Quite a ride

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Motorsport legend Toby Price’s new book Endurance reveals tales of the many tough roads – both on and off the track – the world champion has travelled.

By John Burfitt

One of the things Aussie world champion motorcycle athlete Toby Price will never be accused of is sitting still for long.

And yet, it took a brutal accident early last year to force the two-time Dakar Rally champion and seven-time winner of the Finke Desert Race to sit still long enough to start work on a  project he had been putting off for  long time.

The accident at the Daker Rally in January 2021, in which he suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder and extensive bruising, could have paralysed him for life. Price, 35, was airlifted to hospital in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia before returning home to Australia. He then endured two weeks in quarantine before surgery, followed by an extended period of recovery.

Instead of resting up through the entire ordeal, however, Gold Coast-based Price decided to make the most of the enforced time away from racing by taking on a new venture – penning his autobiography, Endurance: The Toby Price Story.

The book was released earlier this year and charts his ups, downs over the past three decades.

“Spending two weeks in hospital quarantine was going to be quite boring, so I thought it might be a good time to jump on it and kickstart it,” Price told Australian Motorcycle News. “Penguin [Random House Australia] was in step wanting to do something and we just took the chance.”

The tale begins with Price growing up on a farm in Roto, a tiny town in central-western NSW, and explores how those early years living on expansive, open fields played a pivotal role in his passion for motorcycle racing.

“It was an interesting life to live,” he admitted to AMCN, “but we got to ride motorcycles any day of the week we wanted to and for as long as we wanted, and we didn’t annoy anybody, so that was the best part of it.”

Price started riding motorcycles when he was two and took part in his first race at four. What happened on that first day set him on the path he has followed since.

“I went out there and blew the lot of them to weeds in my first race,” he tells in his book.

From the age of seven in 1994, he began winning the NSW and Australian junior titles, but it was in 2003 when he won the two top divisions in the Australian Junior Motocross Championship that he cemented his place as a star of the sport.

He began his professional career the next year at age 16 when he quit school and was signed up by Kawasaki Australia. In 2009, he won the Australian Off-Road Championship—a title he would claim five times. Almost a decade later in 2018, Price added ‘world champion’ to his credits when he won the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.

But despite all the glories, Price has endured a litany of injuries along the way, some of which have been so serious, such as breaking bones in his neck, smashing his ribs and tearing his foot apart, that they threatened his future with the sport.

“The body, I’ve given it a fair old whack and used my body up and all my lifetimes,” he admitted to 4X4 Australia magazine. “At the end of the day, it’s all been worth it and the hard work and sacrifice have all paid off. But I’ve come very close to not living a normal life and staying on two feet.”

In recent years, with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team, he took on the prestigious Dakar Rally, considered the most severe motorsport event in the world, and his career was catapulted into the international top level. He first competed in 2015, and returned the following year to claim victory, which he won again in 2019.

Price competed a number of other times, coming in third in 2020 and 10th in this year’s event.

For his distinguished service to motorsport, Price was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in the 2021 Australia Day Honours List.

He claims it’s his competitive nature that keeps him fired up. “I just don’t like losing,” Price admitted to Dirt Action magazine. “I’m not going to chuck a tantrum but I’ll probably be saying, ‘Hey, line that up again, we gotta keep going till I win one or I’ve got the most wins’. Absolutely everything I do is a competition.”

Having conquered the world of two wheel racing, his ambitions are now on the four-wheel arena. He’s the only competitor to have won the ‘Iron Man’ Finke Desert Race Double in both the bike and car categories in the same year and hopes to one day make the transition to four wheels in the Dakar Rally. He’s also recently extended his contract with the KTM Factory team.

“A future goal and a future plan,” he recently admitted to The Mind Behind Instagram series. “I’ve definitely shown that I can drive on four wheels also.” He then added, “I would race a lawnmower if I could!

“But I’d rather be known as a good human being than a great athlete. So sure, it is good to win races and it is the best feeling in the world when you are standing on top of the podium with the big trophy in hand. But we’re all human and we are there to have fun at these events.”