If KTM rider Toby Price’s unofficial title as Australia’s most versatile off-road racer was in any doubt, the 27-year-old Maitlander’s top-10 finish in his first ever international FIM rally competition may have put the question beyond doubt.
Price completed last night’s sixth and final day of the Morocco Rally in eighth place, enough to give him eighth overall in the what was the ultimate round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Price finished the day just four seconds behind Red Bull KTM’s four-time Dakar Rally winner Marc Coma, who wrapped up the round win, and the 2014 title.
Australia’s three-time Finke Desert race winner used his vast experience to begin the race intelligently, taking 15th on the first day, before moving into a rhythm and going on to mix it with the biggest and most famous names in the sport.
On Day 2 a damaged taillight led to a map-reader malfunction and ninth on the day, but after seventh on Day 3, Price ensured the international press knew his name when he posted his best result of the rally – a brilliant third place behind Dakar aces Coma and Sam Sunderland.
It’s the second time a KTM Australia rider has gone to the finale and mixed it successfully with the world’s best on FIM World Rally Championship debut, after Ben Grabham rode to sixth in the 2013 event.
The event has been the icing on a very spectacular cake for Price, after a 2014 spent juggling his way through two professional racing calendars; one for Desert racing and the other for off-road/enduro racing.
This year he won the high-profile Finke and Hattah desert races, the WA Desert Tri-Series, and the Australian Off Road Championship, as well as finishing second in the Australian four-day enduro championships.
Price will now represent Australia in the upcoming International six days enduro, and then seems certain to face the starter for the world’s biggest off-road race – the 2015 Dakar Rally – when it begins in Buenos Aires on January 4.
Ben Grabham, KTM Desert Team Manager : “He’s done a great job. It doesn’t matter what bike he’s on, he can do well, and he’s proven once again to be pretty strong and adaptable to another form of racing. He showed by getting a third in a stage, and a lot of consistent top ten results that he’s more than capable of winning a rally. But, I know from being over there that if you want to be one of the really top guys, you have to go over and spend the time and really learn the navigation side of things, so that’s one thing he’ll have to decide. But just looking in he’s obviously done a great job for his first effort, for sure.”
Toby Price : “It’s been an unreal trip, to be with all the KTM guys here and have all those guys helping me out, and to se all the countryside that Morocco has on offer has been a pretty special thing. Just to finish the rally was the main thing for me but we’re stoked on the result that came from it.
On day two I had a taillight that snapped off, and somehow played up with my map reader, so I missed a way-point and ended up copping a 20-minute penalty because I couldn’t actually scroll my map to follow the course and had to just follow dust a little bit.
The rest of the week has been about slowly improving and getting better each day.
The KTM guys, they don’t say too much but I’m pretty sure they’re happy. Every time I’ve come in they’ve always shaken my hand and been pretty stoked about everything. They keep calling me “Skippy” or asking me if I’ve seen any kangaroos today!
It’s been tough with the journalists because they don’t speak very good English, and I can’t speak Spanish, or French, or anything else, so it makes it very interesting when they come and have a bit of a chat!
It’s been a pretty good adventure and hopefully it can lead to more Rally stuff in the near future. It’s been really good the support from Australia, people have been trying to keep up to date with what I’m doing and I can’t thank everybody enough.”
Morocco Rally Stage 6 (Unofficial results)
Around Marrakesh Special stage of 113 km
1, Joan Barreda, ESP, Honda, 1 hour 26.16
2, Sam Sunderland, GBR, KTM at 2.07
3, Ruben Faria, POR, KTM at 5.41
4, Jordi Viladoms, ESP, KTM at 5.51
5, Chaleco Lopez, CHI, KTM at 06.29
6, Matthias Walkner, AUT, KTM at 6.32
7, Marc Coma, ESP, KTM at 6.37
8, Toby Price, AUS, KTM at 6.41
9, Helder Rodrigues, Honda at 6.45
10, Jakub Przygonski, POL, KTM at 12.13
Morocco Rally final standings
1, Coma 17 hours 37.58 – WORLD CHAMPION 2014
2, Sunderland at 5.28
3, Rodrigues at 13.13
4. Barreda at 12.54
5, Faria at 15.17
6, Viladoms at 19.30
7, Lopez at 21.26
8. Price 1 hour 01.36 (includes 20-minute penalty)