2024 Dakar Rally: Ricky Brabec, Honda ride to RallyGP victory

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Credit: Florent Gooden/DPPI

The 2024 Dakar Rally started on the worst possible note for Monster Energy Honda Rally Team when their new hotshot rider Tosha Schareina went from winning the Prologue to crashing out the following day. Fortunately, his team-mates picked up where he left off as they combined to win seven of twelve stages while Ricky Brabec held off Ross Branch for his second Dakar win and first since 2020.

Branch looked to spoil the party for his fellow Monster Energy riders at rival Honda, and struck first when he won Stage #1. However, the Hondas came to life afterwards as José Ignacio Cornejo claimed three stages with more contributions from Pablo Quintanilla and Adrien Van Beveren. The trio won four consecutive stages from Stage #4 to #7, including a 1–2 finish with Cornejo and Brabec at the start of that streak.

Brabec only contributed one stage win, but it was a dominant run for his team as he, Cornejo, and Van Beveren swept the Stage #10 podium; perhaps making that day’s win all the sweeter, his girlfriend Sara Price concurrently became the first American woman to win a stage when she topped the SSV class. Entering the final stage, he led Branch by just over ten minutes then finished ahead of him on the last day to ice the victory. Van Beveren joined them on the podium.

“It wasn’t easy as the course was really tough and so was the competition. Ross and my own team kept me on my toes, but not just me—I think we were keeping everyone on each other’s toes,” said Brabec.

“This time was a little bit different as I feel like this one was more earned as it was a lot tougher. In 2020, we had a big gap from the get-go. Here, I think me and Ross spent three days with a couple of seconds difference. It was a tight race for all of us. I think between first and third there are eleven minutes or something, whatever Adrien got, but it’s been a tight race and ten minutes is not a big gap here on the rally. I had two good days, two opportunities to make a good push, but also Stage #11 was a scare factor for me because I knew Ross was starting behind me, eighteen minutes behind, and if he caught me it would be over. Stage #11 was hard but I stayed focused, got to the finishing line and didn’t lose too much time, so I’m really happy with this and I’m really happy for the team. I’m happy for all of us, we did an excellent job all of the two weeks.

Interestingly, Brabec races with #9 while 2024 was his ninth Dakar Rally, during which he scored his ninth career stage win in the race excluding Prologues; he even finished ninth in his Dakar début in 2016. To this end, he quipped, “I think number 9 will be my lucky number from now on.”

Although he came up short of the win, Branch’s runner-up is still a reason to celebrate as Hero MotoSports became the first Indian manufacturer to score a podium in any class. Branch had to carry the flag after all three of his team-mates retired due to crashes (Sebastian Bühler and Joaquim Rodrigues) or mechanical failure (Joan Barreda).

“Finishing on the podium was always the goal, and today it’s a dream come true,” commented Branch, who recorded the best finish for a Botswanan in the Dakar. “I’m really over the moon to achieve this goal for Hero. A big thank you to the team for developing a highly competitive machine, for the sleepless three weeks here, and for everything they’ve sacrificed to reach to this point. I’m really proud of my team. We’ve got some more work to do to be on the next step, so we’ll look forward to that in the next year.”

Reigning Dakar winner Kevin Benavides, himself a former Honda rider, finished fourth with his team-mate and World Rally-Raid Championship runner-up Toby Price right behind. However, neither are registered for the 2024 championship which bumps Cornejo up to fourth among points-eligible riders. Last year’s champion Luciano Benavides also did not earn points as he finished seventh.

Mason Klein was among the category’s ten retirements after a chaotic maiden RallyGP start for Kove Moto. Barreda bowed out in his first start for Hero.

RallyGP overall results

19Ricky BrabecMonster Energy Honda Rally Team51:30:08Leader
246Ross BranchHero MotoSports51:41:01+ 10:53
342Adrien Van BeverenMonster Energy Honda Rally Team51:42:33+ 12:25
447Kevin Benavides*Red Bull KTM Factory Racing52:08:56+ 38:48
52Toby Price*Red Bull KTM Factory Racing52:15:36+ 45:28
611José Ignacio CornejoMonster Energy Honda Rally Team52:16:46+ 46:38
71Luciano Benavides*Husqvarna Factory Racing52:23:39+ 53:31
85Daniel Sanders*Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing52:44:40+ 1:14:32
9142Štefan Svitko*Slovnaft Rally Team53:26:36+ 1:56:28
1023Martin Michek*Orion – Moto Racing Group54:18:57+ 2:48:49
117Pablo QuintanillaMonster Energy Honda Rally Team57:06:47+ 5:36:39
1230Antonio Maio*Yamaha Portugal57:48:33+ 6:18:25
DNF4Sam Sunderland*Red Bull GasGas Factory RacingDNFN/A
DNF10Skyler HowesMonster Energy Honda Rally TeamDNFN/A
DNF14Sebastian BühlerHero MotoSportsDNFN/A
DNF15Lorenzo Santolino*Sherco TVS Rally Factory TeamDNFN/A
DNF19Rui Gonçalves*Sherco TVS Rally Factory TeamDNFN/A
DNF27Joaquim RodriguesHero MotoSportsDNFN/A
DNF31Maciej Giemza*ORLEN TeamDNFN/A
DNF68Tosha SchareinaMonster Energy Honda Rally TeamDNFN/A
DNF88Joan BarredaHero MotoSportsDNFN/A
DNF98Mason Klein*Klein Off-Road Racing TeamDNFN/A
* – Not competing in World Rally-Raid Championship

RallyGP stage winners

PrologueTosha Schareina17:35.9
Stage #1Ross Branch4:56:01
Stage #2José Ignacio Cornejo4:24:17
Stage #3Kevin Benavides*4:39:28
Stage #4José Ignacio Cornejo2:51:11
Stage #5Pablo Quintanilla1:32:53
Stage #6Adrien Van Beveren7:57:29
Stage #7José Ignacio Cornejo5:18:33
Stage #8Kevin Benavides*3:35:03
Stage #9Adrien Van Beveren4:36:46
Stage #10Ricky Brabec3:51:39
Stage #11Ross Branch4:51:57
Stage #12Kevin Benavides*1:48:40

W2RC RallyGP standings

For readability, riders registered for the championship who have yet to earn points are not listed.

1Ricky Brabec38Leader
2Ross Branch30– 8
3Adrien Van Beveren24– 14
4José Ignacio Cornejo20– 18
5Pablo Quintanilla27– 11
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Justin is neither a NASCAR nor off-road racer, but he has covered them for The Checkered Flag since 2018.
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