"I’m happy to have done it a second time and happy to still be the only American to have done so."

Monster Energy Honda Team’s Ricky Brabec came into 2024 looking to start the year with the big one, victory on the Dakar Rally and yet rather surprisingly considering his speed and previous Dakar win from 2020, Ricky last won a rally that same year as he took the Vegas to Reno spoils.

"I’m happy to have done it a second time and happy to still be the only American to have done so."

So despite some podiums along the way the pressure was on for Honda’s American rider heading into his ninth participation of the Dakar.

In January, after two gruelling weeks of rallying in Saudi Arabia from historical AlUla to the shores of the Red Sea at Yanbu, the Californian turned that goal into a reality taking the top step again some four years after he took his maiden victory thus getting his name into the history books once again.

“It's nice knowing we can still have a chance to win because it's never a sure thing that you can just go and win on a multiple staged event. It's not easy so I’m happy to have done it a second time and happy to still be the only American to have done so.”

The famous Dakar Rally is almost beyond demanding as the world’s toughest rally raid that has put competitors through their paces, pushing them to the edge of physical and mental exhaustion since 1979, the 2024 edition going on to prove even tougher than recent years with the addition of the 48 Hour Chrono.  Over two days across the never ending Empty Quarter, riders would have to bed down for the night in tents with basic rations, no communication with the outside world and not knowing where they were in relation to their rivals before completing the stage the following day.  Although it proved to throw the competition wide open, Ricky came away from stage six having surprisingly enjoyed it. He took over the top spot in the overall standings after spending the previous days within touching distance and he would not relinquish the lead on his way to the podium.

“The 48 Hour Chrono was good, I mean I believe we could have finished that stage in a single day if we started an hour earlier but they had planned for us to sleep in the desert and this was cool because we got to hang out with the competitors and enjoy some fire side chat.”

Rivals in the desert, then friends off it is what is great about the Dakar as they’re all going through the same experience, whether they’re on a factory bike or a privateer.  With six riders making up the Monster Energy Honda Team in 2024 the camaraderie amongst them was important especially when the days were long and the riders needed support as they opened the way on eight stages at this year’s event.

“I believe having good team mates is vital as working together is so important especially when things get tricky. I enjoyed riding with my team mates in the rally, not just Dakar but in any rally it's always a good time and we all work well together.  The early mornings are the hardest part though, not the waking up but the early mornings as it’s cold and the dark liaison for many hours is what's hard. However, it’s what we sign up for so you just have to suck it up and get through it.”

With recent additions to the team, Spaniard Tosha Schareina and fellow American Skyler Howes, another new thing was the latest version of the Honda CRF450 RALLY, which was making its Dakar Rally debut having been put through its paces at the 2023 Rallye Du Maroc.  The potential of the new bike showed from the off with Tosha winning the prologue and then the team taking a total of eight stage victories as Ricky ended the rally with eleven minutes in hand over Ross Branch and teammate Adrien Van Beveren joining him on the podium in third after 7,967 km of riding.

“I think the bike did well for its first outing in the new year and arguably the biggest race in the world. The results showed how well our new machine performed and I'm excited to see what the future of it is. I believe all riders are happy with it and from here we can only manage to make it better.”

With the team back out next week at the new European round of the World Rally-Raid Championship, the BP Ultimate Rally-Raid in Portugal and with a team back to full strength, Ricky will be looking for another victory as he aims for the championship title at the end of the year.  

Just maybe he has one eye on the future and he’ll notch up another Dakar Rally win to equal three-time Honda winner and legend, Frenchman Cyril Neveu. 

“It's quite an amazing accomplishment and it is such an honour to be set in stone with all the other top competitors who have won the event. To be an American to have done it a single time was a massive achievement, for myself, USA and the team. To do it twice is unbelievable."

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