Day five at the Dakar Rally presented a change in scenery for competitors as they travelled east from Al-‘Ula to Ha’il.
The 353-kilometre timed special began with fast, stony tracks similar to the previous day’s stages, before opening out into expansive dunes during the latter half of the route.
Following his sixth-place finish on Wednesday, Toby Price was keen to make the best use of his start position and make up time on the rally front-runners.
Pushing hard right from the off, the Australian moved into the lead by kilometre 152. From there the reigning Dakar champion maintained a strong pace, making the minimum of mistakes, to come home over one-minute ahead of the second-placed rider.
Toby Price: “It was a good day for me today – we’ve seen a big change in scenery with the last half of the stage in the dunes. I got my head down at the start and made some good progress even though it was a bit tricky out there today. I’ve made up some more time on the leaders, which is good and hopefully, we’ll have another strong day in the sand tomorrow.
“I want to wish Sam (Sunderland) all the best after his fall today too – hopefully he’s back on the bike again soon.”
Reigning FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion Sam Sunderland was forced to abandon the 2020 Dakar Rally following a crash at kilometre 187 on stage five. Thankfully, Sam is expected to make a full recovery.
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager: “It’s not been the perfect day for us today, but as we often see at the Dakar we have two sides – Toby has won the stage and is second overall, but unfortunately Sam had a crash and will not continue the race.
“Thankfully, it seems that Sam’s injuries are not too serious, he has broken some vertebrae and his shoulder, but we are hoping he will spend some time in hospital here before flying back to Europe and starting his recovery.
“In terms of the rally, the change in terrain should suit us more from now on – we will see lots of fast, off-piste sand tracks and difficult to navigate dunes. We are still in the fight for the overall victory and I am confident all my riders will give their best tomorrow and for the second half of the race.”
Stage six of the rally marks the final day of racing before the rest day. Riders leave Ha’il and head further east toward the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
The second-longest stage of the event, competitors cover a total distance of 830 kilometres, which includes a gruelling 477-kilometre special made up primarily of sandy tracks and dunes.