Ricky Brabec won the final stage Friday of the 2021 Dakar Rally, but the American rider came up just under 5 minutes short of his second consecutive victory in the overall results as Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides triumphed.
The Argentinian became the first South American rider to win the Dakar Rally motorbike championship. He joined Brabec and two-time champion Toby Price of Australia as the only non-European riders to win the bike class during the event’s four-decade history.
Benavides wrapped up the general classification victory by finishing the final stage in second place, 2 minutes and 17 seconds behind Brabec. Matthias Walkner finished third in Stage 12.
“It was an incredible Dakar every day; it kept on changing,” Benavides said. “I’m really happy with this victory. It was the hardest Dakar I’ve ever done, and anyone could have won. I’m also happy about making history. I’m just super happy.”
Brabec tied Joan Barreda with his Dakar-leading third stage victory this year by winning the 12th and final segment, a 225-kilometer special that returned the rally raid to its original starting point in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We tried our best, unforutnately our teammate is riding really well,” Brabec said. “It’s pretty cool to go 1-2, but obviously the top step is a lot better than the second step. We did our best. We struggled the first week, but the second week we came back really strong. Today we gave it 110 percent, and it just wasn’t enough.”
“Thank you all for the support, we came here for one thing and one thing only,” Brabec, who became the first American to win Dakar last year, posted on Instagram. “We rode our ass off, made mistakes, learned from them but failed the mission. Let’s settle for the #2. The team did a excellent job and so did all the riders congratulations to my very own teammate Kevin #2022 #upsndowns #wildride.”
Sam Sunderland finished third overall, followed by Daniel Sanders.
Skyler Howes placed fifth overall, tops among privateer riders. The American, who led the overall after Stage 3, placed fourth Friday and tied his best stage finish of the Rally (also taking fourth in Stages 3 and 10).
“I pushed really hard that last stage,” Howe said. “I made a mistake right at the beginning and lost quite a bit of time, and man, fifth place was riding on it. I really let it hang out at the end. I’m really happy to be here at the finish. This was a tough one.”
Benavides won the Dakar Rally despite suffering a broken nose and twisted ankles in a crash during Stage 5, which he won along with Stage 9.