Price second as French probe explosion

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  • Toby Price
    Motocross rider

Australia's two-time Dakar Rally motorbike champion Toby Price has finished second in the third stage of this year's event in Saudi Arabia, as concerns that the race could be cancelled were quelled.

The stage result edged Price up the overall standings to 14th, 26 minutes behind British race leader Sam Sunderland.

Price's fellow Australian Daniel Sanders said he rode a tactical race in finishing fifth on Tuesday, to be fifth overall, less than nine minutes behind which includes a 10-minute penalty picked up on stage two.

The future of the Dakar Rally was been cast into doubt after the French national anti-terrorism prosecutor's office launched an investigation into a support vehicle explosion in Jeddah on the eve of the event's start.

However, race director David Castera told L'Equipe that the two-week race will continue, and that he had asked Saudi authorities to assign more police to protect the rally.

"There's a big police presence," he was quoted as saying.

It was reported that on Thursday an explosion went off under a vehicle containing five people being used by the French rally team Sodicars, with Philippe Boutron, co-driver of the team's race car, suffering a serious leg injury that required hospitalisation.

His team on Tuesday said Boutron was repatriated on Monday to a military hospital in Clamart, a south-western suburb of Paris, where he was put into an induced coma "to ease his suffering".

The Dakar, now in its 44th edition, started in 1978 as a race from Paris to the Senegalese capital but moved from Africa to South America for safety reasons in 2009. It has been held entirely in Saudi Arabia since 2020.

In this year's race, Joaquim Rodrigues of Portugal took the motorbike stage on Tuesday for his first Dakar win.

Rodrigues dedicated his racing to brother-in-law Paulo Goncalves, who died on the 2020 Dakar.

Price, who won in 2016 and 2019, tweeted: "Good day today! Super fast stage so you can't make up too much time... there were lines in the dunes you can see and follow so just tried to make it a clean stage."

The mention of being able to follow the route referenced several occasions when riders have taken a wrong turn in the desert.

This included Price himself in the opening stage, which he estimated cost him 45 minutes, and Sanders in the second stage.

The Victorian said he had deliberately lost time, taking a short break, to avoid having to run first on Wednesday and forge his own path in the dunes.

"Just before the finish, I sat and had a picnic for a bit and waited for three minutes," he said.

"I just played it smart because tomorrow is the longest stage of the race and I wanted to start back a bit to catch the guys in front."

In the SSV event for four-wheel side-by-side vehicles, Australian duo Molly Taylor and Dale Moscatt moved up to eighth -- 81 minutes adrift of the leaders, after a 10th-place finish.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz won the third stage of the cars category with his Audi team celebrating a first for an electric hybrid car.

Qatar's Nasser Al Attiyah strengthened his grip on the overall lead after closest challenger Sebastien Loeb suffered two punctures and a transmission problem that left him on two-wheel drive.

with agencies

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