DAKAR RALLY: 100-Percent Americana
Meet the Ico Racing/Rally Pan Am team, the only 100-percent American bike squad in the Dakar Rally.
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Honda VP’s presence proves that Big Red is there to win.
From the California desert to the top of the world. At his debut on the Dakar Rally with the factory HRC Rally Team, Ricky Brabec is the new face of the American rally scene.
At only 24 years of age, Brabec had already captured the three most prestigious titles in US desert racing, winning in 2014 the Hare & Hound, Best in the Desert and SCORE International, as well as the legendary Bajas. A phone call from HRC last June 2015, when he was sitting at home with a broken neck, changed his life. He entered the rally raid scene from the main door finishing fifth overall in Abu Dhabi at his first international appearance.
Under the spotlights of the biggest rally in the world, the America’s youngest ever Dakar Rally rookie proved to be a fast learner and at his third rally ever, he finished with a 9th place overall after two weeks of race and 9,346 km.
Considered one of the revelations of this 38th edition of the Dakar, that ended on January 16 in Rosario, Argentina, together with the winner Toby Price, the first ever Australian to get this result, Brabec was also the best Honda factory rider at the finish.
Cycle World: First of all congratulations, how was your first Dakar?
Ricky Brabec: “It was such an adventure and it was great to share it with the Honda Team. I have finished this rally and got my medal. The race is over, but I’m already thinking at coming back and do better.”
CW: What is so special about Dakar?
RB: “It’s the biggest off-road race in the world through stunning landscapes. In terms of physical effort is like racing a Baja 1000 for two weeks in a row”.
CW: Which was for you the hardest side of the race?
RB: “I coped well with the speed although the pace of the guys in front was really high. We were riding every day at an average speed of 62m/h. In terms of terrain the most difficult part were the stages in the dunes of Fiambala. But for me the hardest part was the liaison because it was averagely 240- 250 miles on one never ending road. It was boring and tiring. Lot of people fall asleep. I would rather race in the dirt the whole day! Fortunately there were many spectators along the road that cheer us up. It’s a great feeling to be welcomed by these people”.
CW: How did you cope with the navigation?
RB: “The road book in itself is easy, the challenge arrives with the speed as you need to ride and read at the same time. I’m still learning”.
CW: Can you explain us how you mark the road book?
RB: “Quinn Cody taught me how to mark and read a road book. I use the green to mark “continue in the same direction”, blue for change of direction or sharp corners, orange for highlighting the dangers and pink for the little notes like uphill or downhill, red is for the speed zone and yellow for the way points”.
CW: What was your daily routine on the rally?
RB: “I woke up one hour before the start of the first bike, which was between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. I got dressed and had breakfast and then we hit the road. Liaison, special stage, liaison as you reach the next bivouac. I had lunch and then I marked the road book. We had the riders briefing at 08:00 pm and I usually went to bed around 10:00 pm”.
CW: What does it mean to you to be part of Team HRC?
RB: “Being apart of HRC is amazing, I can’t really even have the words because as a kid I wanted to ride with Honda but now it’s a dream come true and I’m truly blessed. It means so much to me to be on HRC with the best riders in the world. I knew that there was pressure in the team that was aiming at winning, but I tried to stay out and learn as fast as I could.”
CW: Which were your expectations?
RB: “The rally is so tough that the number 1 priority for every body is to finish. From the beginning I didn’t want to fix any target because with the pressure you can only make more mistakes. Finishing in the top 10 is great”.
CW: You have the nr 66 on your helmet, are you supporting the Kurt Caselli Foundation?
RB: “I was also racing the Baja that day and our team was one hour behind. I was the first to find him, but unfortunately it was too late. He was a great rider and a good friend. I’m supporting the foundation as they are doing a lot about safety in off road”.