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ADV NewsDakar 2024 Recap: American Ricky Brabec Grabs Historic Second Win

Dakar 2024 Recap: American Ricky Brabec Grabs Historic Second Win

Daily stage updates and video recaps of the Dakar Rally 2024.

Published on 01.19.2024

CHECK THIS PAGE DAILY FOR UPDATES

JANUARY 19, 2024: STAGE 12

It was American rider Ricky Brabec who took the virtual checkered flag today, wheelieing his way down the edge of the Red Sea to a second Dakar victory. It wasn’t unexpected. The 32-year-old California native riding for Honda has run a nearly flawless campaign in Saudi Arabia, staying away from the short-lived glory of stage wins in favor of consistency. It also didn’t hurt that he was riding Honda’s new-gen CRF450 Rally, a machine that has clearly elevated the Japanese manufacturer’s advantage. 

The now 2-time champ Brabec says he remembers watching the Dakar back when he was just a BMX rider in high school. “In my mind there was no way I’d ever get there,” yet here he is, the one now envied. Back in 2020, that year fans were forced to focus on the 2-3-4 riders because Brabec was running so far out front, he became the first American to win the ultimate victory. His win that year also marked Honda’s first victory in over 30 years. 

https://twitter.com/dakar/status/1748322916612108364

Ricky Brabec: “It’s a nice way to start the year with a victory. It wasn’t easy. The course was really tough. The competition was tough. Ross and my own team kept me on my toes…it was definitely a fight to the end for everyone.”


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Even his biggest rival in the event, Ross Branch, had nothing but praise for Brabec at the end of Stage 12: “He didn’t put a foot wrong during the whole rally. He deserves the win.” 

The rest of the podium also fell into the expected order, with Hero MotorSports rider Ross Branch down 10 minutes and 53 seconds from Brabec and Honda’s Adrien Van Beveren off the lead by 12 minutes and 25 seconds. After the flag, however, neither was complaining as their second and third positions marked the first time either had stood on the final podium at Dakar. 

https://twitter.com/dakar/status/1748405240351559991

It was Branch who kicked off the day in the virtual pole position, 10 minutes and 22 seconds behind Brabec on the overall time clock. The effervescent 37-year-old had led in the overall standings for four of the first five stages before grabbing a tight hold on the second position for the remainder of the event where he was often biting at Brabec’s heels, mere seconds behind.

Nicknamed the “Ferrari of the Kalahari” for his top-notch sand riding skills, Branch was Dakar’s Rookie of the Year as a privateer in 2019. He went on to race successfully for Yamaha in 2021 and 2022 before signing with Hero in 2023, though he was unable to clinch anything higher than eighth spot until today. 

As for his team, Branch’s second place finish today marks not only his first Dakar podium, but it’s also the first podium for India’s Hero MotoCorp, the second best-selling manufacturer of motorcycles in the world, ironically outdone only by Honda. 

Ross Branch: “I feel on top of the world. It was a really long rally, probably one of the toughest ones I’ve ever done. It was awesome. It’s so good to race with these guys. I’m so happy for [Hero too]. They deserve to be happy because they’ve put a lot of work in, and for such a young team it’s a great result.”

Second and third places were still in play between Branch and Adrien Van Beveren as the two started the day just four minutes apart. After an altercation with a camel in yesterday’s Stage 11, 33-year-old Van Beveren bounced back to secure his first podium finish after eight tries and four times placing sixth or better. The Frenchman says he’s feeling closer to the dream of an overall victory than ever.  

Adrien Van Beveren: “After the last years and the difficulties I had, the crashes, all of that, overall, to be on the podium tastes really good. I’ve been fighting until the end. We finished third, but we were in the fight for victory. To step onto the podium is a step towards my dream of victory.”

Following the top three was last year’s champ Kevin Benavides for KTM, who won today’s stage, his third this year, but was off the leader by 38 minutes and 48 seconds. He was followed by his teammate Toby Price who came in 45 minutes and 28 seconds down. The big names behind Toby in the top ten were Honda’s Jose “Nacho” Cornejo, Luciano Benavides for Husky and Daniel Sanders riding under the GasGas flag. Interestingly, it was the first time since 1993 that no European makers were on the final podium. 

Kove Moto, which hit the ground running at last year’s Dakar as the first Chinese manufacturer to have ever entered the motorcycle division, brought three of its then unproven 450 Rally Pro bikes with the goal of finishing, and remarkably, all three did. This year Kove aimed even higher, building a lighter, faster version of its rally raid weapon in the 450 Rally EX, with CEO Zhang Xue saying this year he wanted a top 20. Well, that wasn’t in the cards. Of the four factory riders, three did finish, but not as Xue hoped. Fang Xiangliang finished 35th in W2 (50th overall) while the other two, one of whom was Neels Theric finished in the bottom 10 of both categories. Mason Klein was also on one of the new Kove bikes as a sponsored freelance, though he was forced to throw in the towel during the 48hr Chrono marathon stage 6 after suffering repeated mechanical issues. A sixth Kove rider, Cesare Zacchetti, placed 20th in Original By Motul (82nd overall). Kove definitely remains an emerging brand of interest, especially in regard to its well-priced production rally bikes.

India on the Rise

In Rally 2 it was Harith Noah on his Sherco making history as the first Dakar class winner from his home country of India and on the same day an Indian manufacturer (Hero) made its first podium in the overall fight. Noah was one of a couple riders this year who insisted on not knowing their daily times and placement, which must have made the victory taste even sweeter.  Romain Dumontier had been poised to win until a bike-smashing crash in Stage 11 caused him to limp in nearly 20 minutes off the top Stage 11 time. Despite being the faster rider, the Frenchman couldn’t make up the distance in the final and placed second overall, followed by Bradley Cox

Harith Noah: “I knew I was somewhere in the top three, but I didn’t know anything more. I tried to not have any expectations. I just tried to ride every kilometer one at a time. It feels good to win. I hope it motivates other riders, younger riders, to do the same or try to pursue the same and grow the sport. I never thought when I was a child that I would be here on the Dakar.” 

Performance of the Year

It’s the unassisted Original by Motul class that many say is the “real Dakar,” and by all counts it is the most challenging path to glory. This year it was newcomer Tobias Ebster from Austria who took the crown on his KTM 450 Rally Replica. Consistently riding fast and making few mistakes, the 26-year-old not only topped his class, he ranked 20th overall and bags Rookie of the Year to boot. With his stunning result in Malle Moto, Ebster, the nephew of rally-raid legend Heinz Kinigadner, has jammed his Alpinestar boot squarely in the door of world class rally raid. 

Tobias Ebster: “I almost need to cry after going through so much in the last few years and also the last few weeks. I made new friends, I lost friends, it was such a big adventure. It was so rough. It’s the toughest rally in the world. I love it. I enjoyed every moment.”

Stage 12 Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking

Dakar Rally 2024 Stage 12 Results

Stage 12 Overall Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking

Dakar Rally 2024 Overall Results

JANUARY 18, 2024: STAGE 11

The Dakar stage preceding the sprint to the finish is alway a decisive one, and in the case of 2024’s event, it was also the most demanding challenge of the event’s second week. Stage 11 took riders from Al Ula to Yanbu and the shore of the Red Sea over mixed terrain, the most challenging of which was strewn with jagged rocks. The weather continues to be mild for the region, leaving no excuse for riders to be on their game for Dakar’s penultimate stage.

The day was especially important for three Rally GP riders: Ricky Brabec, Ross Branch and Adrien Van Beveren, as the 2024 Dakar comes down to a tale of a Hero and two Hondas. Race leader Brabec won yesterday’s Stage 10, his first of the event, which expanded his lead over runner-up Branch, leaving the Hero MotoSports rider 10 minutes and 54 seconds behind in the general standings. Van Beveren, who’s been on a tear since Stage 9, started today just 52 seconds behind Branch on the main leaderboard.

Hero Dakar Rally Ross Branch
Hero rider Ross Branch was on a tear today taking his second stage win but it wasn’t enough to claw back first place overall from Ricky Brabec.

After a hard ride yesterday Botswana-borne Ross Branch assured his fans he wasn’t giving up, and his performance in Stage 11 serves as proof. The Hero rider won his second stage of the event today, finishing ahead of Ricky Brabec, though only by a miniscule 32 seconds once the Honda rider’s bonus points for opening and physically leading the Stage were added. 

Brabec’s time deficit to Branch today was basically canceled by his rewards, illustrating just how much the new system of awarding bonus points to riders who open the way can affect standings, and strategy. The gifted time allowed Brabec to retain a 10 minute and 22 second lead on Branch in the overall standings, despite Branch taking Stage 11. 

Ross Branch: For sure it was a tough stage and really, really rocky all the time, but I enjoyed it and tried to put the hammer down. Ricky is riding an amazing race and he deserves to be where he is. [But] you know, we don’t get on the bike to finish second, so we’ll give it our all and hope for the best.”

As for Team Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec, a 2024 Dakar win is looking all but in the bag at the end of Stage 11. The American opened the entire route by himself, something he had successfully avoided up until today. However, the usually dreaded circumstance worked very much in his favor as he conceded little that would jeopardize a second Dakar victory. In the bivouac Brabec called this year’s event gnarly, explaining his philosophy is about short goals. First he takes it day-by-day, then a couple stages in he looks toward making the rest day. Once he hits that target he finally lets himself envision making it to the finish. 

Ricky Brabec: “I would say [today] was my best ride of the rally. I made no mistakes today. I put my head down and I got to the finish.”

Team Honda, which enjoyed two consecutive days of its riders placing 1-2-3 ahead of Stage 11, still had 2 additional horses in the race at the start of day.  José Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo and Adrien Van Beveren headed out on the penultimate stage in second and third position respectively right behind Brabec, who expected to spend the day riding with his colleagues, though neither caught him. 

Nacho’s reason was a failed fuel pump on his front tank, which forced him to make multiple stops and slow his pace in order to conserve fuel in his rear tank. By the finish, the Chilean’s hopes for a podium finish were dashed when he landed 38 minutes and 44 seconds behind teammate Brabec in the overall stats. The day was not so kind to the Frenchman either. 

Adrien Van Beveren’s reason for not catching Brabec and Branch was more colorful and left him finishing third for the day. The trouble began with a herd of camels in the middle of the tracks. “It’s not unusual to see them, they are desert animals after all,” says Van Beveren, who recalls traveling very fast at the time of sighting. The camels moved to the left and Van Beveren was trying to squirt around on the right when one camel changed its mind, and direction. Van Beveren is not sure if he hit the camel or just the large rock on the edge of the track (the camel ran off), but either way he went over the bars at high speed. The Frenchman is okay, but now trails overall leader Brabec by 14 minutes and 31 seconds, and Branch, who’s in second, by 4 minutes and 9 seconds..

Adrien Van Beveren: “I thought to myself, ‘this is going to hurt.’ I think I landed on my head and cartwheeled over. I was groggy afterwards, but the airbag did a good job protecting me. I picked up my bike, which was a bit damaged, but I managed to finish. I lost a lot of time, but I was giving it my all. When the crash happened, I was at 200%.” 

It was Husky’s Luciano Benavides who grabbed fourth in today’s penultimate stage, followed by KTM pilot Toby Price, though both are nearly one hour behind the front runners in the general standings. On the overall leaderboard it’s Nacho Cornejo in fourth and last year’s champ Kevin Benavides running fifth, though neither of them have much chance of seeing podium finishes either. 

Of course anything can happen during tomorrow’s 144 km timed sprint to the finish, though with 4,500 km of specials already played out over two weeks of racing, a major upset is unlikely.  

What’s Bad for Dumontier is Good for Noah

Romain Dumontier, who was enjoying a healthy overall lead in the Rally 2 class yesterday, crashed at the beginning of Stage 11’s special. He wasn’t seriously injured but his bike took a big hit, leaving the exhaust system in two pieces. Though he was able to carry on, he later became lost near the end of the Stage, losing nearly 20 minutes to the day’s winner Bradley Cox. Dumonteir’s bad day could see Harith Noah take a historic overall win, which would be the first-ever for an East Indian rider, while Dumontier and Cox will likely be battling for the number two place on the podium.

Dakar As The Ultimate Date Night
There’s a pretty cool romance at play in the heat of the Arabian desert and it doesn’t involve your average entrants. Rally GP leader Ricky Brabec has had an awesome 2024 Dakar and so has his girlfriend Sara Price, who’s currently kicking ass as a driver in the SSV car class, including a Stage 10 win, the first for an American woman and second-ever for any woman at Dakar. Price isn’t your usual cager though, she’s a moto girl to her core, having started riding when she was just eight years old. In 2010 she became the first fully-supported female motocross factory team member, riding pro for Monster Energy Kawasaki and metaling in the X Games.

She’s also a stunt woman and Miss California USA beauty pageant contestant. The So-Cal-based duo will certainly have lots to talk about post Dakar. Brabec is of course poised for an overall victory in Rally GP and Price is currently holding third position overall in SSV.

Stage 11 Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking

Stage 11 Overall Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking


JANUARY 17, 2024: STAGE 10

As Dakar 2024’s Stage 10 got underway riders were sent on a round trip from the Al Ula bivouac to complete a 612 km loop that included a tough 371 km special. The landscape surrounding the ancient oasis city is dramatic, with fast, sandy plateaus as well as rocky sections that provided few physical tracks to follow, leaving trailing riders without a sightline on those ahead with zero advantage. Plenty of navigational mistakes were made amongst the key players, allowing fresh names to breach the top ten. 

Team Monster Energy Honda has brought its A game to Dakar 2024, dominating the leaderboard from the start, and that success has as much to do with the elite riders it employs as it does with the freshly-evolved CRF450 Rally they’re riding. Yesterday the team earned a 1-2-3 stage victory for Honda and today they came through with a decisive repeat. 

It was Adrien Van Beveren first out of the gate this morning after taking the win for Stage 9, coming in just 32 seconds ahead of teammate Ricky Brabec. The two Honda riders stayed close for Stage 10 with Brabec, the event’s overall leader, catching Van Beveren by the time they hit the refueling station. For the rest of the day the two shared opening duties. 

It appears a Team Honda hive mind is now in play as the final podium comes into focus and like-branded competitors turn collaborators. This teamwork saw Brabec claim his first stage win of this event; the tenth Dakar stage win of his career. His success today also saw him broaden his lead over second overall Hero rider Ross Branch to nearly 11 minutes. 

Ricky Brabec: “Me and Adrien did a good job and I’m happy to be at the finish of stage 10. Two days left, the team’s looking really strong and I’m 100 percent. Tomorrow, in the big stage…I’m going to use some energy and try and secure something a little bit more, so stage 12 is a bit more relaxing for me and I can ride wheelies all the way to the finish line.”

Though Van Beveren was riding in synch with Brabec most of the day, it was Chilean José Ignacio “Nacho” Cornejo, with his steady pace and strong navigational skills who earned second position for the day, clocking in just 2 seconds shy of Brabec’s winning time. Cornejo says despite waking up with a sore throat he’s feeling good on the bike and ready to push for a podium finish. 

José Ignacio Cornejo: I just tried to push as much as I could without making any navigation mistakes. I made a couple of small ones but nothing major. The fight for the podium is tight so I’ll keep doing my best until the very end.” 

Placing third for the day was Adrien Van Beveren. The Frenchman riding for Honda has been open about his discomfort with complex navigation and it was exactly that which caught him out near the end of the Stage. After getting lost briefly he clocked in 20 seconds behind Brabec, and was only that close because he’d banked 4.5 minutes in bonus time after leading the charge for much of the day. More importantly, Van Beveren’s result saw him inch closer to a second overall position now that less than one minute separates him from current overall runner-up Ross Branch.

Adrien Van Beveren: “They said this stage would be a bit easier than yesterday’s. Well, I’m not sure it was. They’re not messing around with the navigation this year. Having Ricky by my side was a boost. We’ll see how it goes, there are still two days left and we need to stay focused.”

For Ross Branch the day’s difficult navigation took an even harder toll, with a seventh place Stage finish jeopardizing his second overall position. However, the good natured Hero rider from Botswana says despite making some “stupid mistakes” he had a really fun day riding with Toby Price and Pablo Quintanilla. “I look up to the guys and I really respect them, so riding with them and having a bit of fun is what it’s about. I enjoyed it.” Fun aside, Branch is now trailing event leader Brabec by 10 minutes and 54 seconds, while Van Beveren is nipping at his heels, just 52 seconds back.  

Ross Branch: Ricky’s stepped up a level and he’s doing well. It’s gonna be hard to catch him, but we’ve still got one more long day. You never stop believing. The finish is only when the checkered flag finishes at the end of the race. This is racing, anything can happen in 100 meters, so I’ll just give it my best shot and see what happens.”

Taking fourth for the day, just 47 seconds behind the Stage 10 winner, was Red Bull GasGas rider Daniel Sanders. It’s good to see the promising Aussie  pop his head back up into top stage rankings after a difficult start to week two. His performance today keeps him in eighth position overall. 

Daniel Sanders: “I had a little motivational talk with myself and that seemed to do the trick. I really focused on my roadbook, and I think I hit a few notes that some of the other guys may have missed. So, I was able to make some decent time up today and bounce back from a tough couple of days with a good result.”

Rounding out the top five today was newcomer to the main stage, East Indian Harith Noah, a Sherco TVS Rally Factory rider. This is Noah’s fifth Dakar, though he’s only finished one to date. His misfortune included a serious crash in 2023 that left him with a T5 spinal fracture. The one time Noah did finish Dakar he managed the best-ever performance for an Indian, claiming 20th overall in 2021. Today’s stellar result moves him to second overall in Rally 2, 4 minutes and 31 seconds behind class leader Romain Dumontier

Harith Noah: “In the beginning I had some arm cramps, so I tried to take it easy. My main focus was navigation and as soon as we got a few kilometers into the stage, I understood it was going to be hard. I’ll just try to focus, and tomorrow, like every day, just ride one kilometer at a time.”

As for the rest of the elite Rally GP riders, there is a vast amount of ground between the few left standing and the top four riders. Kevin Benavides is down nearly 33 minutes from Brabec while Toby Price is 42 minutes behind. Luciano Benavides is trailing by 51 minutes and 42 seconds in 7th position, and the rest of the pack, including Daniel Sanders, are more than an hour off the mark.  

Tomorrow’s Stage 11 is the last big push for the riders, a 527 km run from Al Ula to Yanbu that includes an exhausting 420 km timed special sure to bring the already exhausted riders to their knees. It’s likely the last opportunity for any major shake ups in the top five, though if margins end up razor thin, there’s always a chance the last sprint will be as intense as 2023 Dakar’s, when KTM’s Toby Price left the gate with a whisper-thin 12-second advantage over Kevin Benavides and infamously lost it all over just one navigational hiccup, leaving Argentine KTM rider to snag the victory by less than one minute.

Stage 10 Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking

Stage 10 Overall Top 10 Motorcycle Ranking

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Author: ADV Pulse Staff
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ERIC
ERIC
January 7, 2024 10:41 am

following to see how the Chinese KOVE bikes perform when the duel is over

Jamie Elvidge
Jamie Elvidge
January 19, 2024 5:44 pm
Reply to  ERIC

We just did an update on the Kove bikes in the review of the Stage 12 final. Hope you saw it.

Gediminas
Gediminas
January 7, 2024 12:43 pm

best place to follow live timing: https://dakartiming.eu/

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