Benavides And Brabec Take The Top Trophies
The Dakar Rally Raid of 2021 concluded in dramatic fashion, as the Monster Energy Honda Team claimed an historic 1st and second place on the podium. After 12 grueling stages across 14 days of circumnavigating the Saudi peninsula, across some of the world’s most inhospitable terrain and conditions, Kevin Benavides of Argentina and 2020 champion Ricky Brabec bested all comers to take the coveted top rungs in the coastal city of Jedda, where the race both began and ended. Great Britain’s Sam Sunderland took an impressive 3rd place on the platform, riding the Red Bull KTM Factory 450.
Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec take 1st and 2nd, Sam Sunderland clinches 3rd. Photos by Julien Delfosse/DPPI
As last year’s race marked the first time an American had ever won the Motorbike class in a Dakar rally (see last year’s story), this year’s winner makes history as well. Kevin Benavides is the first South American to ever claim the Motorbike title, even though the race was held on the continent for 10 years prior to moving to Saudi Arabia. “I’ve won the Dakar – I’m so, so happy!” exclaimed Benavides, “It was absolutely crazy… I feel that everything was complicated, because Ricky started to catch up with me. I started to push a lot, all day, and stayed focused, so I did a good job today. I think where I won the race was today, in the last kilometres… My dream was to make history and now I am the first South American guy to win the Dakar. That is amazing for me!” Congrats Kevin, you certainly earned it.
The two Honda victors, Stages 11 and 12. Photos by Floren Gooden & Antonin Vincent/DPPI
Ricky Brabec relinquishes the Dakar title to his teammate, but retains the podium, claiming an admirable 2nd place in the legendary race. Honda celebrates both their riders, as the last time Honda had two podium winners was in 1987’s Paris-Dakar Rally, fully 34 years ago. Both Brabec and fellow American Skylar Howes of the BAS Dakar KTM Racing Team battled back into contention after some difficult early stages, clawing their way into the top 10, then the top 5, consistently riding hard and in the points as the race progressed across the Arabian subcontinent. “It’s pretty cool to finish with a one-two, but obviously the top step is a lot better than the second step. We did our best. We struggled the first week, but during the second week we came back pretty strong,” stated Brabec. “I’m just pretty stoked to be I guess one of the only Americans on the podium twice and to be the only American to win this thing. I’ve achieved number one last year and number two this year, so we’re just adding to the Dakar trophy family. Kevin rode a good race. He’s a really good team-mate.”
Sam Sunderland pushing dune in Stage 11 of Dakar. Photo by Frederic Le Floc’h/DPPI
Sam Sunderland of Great Britain rounded out the podium in 3rd, astride his Red Bull KTM Factory 450. Sam has tasted the sweet elixir of victory at Dakar, being the first Englishman to ever win the Motorbike class in 2017. “Once you’ve tasted victory at Dakar, you only ever aim for that again,” he once quipped. “You need to be perfect and then some to win Dakar… A podium on the Dakar is never a bad thing. On the Dakar there are so many factors involved to finish in the top ten, let alone on the podium. There are so many days, so many situations and it’s not easy. The best man in the end wins and today it wasn’t me.” Sam is a champion, and did KTM proud this year.
2021 Champion Kevin Benavides typifies the grit and determination of a Dakar racer. Photo by Florent Gooden/DPPI
And so ends another Dakar Rally Raid, as it is more formally titled, for racers and teams from across the globe. The Dakar is motorsports’ most punishing race, and the men & women who take part are a rare breed of athletes and competitors. To even finish the race is a triumph in and of itself- the conditions, environment, terrain, and pace across two weeks of physically and mechanically demanding racing takes a tremendous toll on human and machine.
So we salute the racers and teams, in all the competition classes, who commit to this most unique race on the planet. You breathe rare air, and we are in awe of you, one and all.
Special congratulations to Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec of Monster Energy Team Honda, and Sam Sunderland of Red Bull Factory KTM. Wear your wins proudly. You most definitely earned them.
For more details on the fabled Dakar Rally, click here: