The Dakar Rally has been running since the ’70s, gone from Africa to South America and, this year, to Saudi Arabia. But it’s never been won by an American until 2020. Ricky Brabec is officially the first to do it, on a Honda dirt bike. Fellow U.S. dude Casey Currie was close behind too, winning the SSV class.
For a long time, everybody who was interested thought ex-NASCAR Baja champ Robby Gordon was going to get it done, but it never quite happened for the guy. Gordon’s still a hell of a driver, off-road and on, but it seems he hasn’t yet been able to adjust his hard-charging sprint mentality enough for his equipment to survive the thousands-of-miles endurance challenge that is the Dakar.
Also, every time I saw Gordon drive, he was in some bonkers one-off custom car. Brabec and Currie had the sense to hook up with big factory sponsors.
But anyway, it’s Ricky Brabec and Casey Currie’s time to shine today.
Brabec, doing his fifth Dakar this year, this being his second finish, completed the 4,660.284-mile race in just over 40 hours on his Honda CRF 450 Rally. Currie, driving an evolved Can-Am UTV buggy (they call them “SSVs” in Dakar) with copilot Sean Berriman, clocked in at around 53 and a half hours.
Yeah, it was a long ride alright.
I feel like reporting on the 2020 Dakar Rally has been loaded with, let’s say “awkwardness,” due to America (and the media in general)’s tenuous relationship with Saudi Arabia. But I think we can ignore that just long enough to celebrate some hometown heroes doing good. Here are the top U.S. competitors’ figures as reported by the rally:
- Mark: HONDA
- Model: CRF 450 RALLY
- Performance tuner: HRC HONDA RALLY TEAM
- Assistance: HRC HONDA RALLY TEAM
- Class: G1.1 A.S.O. Elites
- Total Time: 40 hours, 2 minutes, 36 seconds
- Mark: CAN-AM
- Model: MAVERICK
- Performance tuner: SOUTH RACING
- Assistance: SOUTH RACING
- Class: T3.P Prototype A-T vehicles
- Total Time: 53 hours 25 minutes 52 seconds
And here’s a little more context from the Dakar Rally’s media dispatch email:
“Ricky Brabec became the first American to win the Dakar, beating SSV driver Casey Currie to the punch by a matter of minutes. It took 42 years to see the Stars and Stripes fluttering atop the podium, even though many Americans had come close to victory before. Back in 1985, Chuck Stearns finished sixth overall with six stage wins under his belt, while Danny Laporte was runner-up to Peterhansel in 1992. A few years later, Jimmy Lewis, now working as Brabec’s trainer, took third place in 2000, followed by Chris Blaisa in fourth place in 2006. Robby Gordon flew the flag for the USA in the car category, but he never managed to improve on his third place in 2009 despite ten spectacular stage wins.”
Congratulations to all who finished the 2020 Dakar Rally. And may Paulo Goncalves, the 40-year-old 13-time Dakar veteran rider who was killed competing, rest in peace.