At just over the half-way mark of the world’s toughest rally race – Dakar Rally – two Australians, former winner Toby Price and debutant Daniel Sanders, sit in the top ten and within striking distance of victory.
Price sits one- second behind the leader, American Ricky Brabec, after finishing the marathon stage 7 in 7th place, while Sanders has broken into the top ten sitting in 9th after a massive get-off which landed him head-first into a sand dune but he managed to finish in 5th.
Fellow Australian riders Michael Burgess sits in 39th and Andrew Houlihan sits in 62nd position.
The Marathon stage 7 which sees rider compete over 700km is made even harder as they are not allowed team assistance, which means they also have to play mechanic should anything go wrong with their bikes.
Toby Price said: “Everything went well today, I just tried to manage the stage as best as I could and not make any huge mistakes. It’s been a tough day but I’m happy with how things have gone, and it looks like we’re in good shape for tomorrow. Seven days done now, but still a fair few to go.”
For current Australian Off-Road Championship title-holder, and Dakar rookie, Daniel Sanders, he is lucky to not have been more seriously injured.
“I was having a pretty good day today until I had about 100km to go. I had been leading out a lot of the stage and was first to one big dune. I knew I had to turn left off the dune, but I managed to hit a rock hidden in the sand with my front wheel and it just threw me straight off,” he said.
“I was going pretty fast and I just flew off and went head-first into the dune. Ricky stopped, which was good of him, and after rolling around winded for a bit I was ok. I damaged the bike a little – bent the front wheel and bars, but it was ok. Luckily, I was able to charge on to the finish. I’ll go over the bike and try and straighten it out for tomorrow and then I might need to get a couple of stitches myself.”
Andrew Houlihan also had the misfortune of crashing in the dunes.
“They were very nice until I misjudged a big dune and cartwheeled over the peak of one,” said Houlihan.
“Other than that small mishap, I made it to the end of what felt like a very dangerous stage.”
Stage 8, the second half of the marathon stage, will take riders on a 709km, testing both rider and machinery with many expected to limp to the finish line.