Honda returns to victory lane as Brabec triumphs


Although scoring only a single individual stage win during the two-week contest in Saudi Arabia, Brabec took overall honours with an impressive margin of 10m53s as he put Honda back on the victory lane in Dakar.

10m53s was almost exactly the time Brabec lost to Branch on the opening test between Al-Ula and Al-Henankiya, putting the American rider immediately on the back foot on his ninth participation in Dakar.

But Brabec was slowly able to bridge the gap to Branch as the rally headed for Empty Quarter and finally snatched the lead during the 48-hour Stage 6 that covered a whopping distance of 626km.

After eight days of competition, the gap between Brabec and Branch was just one second as the Hero rival attempted to make a comeback. But two days later, the 32-year-old was able to show the sheer speed of his Honda and stretch out an advantage of seven minutes, as Branch ceded a significant amount of time with mistakes over dunes and camel grass.

This would turn out to be the deciding stage of Dakar and shifted the pendulum firmly in Brabec’s favour, allowing him to cruise in the remaining three days of the event.

Finishing a safe seventh on Friday’s final 175km run to Yanbu, the Honda rider sealed his second-ever victory in Dakar after his first triumph in 2020, when he made history by ending an 18-year winning streak for KTM.

While Branch couldn’t cope with Brabec in the final week, he did score a second stage victory of 2024 on Thursday to cement second position in the overall standings ahead of the next best Honda of Adrien van Beveren.

Second place marked both his and Hero’s best ever result on Dakar, with the Indian manufacturer upping its game in 2024 to emerge as Honda’s closest rival in the world’s toughest cross-country rally.

#16 Hero Motosports Team Rally: Ross Branch

Photo by: A.S.O.

#16 Hero Motosports Team Rally: Ross Branch

Behind Brabec and Branch, Van Beveren finished as the best of the rest on the factory Honda despite losing significant chunks of time on two separate occasions, although he did lead the Japanese marque to a monumental 1-2-3 win on Stage 9.

KTM was reduced to the third best manufacturer on this year’s Dakar, with Kevin Benavides on the best of the factory bikes finishing 38m off the lead in fourth and Toby Price a further seven minutes back in fifth.

Both Benavides and Price dropped a lot of time on the opening stage that was dominated by Branch, with 2016 and ‘19 winner Price falling further behind on Stage 4 that was won by Benavides.

Price did win the shortened Stage 5 the following day and Benavides would add another victory to his tally on Stage 8, but by this time the two had already appeared to be out of the running.

Sixth place went to the top Husqvarna of Luciano Benavides, whose hopes of victory ended on Stage 5 when he lost nearly 20 minutes with a mechanical issue.

GasGas’ Daniel Sanders, Slovnaft’s Stefan Svitko and Martin Michek rounded out the top 10.

Sherco’s charge was led by Harith Noah, who won the Rally2 class and finished 11th in the overall rankings.

His team-mate Lorenzo Santolino was forced out of the rally at the start of Stage 2 after encountering some mechanical issues on his 450 SEF Rally, having sat inside the top 10 going into the day.

Santolino wasn’t the high-profile rider to exit the 2024 event. Joan Barreda, making his debut with Hero after a long stint with Honda, reported pain in his arm after a crash on Stage 5 before withdrawing from the rally with technical gremlins the following day.

He later revealed his intention to retire from Dakar after an illustrious career than has seen him score 29 stage wins but no overall victories in the bikes class.

Dakar 2024 – Provisional classification (Top 10):

Position

Rider

Bike

Time / gap

1

Ricky Brabec

Honda

48h15m18s

2

Ross Branch

Hero

+1h20m25s

3

Adrien van Beveren

Honda

+1h25m12s

4

Kevin Benavides

KTM

+1h35m59s

5

Toby Price

KTM

+2h16m43s

6

Jose Ignacio Cornejo

Honda

+2h40m33s

7

Luciano Benavides

Husqvarna

+2h50m26s

8

Daniel Sanders

GasGas

+2h57m17s

9

Stefan Svitko

KTM

+3h03m12s

10

Martin Michek

KTM

+3h04m12s



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