Rally Dakar 2021 is officially over, with Argentinean Kevin Benavides taking the win. It’s a historic moment for Benavides; no Argentinean – or indeed South American – rider has ever won the Dakar in the motorcycle class. The 32-year-old rode his first Dakar Rally in 2016, racing for the Honda South America Rally Team, finishing his debut race in 4th place. Benavides has been with Monster Energy Honda Team ever since. This year, the Argentinean won the fifth stage giving him the overall lead, and fought for the victory till the end.
“It was absolutely crazy. I started third and after fifty kilometers, I was in the front, opening the stage. I feel that everything was complicated because Ricky started to catch up with me. I started to push a lot, all day, and stayed focused. I went at one hundred and ten percent, but now it’s true: I’ve won the Dakar – I’m so, so happy! I did some mistakes, for sure. I think it’s impossible to do a perfect Dakar. The important thing is to always continue, to stay calm and focused day by day and to work hard day by day. On stage 5 I was worried because I crashed so fast and hit my head and my ankle and felt a lot of pain. On that day, I said maybe the Dakar is finished for me. But I continued pushing. You don’t think, you just concentrate on the action and nothing else, because everything can change in one second. I am really proud to be the first South American winner”, Benavides said.
Ricky Brabec, last year’s Dakar winner, came in second giving Honda two top positions on the podium – something that has not happened in decades. “I tried my best. Unfortunately, my team-mates ride really well. It’s pretty cool to finish with a one-two, but obviously, the top step is a lot better than the second step. We did our best. We struggled the first week, but during the second week, we came back pretty strong. Today I gave it 110 percent and it just wasn’t enough. I was hoping to catch up, but I’ll take second place for now. I guess I’ll come back next year and try and get on the top again. It takes a village to get this to happen and I’m pretty bummed that the title can’t stay with me, but number two will work, I guess. Like I said earlier this week, anything less than winning is unacceptable. I finished and I got second place, but I could have done better. I’ll go back, I’ll go home and take some time off and I’ll try to work harder than we did last year to make it to second place this year.
I don’t really know what I could have done better. I started the rally opening on the first day and with the new road-books this time, it was really tough. They did all these crazy notes, with more obliques and more points and three caps in one note… It was really difficult, but as the rally went on, we figured it out and we’re going to take a book back home and study the book and try to do our best to make our own books that are similar so that we can come back stronger next year. This was only my sixth year, but it was definitely difficult. The roadbook was tough and the route was tough. Hopefully next year they’re going to stay the same and we’ll be more prepared next year. This is cool – they kind of got the road-book super difficult so that way the results were kind of flip-flopping back and forth. It brought other riders closer to the top and that’s really good. All those results are pretty close, so it makes for a good TV show at home and it makes for a wild Dakar and no strategy really… I didn’t even know that Honda had already won a one and two finish. I wasn’t even born in 1987! It’s cool to go one and two again. Unfortunately, Joan withdrew yesterday, but it would have been really cool to have him on the podium as well. He would have had to fight pretty hard, but if we’d gone one-two-three, that would have been legendary”, Brabec commented.
The Original by Motul class (malle moto) win went to Lithuanian Arunas Gelazninkas. This was his third Dakar and first win in the Original by Motul class; he is the first Lithuanian rider to ever complete and win the Original by Motul. “It’s like a dream come true”, Gelazninkas said after crossing the finish line.
The Dakar celebrations were marred by the tragic passing of Piere Cherpin, however. The French Original by Motul rider crashed at high-speed today resulting in a severe head injury; he was found unconscious, airlifted to the Sakaka hospital, operated on, and placed under induced coma. Tragically, Cherpin passed away as he was being transported to a hospital in France. This was his fourth Dakar.
“This 52-year-old entrepreneur and sailing enthusiast had no other ambitions than to live an adventure, without really worrying about the podium. The entire Dakar caravan would like to extend its sincere condolences to his family, relatives, and friends”, the ASO statement said.
Dakar 2021 results:
(ARG) KEVIN BENAVIDES
|MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021||47H 18′ 14”|
(USA) RICKY BRABEC
|MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021||47H 23′ 10”|
(GBR) SAM SUNDERLAND
|RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM||47H 34′ 11”|
(AUS) DANIEL SANDERS
|KTM FACTORY TEAM||47H 57′ 06”|
(USA) SKYLER HOWES
|BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM||48H 10′ 47”|
(ESP) LORENZO SANTOLINO
|SHERCO FACTORY||48H 16′ 44”|
(CHL) PABLO QUINTANILLA
|ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FACTORY RACING||48H 44′ 53”|
(SVK) STEFAN SVITKO
|SLOVNAFT RALLY TEAM||49H 01′ 21”|
(AUT) MATTHIAS WALKNER
|RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM||49H 50′ 26”|
(CZE) MARTIN MICHEK
|ORION – MOTO RACING GROUP||50H 00′ 51”|