The 46th edition of the Dakar Rally has ended after a thrilling duel between Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda powered by Motul) and Botswana Off-Road legend Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports Team Rally powered by Motul) in the Motorcycle category that saw the pair chase each other all the way to the finish in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, where Brabec emerged victorious. Brabec and Branch stayed in close contention throughout the event by getting onto the overall podium from Stage 1, with Branch leading the rankings until the 48-hour Chrono on Stage 5. Brabec took the lead on Stage 6, and that’s the way it stayed until the 12th and final Stage, with Branch ending a mere 10:53 behind the American for his first-ever Dakar podium.
It was an incredibly close race for the entire 2-week duration; at the end of Stage 7, the overall gap between the two riders was 1 second after more than 32 hours of racing. They didn’t have it all their own way though, Brabec’s Honda teammate Adrien Van Beveren also joined the fray from Stage 9 and put pressure on the pair all the way to the end, eventually ending up just over a minute behind Branch in third, resulting in a podium lock-out for Motul and their 300V backed riders.
Brabec’s performance was a showcase for consistency, though: he only won one stage of the entire event, but he made sure he stayed in the running on every stage and was never off the podium. It was a very successful event for the entire Monster Energy Honda team who won 9 out of the 12 stages, with each member of the 5-person team winning a stage at some point, proving just how capable the Honda effort was this year.
The race for the Rally 2 podium was no less exciting, and while all bets were on the reigning Rally 2 champion Romain Dumontier taking the victory after dominating the first part of the race, it was an incredible charge to the front from Sherco powered by Motul star, Harith Noah, that got everyone talking and made him one of the revelations of this year’s event. The off-road star from India is the first competitor from his home country to win a bike category overall and he can add another astounding achievement to this year’s event because he did not look at the standings or social media once throughout the entire event. He preferred to go out and do his best every day, and this approach paid off with a highly coveted victory in the Rally 2 class.
South Africa’s Bradley Cox (BAS World KTM) suffered from early navigational challenges which held him back. Still, he put in an incredible effort towards the end of the Rally, almost pipping Dumontier (Dumontier Racing) to the post in the process. Still, the Frenchman managed to secure 2nd place overall by a mere 2.8 seconds over Cox who finished in third.
The Original by Motul Class was a masterclass by Austrian Dakar Rookie Tobias Ebster (Kini Rally Racing) who led from the start and ended up almost 2 hours ahead of Frenchman Jerome Martiny (Anquety Motorsport), followed by Spaniard Albert Garcia (Pedrega Team). The top 3 in the toughest class of the Rally had race times of over 60 hours for this year’s event and considering that they race with no assistance, to be on the podium is a remarkable achievement.
With Motul-backed performances from Honda and Hero on the overall podium and a remarkable ride from the Sherco-Motul Harith at this year’s Dakar, Mercia Jansen, Motul Area Manager for Southern and Eastern Africa, shared her excitement as the final results came through, “Motul is incredibly proud of all our partners in this year’s Dakar. In the bike category alone these three teams have put our products to the ultimate test and when they perform as well as they have in the toughest Motorsport race in the world, we are grateful to have played a part in their success.”