Australia’s motorbike champion Toby Price is just 417km away from a third Dakar Rally title.
The Red Bull rider who entered this year’s race needing a big performance just to earn a new contract holds a slender 12 seconds lead over closest rival Kevin Benavides after the Argentinian’s victory in Saturday’s stage.
Price maintained first spot despite a fall and a navigation error in the stage.
“I made one little mistake around 130,” he said.
“We went too far right and I took a fall while looking at the top of a dune.
“At this stage here, you need to push to keep the lead.
“I’m happy, I’ve put a 100 percent in every day.”
Sunday’s final stage is a 417km run — including a 136km special — to Dammam bringing to a close two weeks of combat conducted over 8,000km.
American Skyler Howes lies in third spot 1min 31secs adrift of 2016 and 2019 champion Price.
Benavides, who won the title in 2021, was awarded the stage win after having more than 23 minutes restored to him.
This was the time he took to aid a stricken rival Matthias Walkner at the outset of the stage.
French driver Sebastien Loeb won a record sixth successive stage in the Dakar Rally on Saturday although barring a disaster Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah looks set for a fifth title.
Loeb, a record nine-time world rally champion, won the 13th and penultimate stage, a 154 kilometres special from Shaybah to Al-Hofuf, to break Finnish driver Ari Vatanen’s mark of five consecutive victories in 1989.
The 48-year-old Prodrive star is in second spot overall — the same position as he filled last year — 1 hour and 21 minutes behind Al-Attiyah.
“It’s great, even though the record was not necessarily my goal,” said Loeb. “I especially wanted to cement my second place.
“The gap was small and I eased into my pace from the start of the dunes, so I wasn’t going to change everything.
“I feel good on sand, I can set a strong pace, I’m confident, I can drive aggressively while watching out for broken dunes. It’s cool.”
In contrast to Loeb setting the Saudi dunes ablaze, Al-Attiyah has settled for a safety first strategy having established a commanding lead going into the final week of competition.
The 52-year-old lost just 5min 38sec to Loeb in Saturday’s stage. “What is really important to me is winning the Dakar,” said Al-Attiyah. “The race was great for us, we just have to bring the title home now.”
Al-Attiyah’s Toyota team-mate, Brazilian Lucas Moraes fills out the podium. He holds a comfortable advantage of over an hour from another Toyota driver South African Giniel de Villiers.
Originally published as Aussie Toby Price hunts historic third Dakar Rally motorbike title