Price poised to pounce after super Rally stage
TOBY Price moved into the top four and gained a chunk of time on the leaders as the Dakar Rally's first marathon stage wrapped up in Bolivia.
While his KTM teammate Antoine Meo fought off Honda's Ricky Brabec to win the test, Price's third placing leaves him well placed to charge in the final five stages.
In the car category, Stephane Peterhansel rebounded from his Stage 7 disaster to win Stage 8, as Peugeot teammate Carlos Sainz had a steady run to consolidate his overall lead.
The 498km competitive section from the Uyuni salt flats to Tupiza was again hit by rain, the weather such that organisers have decided to cancel the following Stage 9 due to heavy rains.
Meo was on fire from the start of the stage, making full use of his low position in the starting order to make big gains in the overall classification.
The Frenchman was made to work for it all the way to the end of the stage by Brabec, turning around a 10 second deficit at the final waypoint to a one minute advantage over the American by the finish.
"I went flat-out from the start. I wanted to gain six or seven minutes on the leaders, and I'm happy with what I did today because I pushed to the limit," Meo said.
"I stopped for two minutes to help (Pablo) Quintanilla, whose chain had come off. I fell at km 400, but both my bike and I are fine."
Price was third fastest on the day and pulled six minutes back on race leader Adrien Van Beveren to move to fourth overall.
"It's been a really long marathon stage - yesterday was 430km and today was 490km - the two longest of the event," Price said.
"I'm feeling a little bit sore after racing for nearly 1,000km but apparently we have another rest day tomorrow due to the stage being cancelled. I'm not complaining, I could certainly use the time to recharge, but everyone gets the same break and will be fired up and ready to go again on Tuesday.
"All-in-all, I'm feeling good and the bike is awesome. I know the stages in Argentina are going to be tough and there are still a lot of kilometres to cover, but I'm in a good position and not had any issues.
"The idea is to just stay focused and keep doing what we've been doing."
Just 22 seconds separates leader Van Beveren from second-placed Kevin Benavides with five stages remaining, both riders gunning for their maiden Dakar win as Yamaha and Honda look to end KTM's stranglehold on the race since 2001.
Australia's Rodney Faggotter made it through the stage in 26th to sit 22nd overall, he and Van Beveren all that is left of the factory Yamaha squad after Xavier De Soultrait crashed out of sixth overall on Stage 8. The Frenchman fell 171km into the stage and was airlifted out with a suspected broken elbow and knee.
Fellow Australian Scott Britnell made it through his first Dakar marathon stage in 66th place, the Malle Moto-class competitor moving up to 73rd overall.
Peterhansel and teammate Cyril Despres romped to a dominant 1-2 on the stage, a far cry from the previous day when the pair were stopped for several hours rebuilding the former's car.
The 13-time winner poured cold water on suggestions he could run down teammate and overall leader Sainz on pace alone.
"I'm not back in the game, because we're talking hours of time difference and I just got a few minutes back," Peterhansel said.
"It's a pity that tomorrow's stage has been cancelled because we needed every opportunity we could get our hands on ..."
The Frenchman is now engaged in a battle for second with Toyota's Nasser Al-Attiyah, the Qatari driver losing two minutes to the Peugeot on the test but still holding a seven minute advantage with five stages remaining.
Overall leader Sainz finished the stage down in fifth, over seven minutes off Peterhansel but keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the finish line in Cordoba at the end of the week.
"We have to be strong on all terrains. Every day we make it to the finish is a good day," he said.
"Everything is going fine, we have to stay focused."