Two-time Dakar Rally champion Toby Price has ended a rollercoaster second stage in 15th position and ninth overall after leading the 2020 race in Saudi Arabia on day one.
The former Hunter endurance motorcycle rider, who previously lived in Singleton and Maitland, struggled on the 367 kilometre leg from Al Wajh to Neom on Monday.
Price, who became the first Australian to win the prestigious crown in 2016 before backing up his success three years later, eventually stopped the clock in three hours, 51 minutes and 23 seconds (3:51.23).
The result plus a two-minute penalty from day one leaves him nine minutes and 34 seconds behind the leader his Red Bull KTM teammate Sam Sunderland.
"A very challenging day with our first Super Marathon stage complete, it is all new for everyone and doesn't really allow us much time to work on the bikes which made things interesting," Price said after the challenging stage.
"Navigation today was really difficult and the conditions were tricky with so many lines to choose from! With such heavy navigation, it leaves you feeling like you're gambling with your decisions all day, but it makes it interesting for all competitors.
"Starting first is always going to be a disadvantage and today was a day I knew the rest of the field would make time on me.
"I don't plan on starting first too many more times after my efforts today but I'm feeling good, the bike is in good shape for tomorrow and I'm looking forward to stage 3."
During a mid-race interview posted on the Dakar Rally social media platforms, Price said "it's quite a difficult day".
"The navigation is very heavy. The guys behind us have caught [up] and we got a little bit lost around the 50km mark.
"All in all we're cruising along. We've just got to try and look after the bike.
"It's a bit of a marathon stage, so we have to make sure we get to the finish of today and have a good bike for tomorrow."
Price (7:12.56) is now ninth on the overall standings ahead of Tuesday's third stage, a circuit starting and finishing in Neom but taking competitors to the Jordan border and the event's highest altitude of 1400m.
The title holder sits seven minutes and 34 seconds behind frontrunner Sunderland (7:05.22). Pablo Quintanilla (7:06.40) and Kevin Benavides (7:06.54) round out the top three.
Price copped a two-minute penalty following stage one, reducing his initial advantage to five seconds, after his road book tore in half.
"It went well. It was a hard day, but it went well," he said late on Sunday night.
"My road book walked out on me after 15-odd kilometres, so it was strange.
"I was quite lucky in one way because I managed to follow on some dust and just keep up with the guys.
"Once the road book is gone, then you're pretty much driving blind.
"At the moment it looks good on paper, but I think we have a bit of a penalty coming.
"It's not the greatest start, but it's still a long way to go.
"We're in good shape, we feel good on the bike and we're happy."
Price finished third on debut at Dakar in 2015. He also collected bronze in 2018, but the year prior was forced to withdraw after stage four.
This year's Dakar is being held for the first time in the Middle East, with the event moving from South America a decade after it had left sub-Saharan Africa for security reasons.