Monster Energy Honda Team‘s Ricky Brabec won Dakar 2020, giving Honda its first victory since its return as a factory team in 2013, and its first victory in 31 years. In Dakar 2021, Honda was the defending champion.
The 2021 edition of the Dakar Rally was held in Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive year. Monster Energy Honda Team was represented by seasoned Dakar riders. 2020 champion Ricky Brabec was joined by José Ignacio Cornejo, fourth overall in Dakar 2020, Kevin Benavides, second in Dakar 2018, and Joan Barreda, with a record-setting 24 stage wins. They were armed with the 2020-winning Honda CRF450 RALLY to defend the Dakar crown.
Barreda wins more stages, setting Dakar history again
The Dakar Rally 2021 began with the prologue, a 10km special stage. Brabec was fastest, securing the top spot for Stage 1 the following day. Barreda was a close second, merely 6 seconds behind, giving Monster Energy Honda Team the top two spots to kick off the rally.
The 622km Stage 1 took riders from Jeddah to Bisha. In contrast to Brabec and Barreda who had difficulties during the stage, Benavides had a good run, finishing second. Barreda made a comeback in the following stage to win his 25th Dakar stage. Only three riders had won more stages in the history of the Dakar. Barreda went on to win Stage 4 as well. Brabec also regained time lost in Stage 1 to finish second in the next stage.
Benavides second, Cornejo third overall at the halfway mark
Benavides made his move in the 630km third stage, the Wadi Ad-Dawasir Loop, finishing second, only 33 seconds behind the race leader. He went on to finish Stage 4 in third and win the following stage, taking the overall lead with a 2 min 31 second margin. In Stage 5 Benavides shared the podium with teammate Cornejo. In Stage 6, the halfway point of the rally, Brabec made a comeback to finish fourth.
Halfway through the Dakar, Benavides was second, Cornejo third, Barreda seventh, and Brabec 13th.
Monster Energy Honda Team dominates top 3 in Stage 9
Stage 7, a marathon stage where mechanical support is not allowed, kicked off after the rest day in Ha'il. Brabec, fourth in the previous stage, was the winner, while natural-navigator Cornejo came in second. Stage 7 results gave Cornejo the overall lead, which he solidified by winning the second half of the marathon, Stage 8.
Stage 9 was a looping 465km special stage on the shores of the Red Sea. Benavides conquered the grueling 30℃ heat to win the stage, with Brabec second and Cornejo third. Monster Energy Honda Team dominated the top three positions.
Second Dakar in a row for Monster Energy Honda Team, First win for Benavides
Stage 10 ended with Cornejo the overall leader and Benavides second. As was the case in the previous stage, Honda took the top three spots in Stage 10 with Brabec first, Barreda second and Benavides third. Cornejo, however, crashed and despite being able to complete the stage, was out of the race. Barreda also retired in the penultimate Stage 11, while Benavides retained his overall lead finishing third. Going into the final stage, Benavides had a 5 minute advantage.
The final stage took riders from AlUla to Yanbu, a 452km trek. Brabec won the stage, Benavides was second, and Monster Energy Honda Team secured its back-to-back Dakar victory. Benavides had won his first Dakar, and Brabec was second overall, giving the team the top two spots. The 2021 edition results were nearly perfect for the team.