For the second year in a row, Honda earned the overall victory in the Dakar Rally’s motorcycle category, with Argentinean Kevin Benavides finishing ahead of Monster Energy Honda teammate Ricky Brabec, the Southern Californian who last year became the first winner from the USA.
2021 Honda CRF300L and CRF300L Rally | First Look Review
It was the first Dakar Rally win for the 32-year-old Benavides, who rode his first Dakar Rally in 2016, and the first time in 34 years that Honda took the top two spots in the grueling international endurance event, with Cyril Neveu and Edi Orioli having managed the feat in 1987.
The Dakar Rally’s 43rd edition (the second in Saudi Arabia) comprised a prolog and 12 stages and covered nearly 5,000 miles in a counterclockwise loop around Saudi Arabia, starting and finishing in the port city of Jeddah. Approximately 3,000 miles of the route were in timed (or “special”) stages, and Benavides had a winning tally of 47 hours, 18 minutes, 14 seconds, less than five minutes better than Brabec.
It was a dominant performance by Honda Racing Corporation’s factory rally effort, whose CRF450 Rally-mounted riders won nine of 12 stages plus the prolog—two stages by Benavides, three stages and the prolog by Brabec, three stages by Joan Barreda and one stage by Jose Cornejo. Barreda and Cornejo were forced to drop out of the race—the former after missing a fuel stop and running out of fuel, and the latter following a hard crash.
2021 Honda Trail 125 ABS | First Ride Review
“I gave everything to achieve this win which is a dream come true for me,” said Benavides, who is the first South American to win the event. “I am very happy and thrilled about it.”
“Congratulations Kevin Benavides!” said Yoshishige Nomura, President of Honda Racing Corporation. “I am also truly grateful to Ricky Brabec for completing such a grueling rally in a manner as good as winning, José Ignacio Cornejo who led the rally until his unfortunate retirement, and Joan Barreda. Monster Energy Honda Team riders could only perform as well as they did despite the COVID-19 situation, because of the team staff and everyone in the development team working smart to overcome the many difficulties. I am truly grateful. I would also like to share our elation in victory and our gratitude with our sponsors and all of our fans. And last but certainly not least, I respect and thank the race organizers and the other teams for making this event a reality despite the extreme circumstances.”
Honda’s Dakar Rally Win Record
- 1986: Cyril Neveu (France), NXR750
- 1987: Cyril Neveu (France), NXR750
- 1988: Edi Orioli (Italy), NXR750
- 1989: Gilles Lalay (France), NXR750
- 2020: Ricky Brabec (USA), CRF450 Rally
- 2021: Kevin Benavides (Argentina), CRF450 Rally
I am happy that Honda was able to wins again with their great team. However, since 99% of dual sport riders never race, I would like Honda, with their dual sport lineup, to put more emphasis on practicality of their bike’s features rather than just copying over features directly from full-on race bikes. One important example is the seat height of their dual sport and ADV bikes. High seat height is fine if, like in a race, you rarely ever stop, much less ride slowly! For me riding in the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, we have a zillion miles of very technical single track that zig-zags up steep mountains with a 100 yard straightaway a true rarity. 34-38″ seat heights are completely out of place unless the rider is 6’5″. Then there is engine and transmission tuning – mountain riders will gladly trade high RPM HP for low RPM torque, but that rarely happens since the “numbers don’t look good”. And so forth. So dear Honda please remember – most of us do not race at Dakar!
I live in Silverton, Colorado. Had to pay to lower my bike enough to even be able to touch the level ground. I don’t need forever travel in the San Juan Mountain single tracks.