Honda wins the Dakar Rally for the first time since 1989
All good things must come to an end, and so is the case for KTM, whose 18-year Dakar winning streak was today broken by Honda in what is the Japanese manufacturer’s first Dakar win in more than 30 years.
In a monumental victory, Monster Energy Honda’s Ricky Brabec has finished the 12th and final Dakar 2020 stage in second, retaining his first place overall with a 40 hour, 2 minute and 36 second total time – a comfortable 16 minute 26 second lead on Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Pablo Quintanilla in second. Meanwhile, Red Bull KTM’s Toby Price and winner of the 2016 and 2019 events came in third, 24 minutes and six seconds behind Brabec after more than 7,500km of racing.
Brabec took the lead in Stage 3, after KTM and Yamaha suffered the retirement of their top riders early on. Since Stage 5, he has kept more than 10 minutes ahead of the closest competition, riding consistently well to his first Dakar victory. But, despite his lead, there was apprehension in the air as the rally reached its crescendo, for fear of a repeat of Brabec’s previous three attempts, in which engine failure saw him withdraw. In 2018, he was running in 6th place three stages from the finish when he resigned, while in 2019, he made it to Stage 8 before his hopes were dashed.
This only makes Honda’s victory all the more impressive, with Brabec leading three of the manufacturer’s riders into the top ten. His teammate Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo finished the rally in fourth, 31 minutes and 43 seconds off the overall pace, after crossing the finish line of the final, 166km special (shortened from 429km due to a gas pipeline work) in first. And despite finishing the 12th stage in 16th, Dakar legend and Honda pilot Joan Barreda Bort sat in seventh overall, 50 minutes and 57 seconds off the pace, plus a 15-minute penalty.
The Dakar didn’t get off to a good start for previous rulers KTM, after 2017 winner Sam Sunderland was ruled out of contention by a crash in the 564km Stage 5. However, the Austrian manufacturer’s second rider and winner of the 2018 edition, Matthais Walkner, performed consistently throughout to take a respectable fifth place overall, 35 minutes off the pace, despite arriving in 12th at today’s finish line. And Argentinian Luciano Benavides was not far behind in sixth, 37 minutes and 34 seconds off pace.
Yamaha suffered heavy losses too, with both Adrien Van Beveren and Xavier de Soultrait crashing in Stage 3. Van Beveren was evacuated in situ by helicopter, while fellow Frenchman de Soultrait pushed on into the 4th stage, before nerve damage to his wrist forced him to withdraw.
Laia Sainz – now racing for Gas Gas – once again took the female title, in what is her tenth Dakar. The unstoppable Spaniard finished the rally an incredible 9 hours, 36 minutes and 47 seconds ahead of second female Mirjam Pol. She sat in 18th position in the general rankings, 3 hours, 58 minutes and 16 seconds off the pace.
Emanual Gyenes, meanwhile, won the gruelling Original by Motul category, more than an hour ahead of Benjamin Melot in second.
It has to be said that event remains tinged with sadness following the death of Dakar veteran Paulo Gonçalves during Sunday’s Stage 7. Many riders crossed the podium and remembered him with tributes and dedications.