Aussie Toby Price has whittled a little off the lead of American Ricky Brabec with a strong second place in the 410km ninth stage of the Dakar Rally.
The 410km stage across rocky terrain was won by Chilean Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarana) less than two minutes ahead of Toby who is chasing his third win and a 19th consecutive victory for KTM.
Toby says with the stage being so fast it was difficult to make up any time up as riders were able to follow each other.
Brabec finished fourth with Toby shaving two minutes from the American’s overall lead.
With a 26-minute gap and only three stages to go, Toby has a real fight on his hands.
It comes two days after Toby stopped to help fallen rider Paulo Goncalves and stayed with him until the helicopters arrived. Sadly Paulo later died and the eighth stage was cancelled in his honour.
“Now I can really focus on the small number of remaining days to try and close this gap up to the lead,” he says.
Toby is dedicating his race to the loss of his friend, Paulo or “Speedy”.
Queensland veteran competitor Rodney Faggotter (Yamaha) is proving consistent with yet another top 20 finish.
He came in 18th and remains in 12th outright.
He says his bike is down on top speed from the factory bikes and he had to ride hard in the rough stuff.
“Last few stages have been pretty boring track/racing wise and super fast, but the scenery is magic! Like moonscape in places.”
Fellow Aussie Ben Young (KTM) finished 73rd despite a minor fall on the first part of the special stage.
It should be remembered that he rode half of his debut rally last year with a broken hand after a fall on stage 5. He drops back five places to 63rd.
The only other Aussie competing in the bike category is Matthew Tisdall (KTM) who finished 104th and moves up three spots to 99th.
For the first time the Dakar rally is being run in the one country, Saudi Arabia, after being run in 35 countries on three continents since 1978.
Like many Aussie sports stars and celebrities, Toby is raising money for the bushfire appeal.
He is auctioning his starting jersey and pants for firefighters
Toby is also doing his bit for the current critical bushfire situation by auctioning his starting jersey and pants with proceeds going to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
It is open worldwide, just send in your bid in Australian dollars on his Facebook page or Instagram.
Current highest bid is still $13,001.
Auction closes on 18 January at 5pm (AEST).
If you can’t bid, please donate on this link.
Meanwhile, Aussie MotoGP racer Jack Miller put his 2018 MotoGP helmet up for auction to raise money for the bushfire crisis.
The auction closed on Sunday with 22 bids and the winner bidding $18,000.
Jack will sign and send the helmet to the winning bidder