A small contingent of Australian riders and drivers are one Stage into the Dakar Rally with nine days still to race.
Factory Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price leads the charge for Australia in the moto category. The 2016 Dakar Champion is in sixth place, three minutes behind race leader Joan Barreda (Honda).
Price successfully completed the stage despite nursing the wrist he broke just weeks beforehand. Aware of the task ahead of him, Price plans to take the rally day-by-day.
“The first day has gone well. My wrist is giving me some pain so I know the next nine days are going to be tough. But I can’t complain, I’m happy with sixth place today. Conditions out there were ok, you just have to be careful in the dunes that you don’t send it off one of the big drops – I can’t afford to risk anything like that so I need to be a little careful. The bike is running sweet, so thanks to Joe my mechanic for that. It’s going to be a long one tomorrow but I’ll give it my best.”
Factory Yamaha rider Rodney Faggotter took his time to settle in and wrapped up the opening stage with a 29th place result. Enjoying a good feeling aboard the latest version of the WR450F Rally, the Queenslander looks to continue building on his speed during the coming stages.
“Overall, I had a good day. I kept a steady pace from start to finish of the timed special and brought my bike home without any issues,” said Faggotter. “My goal for the start of this race is to be consistent and remain inside the top 30 in the first stages. Today we raced about 70% of dunes and a long, dry and dusty river bed. Especially in that river bed you had to be extra careful to avoid mistakes. So far so good and now my eyes are set on tomorrow’s tough stage.”
Melbourne local Ben Young is racing Dakar for the first time and after Stage 1 sits 35 minutes behind the race leader in 87th position. The love of riding in sand: that’s what really pushed Ben Young to go for the Dakar this year. The fact it was going to be
entirely run in Peru is what convinced the Australian to take on the challenge. A solid and experienced rider who this year notably finished 18th of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and 24th of the Morocco Rally comes with one idea in mind: to have fun. Enjoy the riding and the atmosphere within the Duust Rally Team. On a KTM 450 RR, Young aims at reaching the finish line and doesn’t want to be distracted by a result.
James Ferguson is also making his Dakar debut and is in 119th position after Stage 1. The Newcastle rider is aboard a KTM 450 and sits 53 minutes behind the race leader.
Quad and Car
John Maragozidis is flying the Aussie flag solo in the Quad class. The three-time Australasian Safari Quad Class winner is 17th after the first stage, 22 minutes off the pace set by the leader.
John had actually registered for last year’s Dakar but an injury forced him to postpone his start. Not able to get a refund on his plane tickets, he did however come to Peru last year and followed the rally until the rest day, getting a first taste of what he’ll witness this time. For this first experience of the biggest rally of them all, he’ll be riding a Yamaha Raptor he designed with his team that will be following him through Peru.
Aussie duo Stephen Riley and Trevor Hanks have steered their heavily modified Holden Ute to 70th in the first Stage in the Auto category. Riley has the runs on the board when it comes to long distance off-road events starting with a privateer entry in the 1985 Australasian Safari which he went on to contest another eleven times. His Safari scorecard reads six-second places and one DNF on bikes and three wins in a car. He also has a pair of wins at the Condobolin 750, some A4DE trophies and an NZ Hill Climb Title in a Hayabusa powered 4×4 buggy. Steve has gone over to the Dark Side well and truly now giving up two wheels in favour of four to contest the 2019 Dakar in a home built Holden VE ute he put together in his farm shed. What can be more Aussie than that?