American Motorcycle Star Breaks New Ground at the Halfway Point of Worlds Biggest Race, Raising the Bar to Reach Milestone
For only the second time in history, an American leads the overall standings in the Dakar Rally, considered the world’s biggest off road race, and the first time team USA has the lead this at the midway point. It’s only starting to sink in with off road fans that an American is poised to win this world class event, the elusive dream that has crushed dozens of US hopefuls for over 4 decades. The heat is on Brabec with rival KTM and Sam Sunderland only 00:59 seconds back in the overall standings.
Monster Energy Honda Team’s Ricky Brabec will have some time off tomorrow while he, and the entire field, enjoys the official “rest day” in the town of Arequipa Peru. There, the young American will have much to reflect on and how to focus on this moment in order to capitalize on his opportunity to solidify a place in the history books. There is an enormous amount of pressure at this point, comparable to the final quarter of Superbowl or a major golf tournament. The key difference however, is the life and death danger in this arena.
One of the most influential contributors to Brabec and Honda’s success in rising to this occasion is Off Road Hall of Fame and Dakar veteran Johnny Campbell. Campbell has won multiple stages in the Dakar as co-driver for Robby Gordon, who is the only other American to hold the overall lead of the general category.
“Today the riders completed the 2 day marathon stage”, explained Campbell who, an HRC Honda Team official and 11-time BAJA 1000 Champion. “Ricky is riding to plan. We have a day off and then the second half of our Dakar Rally starts. This is a critical point at where they will really test the riders navigation skills.”
“We will keep pushing and crafting in the following days!”
Rally-raid racing is still foreign and very much untapped in this part of the world although there is a hard-core niche of rally racers, fans and participants in North America slowly fueling the growth of rally competitions such as the Sonora and Baja Rally in Mexico.
The closest an American has come in the past decade is the late Kurt Caselli who, in his maiden attempt with Factory KTM in 2013, won 2 stages and nearly a 3rd before finishing outside the top ten. Caselli died tragically 11 months later while leading the Baja 1000 that year.
Huge shakeup at the end of Stage 5
Stage 5 winner was Sam Sunderland who also exploded in the final minutes with Xavier de Soultrait coming from way behind to outrace riders in front of him. These 2 were placed 22nd and 10th at the final checkpoint and came from way back to upend Quintanilla and Short who led most of the stage. At press time it is unclear exactly what chaos transpired. (to be updated)
Both Brabec and De Soultrait were underdogs at the start of this rally with gambling websites laying money odds on each at 26:1 and 30:1 respectively. Now each have stage wins between them of 5 going into the midway point. Sunderland was booked as the money line favorite at 3.5:1
The second half of the 2-day marathon stage featured a mass start, motocross style line up in rows of 10 racers. Each wave, or row, of racers left the start in 5 minute gaps.
The top 10 racers from yesterday started the race, including overall leader Ricky Brabec and the top seeds from KTM Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner.
In the second row at 8:05 Rockstar Husqvarna Factory teammates Pablo Quintanilla along with American rookie Skyler Howes had an advantage by following the tracks of the first wave, allowing these 3 to use ignore navigation and use thier natural speed to jump into the time adjusted lead by WP1.
Overall Rally standing for Bikes: