The Most Challenging Race On Earth
The new year kicked off with the most grueling race on the planet, the annual Dakar Rally. In its second year hosted by Saudi Arabia, the race is circumnavigating the Saudi peninsula, covering over 4600 miles in 13 days, with one day reserved for rest and repairs. The race kicked off on January 3 in the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and will ultimately conclude there on January 15. In between, riders and drivers in all classes must traverse some of the most desolate, unforgiving, barren terrain on the earth.
Map courtesy of Dakar Rally 2021
Last year Californian Ricky Brabec became the first American to ever win the motorcycle class, astride his Monster Energy Honda CRF450 Rally. It was also the first win for Honda in 31 years, two years before Ricky was even born. Ricky hopes to defend his title this year, thereby joining an exclusive club of only seven motorcycle riders to have ever done so since the event’s inception in 1978. A seasoned and natural desert racer, Brabec has also taken wins at the famed Baja 500 and 1000, among others.
Ricky Brabec, Stage 8. Photo by Antonin Vincent, ASO, Dakar Rally 2021
The event was originally known as the “Paris-Dakar Rally”, launching in the French capital and winding 6,200 miles across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, with the race terminus in the Senegal coastal capital of Dakar. The event was cancelled in 2008 amid security concerns over issues in neighboring Mauritania. Resuming in 2009, the rally relocated to South America for 10 years before landing in Saudi Arabia in 2020. Still known as the Dakar Rally, the race attracts racers and teams from across the globe, in multiple classes- Motorcycle, ATV, UTV, Cars, and Trucks.
Skyler Howes, Stage 8. Photo by Florent Gooden, ASO, Dakar Rally 2021
There are two Americans running in the Motorcycle class, Brabec and Skyler Howes of Utah, riding for the BAS Dakar KTM Racing team. Howes took an impressive 9th place finish last year, the top privateer in the class, especially considering he broke his neck in a crash three months prior to Dakar 2020. Skyler is a fierce competitor, no doubt. This rally, both racers are consistently running in the top 10 at each stage, inching their way up in the overall points rankings among an original field of 142 motorcycle riders. Brabec’s three other Monster Energy Honda teammates are all in the top 10 as well, in fact in the top 5 as of this writing.
Kevin Benevides, Monster Energy Honda Team 2021. Photo by Frederic LeFloc’h, ASO, Dakar Rally 2021
Stay tuned for more from the Dakar 2021 Rally Raid!