Ricky Brabec won the final stage Friday of the 2021 Dakar Rally, but the American rider came up just under 5 minutes short of his second consecutive victory in the overall results as Monster Energy Honda teammate Kevin Benavides triumphed.
The Argentinian became the first South American rider to win the Dakar Rally motorbike championship. He joined Brabec and two-time champion Toby Price of Australia as the only non-European riders to win the bike class during the event’s four-decade history.
Benavides wrapped up the general classification victory by finishing the final stage in second place, 2 minutes and 17 seconds behind Brabec. Matthias Walkner finished third in Stage 12.
WATCH: 2021 Dakar Rally wrapup at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN
“It was an incredible Dakar every day; it kept on changing,” Benavides said. “I’m really happy with this victory. It was the hardest Dakar I’ve ever done, and anyone could have won. I’m also happy about making history. I’m just super happy.”
Brabec tied Joan Barreda with his Dakar-leading third stage victory this year by winning the 12th and final segment, a 225-kilometer special that returned the rally raid to its original starting point in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
“We tried our best, unforutnately our teammate is riding really well,” Brabec said. “It’s pretty cool to go 1-2, but obviously the top step is a lot better than the second step. We did our best. We struggled the first week, but the second week we came back really strong. Today we gave it 110 percent, and it just wasn’t enough.”
“Thank you all for the support, we came here for one thing and one thing only,” Brabec, who became the first American to win Dakar last year, posted on Instagram. “We rode our ass off, made mistakes, learned from them but failed the mission. Let’s settle for the #2. The team did a excellent job and so did all the riders congratulations to my very own teammate Kevin #2022 #upsndowns #wildride.”
🏍 Bikes – stage 12 🏁
🥇 @rickyB357 (USA)
🥈 @kmbenavides (ARG)
🥉 @MatthiasWalkner (AUT)
🏆 Ricky Brabec wins stage 12. Kevin Benavides wins the overall classification. 👏 #Dakar2021 pic.twitter.com/l5xILGZxHR
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 15, 2021
Sam Sunderland finished third overall, followed by Daniel Sanders.
Skyler Howes placed fifth overall, tops among privateer riders. The American, who led the overall after Stage 3, placed fourth Friday and tied his best stage finish of the Rally (also taking fourth in Stages 3 and 10).
“I pushed really hard that last stage,” Howe said. “I made a mistake right at the beginning and lost quite a bit of time, and man, fifth place was riding on it. I really let it hang out at the end. I’m really happy to be here at the finish. This was a tough one.”
Benavides won the Dakar Rally despite suffering a broken nose and twisted ankles in a crash during Stage 5, which he won along with Stage 9.
🏆 @kmbenavides #Dakar2021 Bikes winner pic.twitter.com/2R7GJd18Nu
— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 15, 2021
In other divisions:
Cars: Stephane Peterhansel extended his Dakar Rally with his 14th victory, winning by nearly 14 minutes over Nasser Al-Attiyah. Two-time Dakar winner Carlos Sainz won the final stage to finish third overall.
Peterhansel won 30 years after his first Dakar victory in 1991, the first of six titles on a bike for the Frenchman. He won this year with new co-driver Edouard Boulanger.
“It was a really tough one this year and there is always more pressure when you are the leader for so long,” Peterhansel, 55, said. “We had everything to lose, but we did a really precise race, almost perfect. It’s a good feeling to have Edouard next to me. This was his first Dakar in a top car and he did a really excellent job.”
With his eighth championship in cars, “Monsieur Dakar” now holds the record for most class wins, too (breaking a tie with seven-time truck champion Vladimir Chagin).
“I’m also the only one to have won on the three continents: Africa, in South America and now in Saudi Arabia,” Peterhansel said. “We really are privileged.”
Side by side UTVs (SSV)/lightweight/light prototypes: Francisco Lopez Contardo won the general classification in side by sides. Austin Jones, the American who led after Stage 7, finished just over 17 minutes behind in second place overall.
“I’m really happy,” Jones said. “It was a long Dakar. That last stage tested us. We had two flats, and it was hard, but we made it. We’re super happy with the results. A really nice second Dakar for me.”
In the lightweight prototype category, Seth Quintero, 18, finished fourth overall. The American scored a Dakar Rally-leading six stage victories in 2021.
“It was an absolutely amazing two weeks,” said Quintero, the youngest stage winner ever at Dakar. “Didn’t really work out the way we wanted, but so blessed to be able to reach the finish and do what we did to make history and win multiple stages.
Quads: Manuel Andjuar won the overall title by more than 33 minutes. Pablo Copetti, an Argentinian who was racing under an American flag this year after training with Jimmy Lewis, won the last stage for his third victory of the rally.
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov capped a 1-2-3 overall finish for the dominant Kamaz-Master team.
STAGE 1 RESULTS: Carlos Sainz, Toby Price open with victories
STAGE 2: Ricky Brabec jumps to second; Andrew Short withdraws
STAGE 3: American privateer Skyler Howes takes lead
STAGE 4: Four Stages, four bike winners; Al-Attiyah wins three consecutive in cars
STAGE 5: Kevin Benavides new leader in bikes
STAGE 6: Toby Price retakes the lead; Peterhansel distances the competition
STAGE 7: Ricky Brabec captures first victory; Skyler Howes third
STAGE 8: Austin Jones takes overall lead in side by sides
STAGE 9: Toby Price retires after heavy crash; Peterhansel wins
STAGE 10: Ricky Brabec closes to within a minute of overall lead
STAGE 11: Ricky Brabec falls to third; unhappy with KTM tactics
FINAL STAGE VICTORY TALLIES
Cars: Nasser Al-Attiyah 5 (Stages 2, 3, 4, 8, 11); Carlos Sainz 3 (Stage 1, 6, 12); Yazeed Al Rajhi 2 (Stage 7, 10); Giniel de Villiers (Stage 5); Stephane Peterhansel (Stage 9)
Bikes: Ricky Brabec 3 (Stage 7, 10, 12); Joan Barreda 3 (Stage 2, 4, 6); Toby Price 2 (Stages 1, 3); Kevin Benavides 2 (Stage 5, 9); Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo (Stage 8); Sam Sunderland (Stage 11)
Side-by-sides: Francisco Lopez Contardo 6 (Stage 3, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11); Austin Jones (Stage 1); Saleh Alsaif (Stage 2); Aron Domzala (Stage 4); Khalifa Al Attiyah (Stage 6); Sergei Kariakin (Stage 10); Reinaldo Varella (Stage 12)
Lightweight prototypes: Seth Quintero 6 (Stage 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 11); Cristina Gutierrez Herrero 3 (Stage 1, 7, 9); Kris Meeke 2 (Stage 4, 12)
Quads: Alexandre Giroud 3 (Stage 1, 6, 8); Pablo Copetti 3 (Stage 2, 10, 12); Nicolas Cavigliasso 2 (Stage 3, 5); Manuel Andujar 2 (Stage 4, 7); Giovanni Enrico 2 (Stage 9, 11)
Trucks: Dmitry Sotnikov 4 (Stage 1, 2, 4, 7); Martin Macik 3 (Stage 9, 10, 12); Anton Shibalov 2 (Stage 8, 11); Siarhei Viazovich (Stage 3); Andrey Karginov (Stage 5); Airat Mardeev (Stage 6)