TOBYPrice was due at a friend’s buck’s party on Friday night, but life is not quite that simple when you are Dakar Rally champion.
IN DEMAND: Dakar Rally winner Toby Price. Picture: Getty Images
The off-road motorcycle star flew into Sydney airport yesterday afternoon, 10 days after holding up the Dakar trophy in Argentina, and into the arms of his proud parents, John and Pauline.
He hadspent the intervening week and a half in South America conducting media interviewsand in California thanking sponsors, but any chanceof returning to a normal life in Australia ended when he rode across that finish line in Rosario.
He will stay in Sydney on Thursday hosting more media inquiries,spend Friday in the Hunter then fly out on Saturday for Austria, where bike maker KTM is based.
“There’s plenty of stuff happening,” he told theHerald, with characteristic understatement, soon after touching down at Mascot.
“My plans got changed really quickly. Unfortunately I’m going to have to let one of my mates down and say we can’t make it to your buck’s, but we’ve just got to make sure we make the wedding.”
Price will attend a dinner in Austria with KTM bosses from around the world to honour him as the first Australian to win a Dakar division and the first rider to do so at their second attempt.
The Maitland rider finished a remarkable third on debut last year with a non-factory KTM team.
“They all want to celebrate the result we’ve got, because it’s something pretty special,” Price said.“It’s something that’s happened in my second year, and that doesn’t happen very often.
“It’s still sinking in. But it’s been amazing. To rock up there at the airport and there were about 50-odd people there to welcome us home. The support’s been overwhelming.It’s a dream come true. I’m stoked that all this hard work that I’ve been putting in, it’s all paid off.”
Price joins a list of global stars, including MotoGP champion Casey Stoner and supercross rider Chad Reed, who cut their teeth on the dirt tracks of the Hunter coalfields.
The former junior motocross and supercrosschampion hopes to get together with family,friends and sponsors during his brief stay in the Hunter.
“It would be amazing to see everyone and have this Dakar trophy and this part of the history of the Dakar. A lot of people haven’t held one of these trophies.
“Nobody in Australia’s held one, so I think everyone’s keen to grab a hold of it and see what it’s like.”
Asked whether he had noticed a change in the way people treated him since his Dakar triumph, Price said:“I hope that it doesn’t, because at the end of the day I’m just me.
“It’s an amazing race that I’ve won, but it doesn’t really change who I am or change my life, really.
“I’m still more determined to go back and keep winning this race now. But it’s definitely going to open some doors to some other opportunities.
“Hopefully I can have some fun while it lasts, because unfortunately racing dirt bikes it doesn’t last forever and you’ve got to grab it while you can.”
Price has taken over the mantle of Dakar star from Spaniard Marc Coma and Frenchman Cyril Despres, KTM riderswho had won every Dakar since 2005 between them.
Both have now retired from riding, and Price hopes to start his own dynasty.
“That’s always been the goal. The goal at the start was to win one, and we’ve done that. Now we’ve just got to keep picking it off, and if we end up with only one in the next 10 years, I’m still going to be pumped. I’m still going to have my name on that list and in the record books.
“The record of being the first Australian to do it is never going to be taken away from me.
“We’re going to have a big target on our back next year, that’s for sure. It never comes easy, so we’ll just do the best we can.”
Price will continue to live in Australia,but how much time he spends here will be limited by testing, training and competing in rallies throughout the world.
He will spend several months in Spain training and helping to develop a new bike, but he hopes to return for the prestigious Finke two-day desert race at Alice Springs in June.
“Australia is always home, and I love being here. As soon as I landed back in Sydney, it was a good thing to walk off that plane and be back on Aussie soil.
“It’s now going to be a lot busier than I ever thought. I thought I was busy before, but it’s now going to go through the roof.”