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Honda’s Ricky Brabec Becomes First American to Win Dakar Rally

Late last Friday, we received word that Ricky Brabec, aboard a Monster Energy Honda CRF450 Rally dirt bike, became the first American ever to win the prestigious Dakar Rally — held in Saudi Arabia this year.

Details of Brabec’s victory are in the press release below, but we also understand that Honda broke a dominance of the race by KTM in recent years. Here is the press release:

January 17, 2020 — QIDDIYA, Saudi Arabia:  With a second-place finish in today’s final stage of the 2020 Dakar Rally, Ricky Brabec wrapped up the overall victory in the grueling international endurance event. Riding a CRF450 Rally dirt bike for Monster Energy Honda (Honda Racing Corporation’s factory rally effort) the 28-year-old completed the nearly 5,000-mile route across 11 days of racing, with a combined total time of 40 hours, 2 minutes, 36 seconds, becoming the first American to win what is generally considered to be the most grueling off-road motorsports competition in the world.

The 2020 Dakar Rally started on January 5 in Jeddah and passed through cities including Al Wajh, Neom and Riyadh before today’s 267-mile stage from Haradh to Qiddiya. Brabec topped Stage 3 and assumed an overall lead that he never relinquished, adding a second win on Stage 6. The entire Monster Energy Honda team turned in a masterful performance, with Chilean José Ignacio Cornejo topping Stages 4 and 12, Argentine Kevin Benavides winning Stage 7 and Spaniard Joan Barreda taking Stage 10. On two occasions, the team swept the stage podium. Stage 8 was cancelled in memory of former Monster Energy Honda rider Paolo Gonçalves, who lost his life in a Stage 7 crash.

The Dakar Rally began in 1979 and traditionally ran from Paris, France, to the Senegalese capital whose name it still uses. In 2009 it was moved to South America, and this 2020 edition was the first to be held in the Middle East, entirely within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prior to this year, Honda had a total of five victories in the motorcycle class (all in the 1980s), at the hands of Italian Edi Orioli and Frenchmen Cyril Neveu and Gilles Lalay. No American rider had topped the Dakar Rally before Brabec’s accomplishment today, with Danny LaPorte, Jimmy Lewis and Chris Blais being the only U.S. riders to have finished on the podium.

A native of Southern California (Born in Mira Loma, currently living in Oak Hills), Brabec grew up racing in the Mojave Desert, eventually earning a Baja 1000 win in 2014 and AMA Hare & Hound National Championships in 2014 and 2016. This was his fifth attempt at the Dakar Rally, and last year saw him take his first stage win and assume the overall lead near the end, only to have a mechanical issue force him out of the race. This year he returned with a larger American support crew, including Chief Mechanic Hidenori Hanawa, consultant Johnny Campbell and technician Kendall Norman.

“I’m really excited to be here for Honda and for America as well,” Brabec said. “To be the only American to accomplish this goal is amazing. I think it’s really a dream come true. Now we’ve got to set our goals higher and accomplish more…. It was a big, tough race. A lot of kilometers. The team worked great together. The riders were good and the whole team worked well together so I’m really happy. The bikes were really good. We are all here. We are all happy and safe. That was the first goal. I can’t thank everyone enough – Honda, Monster and every one of the sponsors behind us. Thank you all so much.”

“Everyone at American Honda is so proud of Ricky for this historic Dakar Rally win,” said Chuck Boderman, Vice President of Powersports at American Honda. “We’ve enjoyed watching him grow and mature under the mentorship of Johnny Campbell over the past few years, and we knew after last year that he had taken a big step. For the past couple weeks, we and our customers have cheered for Ricky and his team as we watched him close in on his dream, and now that he has pulled it off, we’re delighted that it was an American who has put Honda back on top in the granddaddy of rally racing.”

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  1. Bart802 says:

    Awesome ride Mr. Brabec thank you !!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow, had to go look up the history of Paris-Dakar. Incredible. When I was a rugrat, reading scoot mags, always looked forward to entering “enduro” events when I “grew up”
    I better hurry up. Was always amazed and intimidated by the gigantic Husky’s at the dealers, dwarfing the Suzuki’s and Kawies.

  3. bmbktmracer says:

    I believe Brabec’s average speed was 68.6 mph. Remember, the time is measured only on the special test sections and stage 8 was cancelled. By my calculations the special tests totaled 4432 km, or 2748 miles.

    Amazing accomplishment!

  4. Curtis says:

    Even finishing that race is a major achievement. The way the leaders charge hundreds of kilometers of new terrain every day is astounding. Great job by Brabec and all involved.

    RIP Paolo.

  5. Dirty Bob says:

    Congrats to Brabec! Doesn’t matter if it’s 3100 km or 5000 miles I won’t be competing ever. Thanks to Honda and the carefully picked crew for making the win possible.

  6. Grover says:

    Quite an accomplishment. Congratulations to Ricky and the whole team and to HONDA for building a bike that can endure such a race.

  7. Tony says:

    I watched it on, it was a interesting race as usual. Nice to see Ricky Brabec’s progress and win. Congrats also to Honda.

    • Lmartin780 says:

      Looks like another mars probe crashed!!! Damn metric system. The route was 5000 km, about 3100 miles. 77 mph average.. still pretty amazing!!

  8. Mikey says:

    5000 miles in 40 hours equals an average speed of 125 mph! In the dirt! On a 450!

  9. joe b says:

    I always have my DVR to record an extra hour after the mx races (ever since the daytona supercross was rain delayed), and it picked up the Paris Dakar story about this, and it was interesting to watch, he was in the lead at the time. Nice to see after all their hard work, Honda finally puts together a win in Dakar. USA too.

  10. RonH says:

    What, and no mainstream media coverage? Shocking!

    • denhajm says:

      “Motorsports on NBC” – that channel on YouTube has decent recaps of each day’s events. It is certainly worth watching!

  11. mickey says:

    Heck of an accomplishment. Congrats to Brabec and to Honda.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Man, kinda late news at this point, as always glad you guys with your finger on the pulse of the motorcycling community. Especially on something this historic.

    • SAS says:

      What an A*****E, You’re probably a KTM rider, Not everybody has time to stay informed on the latest and greatest news, Man. Thank you Motorcycle Daily for the Update.

  13. Holygeezer says:

    Helmets off to all who even enter this event, let alone who actually finish it. And to win it is something special indeed. Congrats to Ricky and all the rest. And a big RIP to those who die trying.