What a difference a day makes. After a tricky Rallye du Maroc opener, American off-roader Sara Price has scorched back through the field with a pair of stunning stage wins.
The Can-Am racer has endured a tough and emotional ride through the first half of her Dakar preparation event, but she’s been rewarded for her perseverance with two well-deserved stage wins – her first in the World Rally-Raid Championship.
Price sits third in the classification, trailing class leader João Ferreira by just 11 minutes 28 seconds after three of five stages in this year’s event.
Sunday’s test took crews from Zagora on a 179-mile special stage, venturing through the infamous Erg Chigaga dunes before returning to the bivouac in Zagora. As her class competitors hit problems over the grueling terrain, the American kept her head, and her pace, to take the stage win by 1m 22s over Ecuador’s Sebastian Guayasamin.
“We freaking did it,” smiled the delighted and visibly emotional Price on Sunday evening. “We just won our first stage. I don’t even know what to think right now. This means so much, I’ve put so much in to get here.
“It was a long day for sure, a tough day. It was hard on the equipment but we kept it together and that’s what matters.”
If Sunday’s success was a surprise to some, then Monday showed that Price had truly arrived in W2RC. She took her Can-Am Maverick X3 to yet another stage win on the fast 209-mile special east of Zagora, the longest of the rally so far, edging team-mate João Ferreira by just 24 seconds on a day where the top four in the T4 class finished within just over a minute of each other.
“Another stage win!” said Price after the Monday action. “We had a flawless day. In the first part we had zero dust which was so nice; after that we had a lot of dust – which was kind of a bummer.
“The rocks are so sharp out there and there’s a lot of them, it’s so nice to be able to trust the BF Goodrich tires. J (Jeremy Gray, co-driver) absolutely killed the navigation and now we’re in a really good spot.
“Tomorrow’s a big day, probably the toughest of the rally with some difficult, technical roads. We won today – but only just, so we still have our work cut out.”
With just two days remaining and a 48m gap to William Grarre in fourth place, Price now has an excellent chance of securing at least a podium in Morocco. But with 313 miles of competitive stages to go, and the knowledge that anything can happen in the brutal world of off-road, her challenge is far from over.
In the overall cars standings, Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah holds a 6m16s lead over Bahrain Raid Xtreme’s Sébastien Loeb. The Qatari is already this year’s W2RC champion, after securing enough points in winning Sunday’s Stage 2 to put him beyond the reach of closest rival Yazeed Al-Rajhi.