfway point of the stage.

“It was a really, really fast stage but with no navigation,” Price said.

“It was a really long day: we had a 274-km special and we’re at 38 or 40°C right now, so it’s definitely been a hot one on the bike and part of the equipment, but we’re here at the end of day two.”

The win is the seventh Dakar stage victory of Price’s career, and by the finish he was almost three and a half minutes clear of his nearest rival.

That was KTM teammate Matthias Walkner, but the Austrian copped a five minute penalty that dropped him from second on the stage to 13th on the day and 11th overall.

Price’s 2016 adversary Paulo Goncalves moves to second by dint of Walkner’s penalty, with KTM’s Sam Sunderland moving to third overall.

Xavier De Soultrait showed his pace on the opening test was no flash in the pan, emerging third quickest on the day to hold down fourth overall.

Honda’s Joan Barreda started the stage strongly, sitting third to Price and Walkner at the halfway point, before fading in the run to the line to only finish eighth, while teammate Michael Metge gave up his spot in the top 10 by dropping behind his teammates early to fulfil his role as a support rider.

Australia had one of its best days on the Dakar, with Rod Faggotter and Todd Smith joining Price inside the Top 20 on the stage.

Despite his role as support rider and water boy, Faggotter was the quickest of the factory Yamaha team riders through the test on his way to 10th for the day, benefitting from time penalties to Walkner, Yamaha teammate Alessandro Botturi and a local KTM racer.

Smith continued his strong start to cross the line 17th fastest aboard his Polish-run KTM, but has since been handed 22 minutes of time penalties that drop him to 52nd on the day.

The fourth Aussie in the field, Matt Hart, also enjoyed a strong ride in setting the 35th fastest time but still sits low in the overall standings after copping a 15 minute penalty for an engine change at the end of the first day.

TOP 5 – Stage 2, Motorcycle category

1. Toby Price (KTM)

2. Paulo Goncalves (Honda)

3. Xavier De Soultrait (Yamaha)

4. Sam Sunderland (KTM)

5. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna)

10. Rod Faggotter (Yamaha)

35. Matt Hart (Husqvarna)

52. Todd Smith (KTM)

OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 2

1. Toby Price (KTM)

2. Paulo Goncalves (Honda)

3. Sam Sunderland (KTM)

4. Xavier De Soultrait (Yamaha)

5. Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna)

6. Ricky Brabec (Honda)

7. Sven Svitko (KTM)

8. Joan Barreda (Honda)

9. Juan Pedrero (Sherco TVS)

10. Gerard Farres (KTM)

13. Rod Faggotter (Yamaha)

45. Todd Smith (KTM)

58. Matt Hart (Husqvarna)

CAR CATEGORY

Peugeot levelled the score with Toyota at one stage win apiece on the 2017 rally, Loeb doing the honours and taking the overnight lead.

He put 1m23s into Stage 1 winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, overhauling the Toyota by almost half a minute overall.

Loeb led the rally early on debut last year before crashing out, the quick stage again playing to the style that took him to his record-setting haul of WRC titles.

“Sure, I like to be in this position but it’s a bit early in the rally,” Loeb said.

“But it’s good to have a pace like that. Today was a stage that was really, really fast; a bit unusual. I hope tomorrow will be continue to be at the same rhythm for the fight.”

Teammate Carlos Sainz ran third fastest on the day to move to the same position overall, while Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma make up a tightly packed top five, the South African surviving an early stage scare.

“The first 100 km was fast with very big ditches in bad places,” De Villiers said.

“We had one moment where we took a big hit on the nose. We had to take care not to make a mistake.”

One driver who did lose a bit of ground on Stage 2 was reigning champion Stephane Peterhansel.

The Frenchman lost almost seven minutes on teammate Loeb but still moved to seventh overall.

TOP 5 – Stage 2, Car Category

1. Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot)

2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota)

3. Carlos Sainz (Peugeot)

4. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota)

5. Nani Roma (Toyota)

OVERALL STANDINGS after Stage 2

1. Sebastien Loeb (Peugeot)

2. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Toyota)

3. Carlos Sainz (Peugeot)

4. Giniel de Villiers (Toyota)

5. Nani Roma (Toyota)

6. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Mini)

7. Stephane Peterhansel (Peugeot)

8. Mikko Hirvonen (Mini)

9. Erik Van Loon (Toyota)

10. Romain Dumas (Peugeot)

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