Price in tight battle for Dakar Rally win

Toby Price has lost valuable seconds to slip back to third place in the Dakar Rally but the Australian motorcycle endurance star is still right in the thick of the battle for a third crown with just four stages remaining.

A new leader emerged on Wednesday as Argentina's 2021 champion Kevin Benavides leapfrogged both American Skyler Howes and Gold Coast-based Price after the 10th stage, a 624km desert trek from Haradh to Shaybah.

After nearly 36 hours of racing in the most testing of conditions in Saudi Arabia, only one minute 29 seconds separates Husqvarna's Benavides from Howes, with the Argentine's Red Bull KTM colleague Price, the 2016 and 2019 winner, another 41 seconds adrift.

The 2:10 that separates the two KTM teammates is eminently recoverable for Price as the race gets closer to its finish on Sunday.

In comparison to the cars' race, which is being won in runaway fashion by Qatar's Nasser Al-Attiyah by over one hour and 21 minutes, the motorbike contest is remarkably close with the top six riders separated only by under 16 minutes.

The experienced 35-year-old Price reckoned he'd played it safe on Wednesday but liked his position in the race.

"It was a short stage. We just played it safe today. There was a lot of broken dunes and the sand was really soft," he explained.

"All in all, I think so far the position was pretty good. Luciano [Benavides, brother of leader Kevin] opened the way and did a really good job. Hopefully a few people will get in the mix of it. We'll try and get some gaps and see if it works."

Price's Australian pal Daniel Sanders, Red Bull GasGas's early race leader, ended 23:40 down in ninth place overall on a day when Botswana's Ross Branch, who trains in the Kalahari desert, won the stage for India's Hero Motorsports.

Sebastien Loeb took his third stage win in a row, and a fourth in all in 2023, in the cars for the Bahrain Raid Xtreme team, even though Al-Attiyah's Toyota Hilux continues to rule the dunes.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz, the triple Dakar champion, withdrew before the stage with his electric hybrid Audi having been too severely damaged after being rolled in Tuesday's ninth stage.