Jan 14 (Reuters) - Chilean Pablo Quintanilla won the ninth stage of the Dakar Rally on Tuesday as the motorcyclists returned to action in Saudi Arabia, battling their own emotions as well as the tough desert terrain after a crash killed veteran rider Pablo Goncalves.
Quintanilla, second overall on a Husqvarna, trimmed American Honda rider Ricky Brabec’s overall lead to 20 minutes and 53 seconds with three stages remaining before Friday’s finish in Qiddiya.
Australian Toby Price, the defending champion for KTM, was second on the 410 km special stage from Wadi Al Dawasir to Haradh and third overall, 26 minutes off the lead.
Monday’s stage was cancelled after Goncalves, a 40-year-old Portuguese who was runner-up in 2015, died in a fall on Sunday. His Hero team has withdrawn from the event.
Price was the first man on the scene of Goncalves’ accident and finished Sunday’s stage “dehydrated with tears” after a failed effort to save him.
“No doubt this is going to be one of the toughest stages we’re all going to have to tackle and not because of the terrain or navigation,” the Australian posted on Instagram before Tuesday’s start, with a heart emoji.
He had earlier explained how he came over a crest and saw a rider down ahead of him on the dunes.
“Worst fears kicked in cause I knew this one was serious. I called for help ASAP and helped get him on his side,” wrote Price.
He was joined by Slovak rider Stefan Svitko and retired French Alpine skier Luc Alphand, who was on the first helicopter to land. “Helping holding drip bags, getting bags of medical equipment and guiding other riders around a bad scene. We all worked as long as we could but there was nothing we could do,” continued Price.
“I helped assist carrying him to the helicopter as it was the right thing to do. I was first at his side and wanted to be the last to leave.”
The Australian had the lost time restored at the finish — as was the case with Goncalves himself in 2017 when the Portuguese stopped to tend to Price, who had crashed and broken a leg. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London Editing by Peter Graff)