Desert agony for Price in Dakar near-miss

After a near-9000km slog and more than 44 hours of brutal racing over two weeks of unforgiving desert terrain, Toby Price could only gaze forlornly at a timesheet which showed he'd lost the Dakar Rally by the cruellest of margins - just 43 seconds.

It left this teak-tough Australian motorcycle star shrugging in his own understated way: "It hurts a little bit..."

It really must have done.

For this was the most tightly-fought battle the great race had witnessed in its 45 editions, with Price ending up having to give best to another former winner Kevin Benavides, with the blow not really softened by the fact the Argentine victor is his Red Bull KTM teammate.

Race historians later announced that never before had a biker lost the Dakar lead on the last stage and never before had the margin of defeat been so close, after two-time winner Price had set out on Sunday's 14th and final stage in Saudi Arabia just 12 seconds ahead of Benavides.

So these were deeply unwelcome new records for Price who ended up frustrated at losing crucial seconds with a few mistakes at the 'waypoint' markers dotted over the 136km 'sprint' to the finish.

Hailed by the organisers for his gentlemanly and sporting response to losing so narrowly, the 35-year-old Price was quick to salute Benavides for his "great job".

"To be honest, I am disappointed, we've come so damn far and to fall short by such a small margin is a tough one to swallow. However, full credit to Kevin, he rode a crazy solid race and I'm really proud of the entire team effort, this Dakar has been huge" said Price.

"Disappointment ... just a little frustrated that, on the last day, they played with these 20-metre rules for the waypoints, and I had to turn back and get three of them.

"Yeah, hard to take at the moment, but at the end of the day I'm going home in one piece and we got a Dakar trophy."

Indeed, it was the sixth time in the last nine editions that Price had made the podium with his first runner's up spot to go alongside his two victories and three third-place finishes.

And in such a perilous sport, Price could also reflect that coming home to the Gold Coast unscathed was always a bonus, especially as he's had to abandon during this race twice before and his 2022 campaign featured a crash at the Morocco Rally which ended with him being evacuated by helicopter.

Price's compatriot Daniel Sanders, the race's early leader, also kept persevering to the end, despite having to ride for hours in pain with a thorn buried in his arm which will need extracting now the race is done.

The Red Bull GasGas rider from Victoria ended up a highly creditable seventh, nearly 26 minutes adrift.

Benavides, who won in 2021 with Honda, made a piece of Dakar history by being the first rider to win for two different manufacturers.

"That makes me very proud - and it's incredible to pull off the win at the end of this completely crazy Dakar, and with such a small gap."