Australia's two-time winner Toby Price has launched his quest for a another Dakar Rally title in fine fashion by taking the honours in the opening stage of the 2021 edition.
The 33-year-old Price has opened up a slender 23-second overall lead in the motorcycle class of the great race after winning the 277km first stage from Jeddah to Bisha in Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps more significantly for the Gold Coast rider, American defending champion Ricky Brabec had a woeful opening day, finishing the stage in 24th place, having dropped 18 minutes and 32 seconds to his Australian rival.
"Opening stage went well! Made the finish line, looked after the tyres and bike but navigation was very tricky. Happy to take the stage," enthused Price on his Twitter account.
"It's been a good clean day for us with a few minor mistakes, just got to stay calm and make it work!"
It represented a fine day's work for the Red Bull Factory KTM rider Price, who was victorious both in 2016, becoming the first Australian ever to win any class of the Dakar Rally, and in 2019 when he was suffering from a broken wrist.
Price said he had made a navigational mistake near the end of the stage but it didn't stop him taking his 13th career Dakar stage win.
"I got lost a little bit about seven kilometres from the finish. I took a little bit of time just trying to get back on track here," Price told the official race website.
"I think you're gonna see a lot of chopping and changing in the standings in this race. You just gotta stay calm and let it cruise along and make it work," added the man who's had five top-three finishes in the last six editions of the race.
Price, who had been lying ninth after the prologue, took the lead from Frenchman Xavier de Soultrait at the 135km mark and finished the stage 31 seconds clear of Honda's Argentine rider Kevin Benavides, who now lies second overall 23 seconds adrift of the Aussie.
Price's Austrian Red Bull teammate Matthias Walkner is one minute 12 seconds behind the Australian in third place.
Husqvarna rider De Soultrait ended up sixth at the finish and is now five minutes 23 seconds behind Price.
Price's fellow Australian Daniel Sanders, who had made a flying start on his race debut by finishing third in the prologue, dropped back to 25th overall after the stage, nearly 20 minutes behind.
Honda rider Brabec, though, had a bad day following his victory in the short prologue stage, having all sorts of navigational problems.
In the cars class, defending champion Carlos Sainz won the first stage, finishing 25 seconds ahead of French teammate Stephane Peterhansel.
Overall, Spain's three-time winner holds the slenderest of eight-second leads from Peterhansel.