The Monster Energy Honda Team celebrates another Dakar Rally win in 2021, with Kevin Benavides lifting the crown. Teammate and 2020 winner Ricky Brabec claimed second overall. Jose Ignacio Cornejo also looked a possible early contender for the title, but had to retire due to injury after Stage 10.
It was a dominant performance by the Monster Energy Honda Team, with their main competition in the form of KTM’s Toby Price who crashed heavily, breaking his collarbone in Stage Eight from the lead.
Kevin Benavides won with two stage wins to his name for 2021, alongside five top-three results, with teammate Joan Barreda taking three stage wins.
Kevin Benavides made history to become the first South American rider ever to hold aloft the winner’s heavy bronze Touareg. The last time Honda managed a one-two in the Dakar Rally was back in 1987 at the hands of Cyril Neveu and Edi Orioli.
“The final stage of this Dakar 2021 was very difficult: I started third so I thought that it would be easier, but it was not like that. At kilometre 50 all the riders in front got lost, so I began to open the track. The stage has been very difficult to navigate so I stayed very focused on doing things well. I gave everything to achieve this win which is a dream come true for me. I am very happy and thrilled about it. I crossed the finish-line thinking about many things, with great emotions… Paulo Gonçalves also crossed with me… It was a great moment. I am really pleased and I’m living this moment. I want to thank the whole team, starting with my mechanics, for the great job they have all done this difficult year. Thanks also to Honda for giving us such a great bike which made it possible to achieve the dream.”
Ricky Brabec took three stage wins, including the final stage, but also took the prologue win, while Cornejo also won one, for nine out of the total 12 for Monster Energy Honda Team.
“We are back in Jeddah. Kevin and I did a great job. The whole team did a great job. It was unfortunate for Joan and Nacho. I tried to make a push to try and get Kevin seven minutes ahead, but unfortunately I failed that. I had to settle for the number two spot. All in all it was a great rally. My mentor and my assistant Kendall, my mechanic Eric did a great job and kept Nacho and I focused and in one piece. Thank you guys once again, and hopefully next year we’ll be able to take the number one back on this bike.”
Otherwise it was just Toby Price winning Stages One and Two, with Sam Sunderland topping Stage 11. That left Sunderland had the unenviable task of opening the 12th and final timed special. Unfortunately, a small error resulted saw him losing almost 10 minutes, ending Sunderland’s charge for the win. Despite the set-back, Sam safely arrived at the finish to claim third place overall. Although disappointed not to have secured a second career win for himself and KTM, the Brit was happy with how his race had gone.
“I did my best over the whole rally, so I can’t be too disappointed, I guess. It was always going to be hard setting off first this morning and I knew I had to push hard to make up those minutes. I couldn’t find one waypoint early on in the dunes and lost far too much time trying to find it. There is always a fine balance and when you push your speed, the navigation can lose out. I’m super happy as I know I gave it my all. The other guys did a great job and after what was such a tough event with several crashes and people being forced to retire with technical issues, I’m glad to be here safe at the finish line and in third place. I honestly think that has been one of the toughest races I have ever done – the pace at the top is so high, we’re having to fight every single day and there is no time to relax. Congratulations to all those who finished and get well soon to those who crashed out.”
Perhaps the most impressive performance of the entire rally was Daniel Sanders, who came into his first Dakar as a true rookie. The KTM Factory Racing junior rider impressed right from the start however, demonstrating incredible speed on the opening Prologue.
From there, Sanders went on to mix it with the established Dakar specialists, claiming no fewer than five top-five stage results and showing great maturity over the entire event. Consistency and a level head, alongside his impressive efforts and speed saw Sanders finish the 2021 Dakar Rally in fourth.
“All-in-all it’s been a pretty perfect first Dakar for me. It started off with a good Prologue and then day-by-day I learned a little more and gained as much experience as possible. I’m really pleased to come away with fourth overall and as first rookie, so that’s cool. I’ve only really spent four months on the KTM rally bike, learning as much as I can for this, so I can’t thank Jordi and the whole team enough for all the hard work they have done and the faith they put in me. It’s pretty much what I expected as I came into the race ready for it to be really tough. The first few days weren’t so bad – yeah, the navigation was tricky, but it wasn’t till about day five or six that we had some hugely physical stages in the dunes. That, and after a couple of crashes, my body really started to hurt. It’s all been worth it though, I’m over the moon with my result and glad I’ve been able to gather all the information together and come away with a strong finish. It’s been the toughest race I’ve ever done, but I’m already looking forward to the next one! I really want to thank the KTM Factory Team for giving me this opportunity to race Dakar and to all the people who have put in behind the scenes to get me to the finish line. I’ve dedicated the last 5 months for this race and I’m ecstatic with the result and couldn’t be happier. Thanks to everyone following my progress throughout the race I really appreciate the support from around the world”
Fifth overall was Skyler Howes, six-minutes ahead of Sherco’s Lorenzo Santolino, who led the teams efforts to an impressive top 10-result.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Pablo Quintanilla safely completed the 12th stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally, securing a seventh-place overall event result after almost 49 hours of racing.
“Finally the race is over and I’m happy to finish another Dakar. For sure, we didn’t receive the result we had hoped for but over the whole race we worked really hard as a team and were able to identify a few things we can improve. I’m happy with my riding, especially on what was such a tough event, and my fitness has been good too. To finish inside the top 10 is always good and seventh is still an extremely good result, I just know I should be fighting for the podium. We’ll go away and work hard now this year and we’ll definitely be back stronger in 2022.”
Sitting just outside the top 10 following the penultimate day of racing, Matthias Walkner put in an impressive performance by the 2018 Dakar champion on stage 12 saw him move up two places in the overall standings to a highly commendable ninth.
“I’m happy to be here at the finish of another Dakar Rally. Yeah, I’m a little disappointed over what happened on day two, but when you look at what some of the other riders had to face, it’s not so bad. After losing over two hours early on, I knew fighting for the podium would be almost impossible. From then on, my plan was just to take each day as it comes and aim for good stage finishes and a nice, safe end to the race. To finish ninth overall is really good, especially with such a high level of competition. Now I’m hoping we can get more racing done this year and come back next Dakar for a better result.”
Michael Burgess finished the 2021 Dakar Rally in 27th overall, 10h53m30s off the leading pace, with countryman Joseph Houlihan in 50th (+25h53m06s).
Gas Gas Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz also completed her 11th consecutive Dakar Rally in 2021, claiming 17th on the final stage and highest placed female competitor.
“I’m just super happy to finish. It wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t know if we would even be here, so to ride up onto the podium at the finish, yeah, it’s just incredible. With what has been happening in the world this year it makes this one a little more special. My approach to the rally worked for me, riding a safe and manageable pace and I just wanted to reach the finish. I felt really good after the rest day so I could push a little more and ended the rally strong. My team has been amazing. Supporting me the whole time and my bike was perfect all race. So, thanks to them I’m so happy to complete another Dakar!”
Brabec wins Stage 12 – Sanders fifth
Ricky Brabec took the final stage win, leading Kevin Benavides by 1m14s across the line on the timesheets, while KTM’s Matthias Walkner completed the top three.
Skyler Howes showed strong pace to take fourth overall, while Australian Daniel Sanders was fifth, capping off a highly competitive rally.
Top Sherco was Lorenzo Santolino in sixth, ahead of Joseph Garcia and Joaquim Rodrigues, Jaume Betriu, and Sebastian Buhler.
Winner of Stage 11, Sam Sunderland opened the stage, ending up 18th through the first checkpoint before having to fight his way back to 11th, losing 13-minutes for the day.
What team managers said
Ruben Faria – Monster Energy Honda Team General Manager
“This Dakar has been very intense and hard-fought. We overcame the Covid restrictions and the entire team was able to participate in the race. During the entire Dakar, Monster Energy Honda Team has been really strong. We got off to a good start in the prologue, while the first two stages, with all the navigation and starting out from the front, was a bit more difficult. By the fourth stage we had begun to dominate the race and as we have seen, it was a clean race and very professional job from everyone involved. Kevin was really strong and Nacho was perhaps the strongest on the track, although he fell three days from the end. Ricky and Joan have won several stages, showing their potential, although Joan had to withdraw on the penultimate day of the race. The Dakar is like that, it is the toughest of races. We managed to finish first and second thanks to Kevin Benavides and Ricky Brabec. The team has done an excellent job and everybody should be congratulated and proud of themselves. Japan has made a great bike – really good – which has not caused any problems whatsoever. We will continue working like this to win again in 2022.”
Jordi Viladoms – KTM Rally Team Manager
“Overall, I’m pleased with how the rally has gone. After fighting for the whole race, to come away with a podium is positive, but of course we had hoped for more. Clearly, this event has been hugely challenging for all competitors, a true test of character and a true test of not only the riders but all of our team. I’m very proud of the effort everyone has given. Hats off to Sam, he was super consistent throughout the rally, giving his all. Working his way up the overall results wasn’t easy, but he did what he needed to do and really dug deep when it mattered. For our junior rider Daniel Sanders, to get fourth position is an incredible result, especially with the level of the other riders being so high at this year’s event. We’re really happy for him, especially after only four months of preparation. Matthias’ result, finishing ninth after the issues he had early on, is a testament to his quality as a rider. In the end we’re happy with how the whole team has performed at this race – everyone has worked very hard, the bike has been working very well, and all the riders have had a great attitude. Of course, it was a shame to lose Toby from the race, especially as he was the rider with the most potential at the time. Thankfully, he wasn’t too badly hurt, and we look forward to having him back as soon as possible. Finally, I also want to mention Skyler Howes, our supported rider, who also did a great job to finish fifth. He really showed some very fast speed on some of the stages.”
Pela Renet – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team Manager
“So, Dakar is over for another year. Pablo finished in seventh position, which is a strong result, but definitely a little disappointing for him and the team. After his second-place finish last year, we know he is capable of fighting for the win, but as it happened, this year it was just not possible. But this is Dakar, and he will come back stronger. For Luciano, it’s a great shame he got injured and had to retire, but his injury is not too bad. He will require some surgery and some time off the bike, but he will be back soon I’m sure. He definitely showed some good speed over the race and was doing a very good job on the day he crashed. Finally, a big thank you to the whole Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team. They did an incredible job and worked very hard and even when things were not going so well, everyone held their heads up and did their best, so thank you again to all.”
Alexandre Kowalski – Yamaha Europe Off-Road Racing Manager
“It’s so sad and so disappointing to end the rally this way. After all the hard work by the team, by the riders and the risks they take, the preparation made by everyone, it’s difficult to end the rally with a Adrien having a technical issue today. For sure we will look into what the problem was, and fully review all that has happened during these last two weeks, to ensure we are stronger in the future. Besides this, we have enjoyed many positives at this year’s Dakar. In the first week Ross was incredible. Riding really well with the best rally riders in the world he was going so well until he crashed on stage seven. This week Adrien was also returning back to his best form. On pace with the leading riders this week, so this was good for him and the team. For Andrew and Franco, they both have what it takes to be top 10 rally racers wherever they line up. They are both strong and smart riders who both showed good pace at this year’s rally. Jamie McCanney also, he was really impressive this year, faster and much better with his navigation. He was on course for a much-improved result in only his second Dakar. Now, we will return back to Europe, regroup and work on being stronger for the season ahead.”
Jordi Viladoms – GasGas Rally Team Manager
“It’s just amazing for Laia to complete another Dakar Rally. Coming back from her illness last year, we really didn’t know what to expect and the plan was to take it day by day. Completing the rally, her finishing record is now 11 in a row, a truly remarkable achievement. This year was an especially tough Dakar, one of the toughest for quite some time but every day she fought hard. I’m really proud of her for what she has achieved.”
2021 Dakar Rally Stage 12 Results
MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
MONSTER ENERGY HONDA TEAM 2021
RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM
KTM FACTORY TEAM
J. PEDRERO GARCIA
FN SPEED – RIEJU TEAM
HERO MOTOSPORTS TEAM RALLY
FN SPEED – KTM TEAM
HERO MOTOSPORTS TEAM RALLY
RED BULL KTM FACTORY TEAM
FN SPEED – RIEJU TEAM
FN SPEED – KTM TEAM
SLOVNAFT RALLY TEAM
ORION – MOTO RACING GROUP
GAS GAS FACTORY TEAM
HN. KOITHA VEETTIL
HT RALLY RAID HUSQVARNA RACING
BAS DAKAR KTM RACING TEAM
2021 Dakar Rally Overall Standings – After Stage 12
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