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Ricky Brabec: “We’re here. We won!” – Dakar 2020

The 42nd edition of the Dakar took competitors from the shores of the Red Sea in Jeddah, around the canyons and mountains of the western part of the country, over the dunes of the Empty Quarter and all the way to the Qiddiya Sports and Culture Complex near the capital Riyadh. In the end, American biker Ricky Brabec put an end to Honda’s 31-year drought, Carlos Sainz took his third title in his third different car, Casey Currie gave America another reason to celebrate in the SSV race, Ignacio Casale took back the throne in quads and Andrey Karginov extended the victorious streak of the Kamaz trucks.

237 out of the 342 vehicles that started the rally in Jeddah (69.3%) appear in the final general classification: 96 motorbikes, 12 quads, 58 cars, 31 SSVs and 40 trucks. A further 19 vehicles withdrew from the race but reached Qiddiya under Dakar Experience rules.

Ricky Brabec: “We’re here. We won!”

“At the end, we put the pieces to the puzzle together. We couldn’t do it without every rider in the team. I’m really happy. It’s my fifth Dakar, my second time finishing… I woke up this morning just happy to ride the last day. And we’re here. We won! We had to be smart and focused every day. There’s no top guy on the team, we all work together, we’re a family. We all won.”

Motorbikes: Brabec and Honda reach the summit

It had been 31 years since the world’s leading maker had last won the Dakar. No American had ever won the greatest rally raid on Earth before. Ricky Brabec and his Honda 450 CRF made history in Qiddiya today. The Californian moved into the lead after the third special and adroitly defended his advantage throughout the remaining stages. In contrast with last year, when his motorbike let him down with three stages to go, this time it worked like clockwork all the way to the finish line. It is a well-deserved reward for a biker who always tackled the race head-on, but also for Honda, which reaped the fruits of its patience since its official return to the Dakar in 2013. Year after year, the HRC team remained steadfast in the face of adversity, eventually managing to develop a reliable motorbike, overhaul its structure and strike gold with the magic formula for success that allowed it to end KTM’s 18-win streak going back to 2001. No-one else was more aggressive than Pablo Quintanilla behind Brabec. The Chilean biker rode his Husqvarna to a rock-solid second place after taking a year to recover from the injuries sustained during the last Dakar held in Peru. 2019 champion Toby Price took the bottom step of the podium. Finally, Romanian Emanuel Gyenes claimed victory in the Original by Motul class with more than an hour to spare over Benjamin Melot.

09 Brabec Ricky (usa), Honda, Monster Energy Honda Team 2020, Moto, Bike, Motul, ambiance on the podium at the arrival of the Dakar 2020, in Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia, on January 17, 2020 – Photo Florent Gooden / DPPI © A.S.O./DPPI/F.Gooden

PERFORMANCE OF THE DAY A first for America

Ricky Brabec became the first American to win the Dakar, beating SSV driver Casey Currie to the punch by a matter of minutes. It took 42 years to see the Stars and Stripes fluttering atop the podium, even though many Americans had come close to victory before. Back in 1985, Chuck Stearns finished sixth overall with six stage wins under his belt, while Danny Laporte was runner-up to Peterhansel in 1992. A few years later, Jimmy Lewis, now working as Brabec’s trainer, took third place in 2000, followed by Chris Blaisa in fourth place in 2006. Robby Gordon flew the flag for the USA in the car category, but he never managed to improve on his third place in 2009 despite ten spectacular stage wins.

A CRUSHING BLOW No longer do the tuning forks ring true

Yamaha came into the Dakar as Honda’s big rival in their attempt to end KTM’s domination of the motorbike category, with two world-class bikers who fit the bill as potential Dakar champions. However, Adrien Van Beveren (fourth in 2017) and Xavier de Soultrait (seventh last year) crashed out of the race in stages 3 and 4, respectively. The Yamaha duo were also the leading French contenders, leaving France without a biker in the final top 10 for the first time in the history of the Dakar. Sherco’s Adrien Metge came in twelfth. It was not all bad news for Yamaha, though, with Franco Caimi cracking the top 10 in eighth place and rising star Jamie McCanney finishing 15th overall as the second best rookie, right behind Spaniard Jaume Betriu.