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Interview of the Month: Toby Price – 2019 Dakar Rally Winner


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Interview of the Month: Toby Price – 2019 Dakar Rally Winner

2019 Dakar Rally Winner and 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion! The last three months have seen Toby Price reaffirm himself as the world’s number one rally racer. And in unquestionably impressive style. Battling his way through the world’s toughest cross-country rally with a broken wrist, with the full support of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Price earned his second Dakar victory having overcome injury and 10 brutal days of racing in Peru.

The KTM BLOG caught up with Toby just days after his incredible Dakar achievement to find out exactly how he braved the pain to win the iconic Dakar Rally.


Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Toby, the first goal of the Dakar Rally is always to simply finish, especially when carrying an injury. What did you really hope for when you arrived in Peru before the event?
“I’m a racer and racers will always want to win the race. I have to be honest though, when I boarded the plane in Australia, I was starting to think that it wasn’t a good idea – I knew my wrist hadn’t healed fully but I wanted to at least make the start if only for my fans’ and the team’s sake. As the event went on, things started to turn our way, my wrist didn’t get any better but we found ourselves in a good position with some of the other riders having issues. Each day presented a good opportunity and there was no way I was going to give it up.”

This year’s event was very close, with competitor’s stage times up and down throughout the rally. Do you think the 2019 Dakar has been one of the toughest yet, in terms of strategy?
“Definitely, and it comes from having the majority of the stages in the sand dunes. The guy who starts first is always going to be at a massive disadvantage by opening the stage. As it happened, I didn’t even win a stage until the very last one. Riding consistently paid off and I didn’t have to take the lead on any of the specials. One of my biggest worries was pushing too hard and risking a crash. I knew if I went down hard on my wrist it would be the end of my rally. Unfortunately, I did have quite a big off on day eight – it rattled me pretty good that one, but luckily I was able to roll out of it and keep going.”


Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

The 2019 event was often more about start position and being able to push the tracks left by the riders in front. Do you think the rally should slow its pace and rely more on skilled navigation than it did this year?
“It’s quite a difficult situation because everyone has picked up their pace, but they’ve also improved their navigation. We are all pushing out there as the competition is getting tighter and tighter and unless they bring in some new rules to calm things down, I don’t think that is going to change. The sport has evolved now and the riders are often younger and more willing to risk everything for the win. That, combined with the improvement to the bikes, means the overall pace is a lot higher now. As long as there are riders willing to push to the maximum, the speeds on the rally will remain high and in order to compete, we have to do the same.”

At only 10 days long and just over 5,000 kilometers, the race covered half the distance of last year’s event. Did this help you achieve your goal?
“Massively! Although a 5,000-kilometer rally here in the dunes of Peru feels like an 8,000-kilometer rally anywhere else. The terrain and the conditions have been tough and it certainly wasn’t easy out there. The length at only 10 day has probably helped the most, the way I was riding, it’s unlikely my wrist would have put up with another three or four days flat out. They do say one kilometer in the dunes is about that same as two or three offroad.”


Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

At what point in the rally did you think, ‘I can win this’?
“Basically, the same place as my first win a few years ago – about 100 meters from the finish line. You can never count your chickens before they hatch, the Dakar is a strong beast and it can pull you down very quickly. You only have to look at Pablo to see how fast things can change. Each day I just tried to stay in the race and in contention and was able to get it done.”

You were always consistent throughout the race, was that part of the plan from day one or was your hand forced by injury or strategy?
“It was a bit of both. I knew from the beginning that my wrist wasn’t going to be strong enough for outright speed on a lot of the stages. My plan was to find a good rhythm and try to stay inside the top 10 as best I could. As time went on, we could see that it was all working out but as you know, we went into the final day with only a narrow lead, so it stayed close the whole way through.”


Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

What have you learned from this Dakar in particular?
“I have certainly learned a lot about myself on this rally, and obviously never to quit – never to give up. Strategy-wise, it’s kind of the same, consistency is key but even when you have a bad day you need to keep on going because anything can happen at the Dakar. Take the rough with the smooth but make sure you are in the right place and in the end it will work.”

With three winners in the team, do the egos clash at all, are you all extremely competitive?
“Oh, for sure, absolutely. They’re going to have to get a bigger door on the truck now so that I can get my head through! No, for the three of us who have had the honor to win the Dakar Rally, it’s good to have a certain amount of competition between teammates. It feels great to keep KTM’s winning streak going, that is really important to me and the other guys. I think first and foremost we are a team, but at the end of the race I want it to be me that’s holding the winner’s trophy.”


Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

What was the pressure like on the final day?
“I never want to feel anything like that pressure ever again. I wish going into the final day I had a 10-minute lead, it would have been so much better. Pablo put up a great fight but of course he had that crash and it made my life a little easier, but I still had to make it to the finish line. Pablo crashed at 10 kilometers and after that I still had 95 kilometers to go. It certainly wasn’t an easy stage and like I said, you can never truly relax until you have crossed that line.”

And on crossing that line, how did it feel to win?
“It’s a feeling like no other. I thought after winning my first one, the second wouldn’t be so much of a big deal, but it’s not like that at all. It sounds like a cliché, but it honestly feels like a dream. I woke up the morning after the final day and I was ready for someone to come and tell me it was the first day of the race and I had to get up and get ready.”


Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

How does it feel to do the double – World and Dakar champion, back to back?
“Wow. You know I never even thought about it. To get my first world title and then the Dakar title just months later is amazing. You get so caught up with what is coming next a lot of the time you don’t get a chance for these things to sink in. I can’t take all the credit though, rallying is truly a team sport and none of it would be possible without the KTM family I have around me. Handing KTM that 18th Dakar win is hugely important to me.”

How does it feel to have lost your hair?
“It’s extremely cold now. I can certainly feel the wind on the top of my head that’s for sure. I look in the mirror and it looks very, very different. It’s done though, and there was no way I was going to try and get out of it. When you make a bet, you have to stick to it, you have to stick to your word.”


Laia Sanz (ESP) & Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

It looked emotionally painful when you were having it done.
“It was, exactly. It’s taken years to grow my hair out like that. Sam and I started it off and other than racing dirt bikes it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had!”

Now the celebrations have died down, how will you spend the next few weeks?
“What do you mean the celebrations have died down? There is plenty of celebrating left to do! No, I’ll spend some time at home now and one of the first things I need to do is have my wrist looked at to see how it has handled two tough weeks in Peru. The world championship will start before we know it and I want to be ready and as fit as I can be to defend my title. I’ll take some time to let all of this sink in, but I’ll soon want to get out there riding again.”

Thanks Toby, and once again congratulations on your second Dakar rally win.

Photos: Marcin Kin


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      The drama wasn’t over yet. “I actually opened Tacna really well and was super-pleased with my navigation.” But things took a turn quickly when he unknowingly hit a rock and broke his rear brake disc.
      “I looked down the whole disc was off the hub somehow. Every bolt had bust off and I still had 100-odd kilometers to go in the special. I continued but the caliper came off and started to hit me in the leg so I had to stop and pull it all off, cut the brake line and that’s where all the time went.”
      Riders must learn to deal with these set-backs (including riding 100s of kilometers in sand with no brake!) and must adopt a psychological reset button or an emotional mute button inside the head to lock away the problem and deal with what is in front and not behind.
      “The next day I won the stage because I had no choice. The only thing I could do was try and make up time by going all out to win. From that point onwards I could only deal with what I had,” explains Sam, perfectly illustrating the point.
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      But Sunderland’s Dakar took yet another twist the following night after stage seven when organizers issued an hour time penalty.
      Sam explains exactly how events unfolded: “I went to go in the stage and they stopped me saying there is a problem with your iritrack, there was no power, I changed the fuse and I was ready to go. I could have left sooner but they re-seeded me to fourth place at the start line.”
      Innocent until proven guilty? Not in Dakar. Back at the bivouac race organization made the leap Sam had deliberately tampered with his bike in order to not be first on the stage. “I was fuming,” explains Sam. “I had big discussions with the organizers, the FIM, with my team manager and it was no budge. They were standing firm on it and I was out the rally effectively.”
      In the rider’s mind at this point all is lost. 12 months leading up to Dakar, all the issues already overcome during the 2019 rally were blown away with a blown fuse. Sam says he was so angry he was ready to throw in the towel but out of respect for his mechanic and the KTM rally team he continued onwards.
      “Having four or five hours sleep each night and riding for hours or whatever is tough but to have all this other stuff piled on is difficult,” explains Sam.
      The perhaps unseen effect of getting a penalty from the organizers is how you are then viewed by your peers: “When the organizer gives you the penalty it is like a stamp of confirmation that you did something wrong. It looks to everyone else like they found factual evidence – of course I knew I hadn’t but from everybody’s side it looked like I had.”
      “How did I deal with all that piled on top? Not very well to be honest, my head was in the clouds,” says Sunderland. “The worst was day nine because it was a long stage, I got lost a lot, made mistakes, rode in dust a lot and it was tough.”
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      In the end the Dakar organizers quashed the penalty but only after the race had finished and after Sam had raced two stages with his “head in the clouds.”
      Emotionally, every sportsperson takes knocks physically and mentally. In offroad sport those knocks can come with a turn of the wheel but at Dakar, the toughest race on the planet, those knocks can be with sledgehammers.
      Last word to Sam: “I race to win, I was in really good shape, did all the hard work and went to Dakar to do that job but we didn’t get to play the full hand of cards. In the end, after everything that happened, I’ll take that third place and live to fight another day.”
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      Photos: Sebas Romero | Marcin Kin
    • De Dementor
      Race hard, play hard, chill out hard – it’s rally style!
      Posted in Lifestyle, People We caught up with KTM´s Dakar 1-2-3 finishers and asked them about their after-Dakar life. Is it paradise?
      Feeling second-hand
      “This Dakar has been a tough one, the body is definitely feeling very second hand,” says current Cross-Country Rallies World Champion and the most epic winner in Dakar history. Toby Price did the impossible: He endured the insane pain which drove him crazy, and occasionally having to rev the bike with his left hand. There were moments, especially in the stages 3 and 7, when he already felt beaten; the win was far away on the other side of pain. After ten bloody battles, he won the war with inhuman will, and consistency. “I am so glad I didn’t give up,” said Price after crossing the finish line.
      On the rest day in Arequipa, the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Dakar winners of the bike category, who would later finish on 1-2-3 spots of the podium, were being interviewed by several media. There were a lot of laughs and banter, even though none of them believed they could win this year. Despite sitting in 2nd place of the general standings, Sam Sunderland had to open stage 6, and that meant a sure loss of time. Matthias Walkner was 7th overall, Toby Price 4th, and all three were carrying injuries. It indeed has been a very tough one, and that’s why we did a special debrief, asking them how they would unwind afterwards.
      Matthias Walkner (AUT), Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      Toby Price
      He broke a bone during his first slightly more daring motorcycle race, rolled his car in his first 4-wheel race, and, maybe it’s a good thing he is not flying planes. The latest price he paid was a broken scaphoid, a souvenir from the final test last December. The injury was far from healed when on January 1 he boarded a plane to Lima. Like a casino gambler who beat the dealer, he grabbed the jackpot.
      We were sitting in a hotel in Lima after the Dakar celebrations, when he said: “Back home, I am going straight to the hospital first, that’s pretty much my second home.” His doctor would later tell him the bone was about to collapse, and another screw was needed. “There is a question mark hanging over the trip I have already organized. I should go to Vietnam with my family and friends, but unfortunately this is a motorbike tour we are talking about. In the land of old Chinese bikes I would ride a KTM 690 ENDURO R, and I am so excited about that. If everything goes well with my wrist, I will soon check off my bucket list the second biggest cave in the world, and a golden bridge held by big rocky hands. Though the best of all is that I am gonna have a KTM motorcycle, hoping to get some pretty amazing footage and some cool stuff for my vlogs. From there, I don’t know exactly, but for sure I will book a holiday also on my own, some nice place with white sand and crystal water, where I can drink from a coconut and let my body recover,” he explained his plans.
      And how Toby Price zones out in his free time? “I just love being around friends, and family. I’ve got a KTM 690 DUKE for my adventures back home. It’s an amazing bike, I am pumped to have it and to explore on it. I love mountain biking and getting to know new faces. Some days I love being in the city, having everything at my fingertips, while there are other days I just want to get off the grid and just find a hidden spot to light a camp fire. At the end of the day, I am no different to anybody else. Motorcycles are my life, but they are not everything; I like doing fun things in life. I love being at the beach, to spend time with my friends and wakeboarders, Harley Clifford and Cory Teuniseen. Sounds like a privilege, but I am telling you I am very terrible at this damn thing. I can only control handlebars and steering wheels.”
      Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      Matthias Walkner
      Hurting his ankle in the 5th stage didn’t slow down the 2018 Dakar winner. Shining on the toughest stages where riding and navigational skills were fundamental, Matthias Walkner finished the 41st Dakar edition as runner-up. Even though he didn’t win, he is convinced he rode his best Dakar so far. “Now I deserve to party a bit, because I worked really hard for this Dakar. It’s not easy to start with number one, it sure adds extra pressure,” he admits. But since there are some medical issues on his to do list, party time will be short and sweet. “In my first two weeks back I’ve got some press stuff to attend to around Austria, and to cheer on my friend Marcel Hirscher.” At the end of January Matthias went to one of the most famous downhill ski races in Kitzbühel, before visiting the night race in Schladming. “This is what helps me relax, watch a good ski race and hanging out with friends.” At the time of writing, Matthias already successfully underwent knee surgery, and is waiting to have the pin taken out of his femur. “It’s going to be three or four months of recovery, and then, in the summer, I hopefully will be ready to race again, at least on two wheels,” the car enthusiast explained. The last Dakar came with a special prize, a brand new KTM X-BOW, and now it’s the time to take it onto the racetrack.
      Matthias Walkner (AUT) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      Sam Sunderland
      This year’s Dakar was a bit of a rollercoaster for the 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland. Only on the last stage he was granted the removal of the one-hour penalty issued for missing the start of stage 8 and was promoted to third place. “This Dakar was really, really tough on every level: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had so many ups and downs, that I feel completely drained. Drained, but happy, we could say, because obviously this is a big achievement for KTM. On day 8 it still didn’t look like it would happen, we fought till the last meter. The top ten riders were really strong, and it wasn’t clear which one would dominate. It was more about who would make the least mistakes. Saying that, I feel really tired and just want to relax. I want to go home, and finally see my dog.  He’s with some friends now, but I know, he misses me likewise. Everybody loves Oli,” he smiles and adds: “Wouldn’t hurt to spend some time with my girlfriend too, to go for some nice food and just be together.” Otherwise Sam confesses he has a bit of a bad habit. “I play too much PlayStation, with teenagers over the world. I know it’s not very healthy, but it’s my way of relaxing. Of course, nothing compares to walking Oli in the beautiful Andorran mountains. I am happy to have moved here to live, the nature here is truly amazing. Besides that, Andorra it’s close to Spain, if you want some extra sunshine,” says a citizen of the world, while he prepares his ticket to Paris.
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin
      Photos: Marcin Kin