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Ricky Brabec wins second Dakar Rally

For the second time in four years, Monster Energy Honda racer Ricky Brabec reached the victory circle in the Dakar Rally, which was held on the Saudi Arabian shores of the Red Sea. In 2020, the Californian became the first American to win the motorcycle class in the grueling event, and four years and two days later, he now adds the 46th Dakar Rally edition to his win list.

“To Ricky and the entire Monster Energy Honda Team, congratulations from the Honda family back here in the U.S., including associates, dealers, and customers,” says Jeremy McGuire, senior manager of customer engagement at American Honda. “The team’s performance this year showed that its preparation and strategy were unmatched, and the skill, calculation, and teamwork exhibited by all of the riders were nothing short of inspiring. With his second win in the most grueling off-road competition in the world, Ricky shows that Honda and America are serious forces to reckon with in the world of off-road racing.”

In addition to Brabec’s overall win, his French teammate Adrien Van Beveren took an overall podium position, in third, with Cornejo finishing sixth. (Photo: American Honda)

A desert-racing native of Southern California, Brabec won the 2014 edition of the SCORE Baja 1000 and earned AMA Hare & Hound National Championships in 2014 and 2016. Brabec signed with the Monster Energy Honda team for the 2015 season and campaigned the Dakar Rally four times before winning on his fifth try. Since that 2020 success, Brabec finished second and seventh in ’21 and ’22 before a technical issue forced him out of last year’s race. Now he becomes the 13th rider to top the Dakar Rally on more than one occasion.

“It’s a nice way to start the year with a victory,” Brabec says. “It wasn’t easy as the course was really tough, and so was the competition. Ross and my own team kept me on my toes, but not just me. I think we were keeping everyone on each other’s toes. It was definitely a fight to the end for everyone. I’m really happy we’re all here and all safe and we can go home. This time was a little bit different as I feel like this one was more earned as it was a lot tougher… Stage 11 was hard, but I stayed focused, got to the finishing line, and didn’t lose too much time, so I’m really happy with this, and I’m really happy for the team. I’m happy for all of us, we did an excellent job all of the two weeks. I think number 9 will be my lucky number from now on.”

The fifth Dakar Rally edition held in Saudi Arabia, this year’s event kicked off with a January 5 prologue in the Northwestern city of AlUla and ran 4,766 miles to the east and back, before finishing in Yanbu on January 19. Along the way, competitors completed 2,878 miles of “specials” (timed sections that determine the winners), including a new two-day “48 Hour Chrono” stage in Saudi Arabia’s desolate Empty Quarter, where racers spent a remote overnight with no technical support and minimal communication with the outside world. Competitors regularly departed the overnight bivouacs in the pre-dawn hours and spent long, cold hours in liaisons (untimed transfer sections, completion of which was nonetheless obligatory). Only a single rest day provided a reprieve from the harsh conditions.

Brabec took over the top overall spot after the completion of the pivotal 48-Hour Chrono stage, never to relinquish it. The team was both fast (topping seven stages and the prologue and sweeping stage podiums on two occasions) and balanced (with five of six riders taking wins); four riders reached the finish. In addition to Brabec’s overall win, his French teammate Adrien Van Beveren took an overall podium position, in third, with Cornejo finishing sixth.

Unfortunately, Brabec’s countryman Skyler Howes (making his fourth Dakar appearance, but is first with the Honda team), was one of those who didn’t finish; the Utah resident was forced to drop out on the first day of the 48-Hour Chrono stage, but he’s eager to return to the Dakar podium in the future.

After a brief rest and celebration, the team will reconvene in April for the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal from April 2-7.

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