Toby Price is closing in on race leader after a second place for Stage 6

Hunter rider Toby Price continues to loom large in 2018 Dakar Rally contention after finishing fourth on stage seven of the gruelling race.

The 2016 champion moved up to fifth outright, a little more than 13 minutes behind yet another new race leader.

Argentinian Joan Barreda won stage seven on his Honda, but Frenchman Adrien van Beveren is back in the overall lead after finishing second on the stage.

Price started the marathon stage seven in equal fifth spot less than 10 minutes behind the then leader Honda rider Kevin Benavides.

He tied for second place on stage six and trailed the eventual stage winner and KTM teammate by just 30 seconds.

Speaking after stage seven, Price said the leg went very well and he was starting to get more rhythm on the bike after 12 months out of the saddle.

“I managed to catch Meo easily enough but then I couldn’t break away from him – we’re on the same bikes with the same top-speed so we ended up riding together,” he said.

“From about the 80km mark there was some tricky navigation, so we just focused on getting through without losing any time.

“It was so muddy out there, the first part of the stage took us straight into it, then we had some nice fast hard-pack to race over but then towards the end of the stage, things got really wet again, which can make navigation hard.

“It’s more important to take your time and spend a couple of minutes doing things right than get lost and waste half-an-hour.

“I’m generally happy with how things are going, after not being on the bike for 12 months things get a little rusty – not just your riding, but your ability to navigate well, too.

“I’m starting to get my rhythm back though and it feels really good.”

Stage eight of the rally has been described by organisers as a section which will start separating the wheat from the chaff.

The second part of this marathon stage also includes the longest special stage of the rally, covering nearly 500 kilometres.

Before leaving the Altiplano, the competitors will be put to a tough test in high-altitude sand dunes 3500m above sea level. 

It is just the type of conditions and challenge that Price has thrived upon in the past.

Dakar 2018 – Overall Classification – After Stage 7

1. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 21:49:18

2. Kevin Benavides (ARG), Honda, 21:52:32, +03:14

3. Joan Barreda (ESP), Honda, 21:54:03, +04:45

4. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 21:57:36, +08:18

5. Toby Price (AUS), KTM, 22:02:52, +13:34

6. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), Yamaha, 22:05:57, +16:39