Australian rider, Toby Price, has secured the 2018 FIM Cross Country Rally Championship at the Rally du Maroc in Morocco.
Winning two of the five stages of the Moroccan rally, as well as the short, opening Prologue, Price secured the overall win ahead of his teammate Mathias Walkner with a comfortable margin of over seven minutes. With his nearest title rival, Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla finishing in fourth place overall, Price leapfrogged the Chilean rider in the standings to claim the championship by a six-point margin.
Toby Price’s journey to the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship title has not been an easy one. A crash at the 2017 Dakar Rally forced him to retire early from the event with Price subsequently spending much of the year recovering from the broken femur he sustained. Returning to competition at the 2018 Dakar in January, Price impressed with his outright speed, ultimately taking two stage wins and finishing in third position overall behind teammate Walkner and Honda’s Kevin Benavides.
But it was riding with consistency throughout the 2018 season which paid off long-term for Price. Multiple stage wins as well as podiums at the Atacama Rally and Desafio Ruta 40, added to his win in Morocco, and resulted in the 31-year-old becoming a worthy 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion.
“What an amazing season – I can’t believe it, Price commented. “It’s been a tough one and I didn’t expect to be at the top of the list at the end of it. I had some bad luck back in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the year, but after that every rally has gone well and I’ve finished on the podium at every round. To win the world championship with a win here in Morocco makes it all that little bit sweeter. If I am honest, I was nervous out there on the final stage today, there are no guarantees in rally racing, especially when I had to lead the stage out. This is my first world championship in any category so I am so, so happy. It’s all credit to my team and everyone at Red Bull KTM, without them behind me I wouldn’t be standing on the top step. I’m standing on the top of the world and it’s the best feeling ever.”
“Winning the rally world championship is a great result for Toby and KTM, says KTM Rally boss, Jordi Viladoms. Last year was really tough with the injury to his leg. He wasn’t even fully fit when he arrived at the Dakar at the beginning of this year but he did an amazing job and took third position. This was already a great success considering what he had been through. As the 2018 season has progressed, Toby has shown more speed, more confidence and all his hard work has paid off by dominating this race and winning the championship here in Morocco. We are really happy for him and he deserves this title. We still have some time to improve even further and hope to arrive at Dakar even stronger.”
Wrapping up the Rally du Maroc in second place overall Matthias Walkner, although disappointed not to have taken the win, was pleased with his riding and the performance of his KTM 450 RALLY.
“It was a tough day today – very fast, rough and the sort of stage that you could easily make a big mistake, he said. I had a comfortable gap to the rider in third so I was able to take things a little steadier and aim for a safe finish. Overall, I am happy with my performance here in Morocco and thrilled to take third in the championship.”
Following an issue earlier in the rally where a heavy impact with a large rock damaged his rear tyre and mousse and resulted in lost time, it would always be a challenge for Sam Sunderland to bridge the gap to the front-runners. Despite the setback, the British rider posted some excellent stage results, enough to regain a position inside the top-10 at the climax of the event.
“I am really happy with my rally here in Morocco, the British rider commented – the team have all done a great job. I had some bad luck earlier on but overall I am pleased with how things have gone as my riding and navigation were strong throughout the rally.”
Team junior Luciano Benavides rode a solid Rally du Maroc and continues to gain valuable experience onboard his KTM 450 RALLY machine. The young Argentinian now looks forward to his next ride at the Dakar in three months’ time.
The FIM World XC Rally Championship returns next year with the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru, starting January 6, 2019.
Final Standings – 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship
1. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 91 points
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 85pts
3. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 75pts
4. Paulo Goncalves (POR), Honda, 70pts
5. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 56pts