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Exclusive team imagery of the 2020 / 2021 HRC Dakar Team
NEWS

Ready to Rock: Dakar 2021 Unleashed

Jan 042021

12 stages, 14 days and 4,767km of racing. The Dakar rally is back, and for its 43rd edition the legendary marathon race returns to the unrelenting dunes and dirt of the middle east. 

Only the bravest and most steely eyed elite competitors need apply. 

While in most events being the fastest is usually enough to get you a shot at the podium; at the Dakar riders and drivers need to be so much more. Mechanic, Navigator, Athlete, Adventurer… the list goes on.

The event itself too is as evolving as the dunes which it crosses. After four decades of rallying in Africa and South America, the Dakar has now found a new home in Saudi Arabia. After celebrating a stunning debut in 2020, an ‘all-new’ route for 2021 awaits, and promises a fortnight of monumental challenges. What’s more almost every aspect of the competition has been tweaked to make it the most challenging but paradoxically also the safest yet. 

For example, while there are now 90 kph speed limits and “slow zones” on particularly hazardous sections of the course, as well as mandatory airbag vests for motorcycle competitors, and audible warnings for competitors ahead of danger zones, the day’s navigational road book of a stage - guiding competitors where to race - will only be handed out ten minutes before the start of each stage. There are also strict rules governing tyres. No tyre changes will be allowed in the car category during the marathon stage, while each motorbike will be granted a total of only six rear tyres for the entire rally.

As always with the Dakar, it’s a fine balance of opposites; highs and lows; rough and smooth, pleasure and pain…

According to the race organisation Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), “The 2021 course, which features all-new special stages, strives to reduce the length and amount of fast sections, while emphasising driving technique, as well as crossing and navigation skills. A marathon stage will test the equipment management and endurance qualities of the competitors immediately following the rest day in Ha'il.

 

“Despite the difficulties associated to the health crisis, a strong field of competitors have answered the call, with 321 vehicles on the entry list. In addition to the 108 motorbikes, 21 quads, 124 cars and SSVs and 42 trucks expected at the start, 26 vehicles have been entered for a regularity competition in the new "Dakar Classic" category, open to cars and trucks built prior to 2000.

 

What’s more according to Dakar Rally Director, David Castera: “We often hear that participating in the Dakar is a victory in itself. This is certainly the feeling that will invigorate us all on January 3rd in Jeddah”

 

But then again, racing isn't just about taking part is it? And with Dakar class victories to defend on two and four wheels, there are some key players worth keeping an eye on…

Monster Energy Honda Team

 

Ricky Brabec, José Ignacio Cornejo, Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda are the four factory riders lining up for the Monster Energy Honda Team; all having managed to finish the most recent edition of the Dakar. The squad arrives at the Dakar in top physical shape, hoping to relive the sensation of lifting the distinctive winner’s bronze Touareg trophy. Of the four riders, it’s arguably Brabec though who will be pushing the hardest to come out on top in 2021, in an effort to follow up his 2020 overall victory.

 

“You need to eat, sleep and breathe Dakar,” explains Brabec. “It’s an absolutely huge effort to go and race there… It’s absolutely wild to think we have gone there and won. I remember seeing photos from the Dakar when I was younger and wondering how we would one day get there. My Dad took me out riding dirt bikes when I was a little kid, and I loved it - I just never imagined that it could have led to this! The whole team is ready. I’m ready as well. We will try and do our best to defend the number one. It’s not going to be easy. The target on our back is pretty big. But we are here and we can’t really say much right now. The race hasn’t even started. We’ll get back to you guys in a couple of days and let you know how things are going. That’s the goal - to defend the number one.”

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

 

Watch out too for the formidable lineup of talent heading to Dakar from Yamaha. For the first time in the team’s history the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team will enter the Dakar Rally with five riders. Van Beveren, Caimi, Short, Branch and McCanney.

 

Leading the team is the experienced Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren. Fully focused on his dream of winning the Dakar Rally, after spending the early part of 2020 recovering from surgery, he more recently spent much of the autumn and early winter in Dubai, re-acquainting himself with the same desert conditions he will face this January. Currently feeling strong and riding as well as he’s ever done following a positive outing at the Hail Rally, Van Beveren is set to take on the Dakar Rally in arguably his best ever form.

 

Van Beveren explained: “Since my crash at Dakar in 2020 it took two surgeries before I could work on my full recovery. I had six months off the bike, but I now feel really good. I’m not deterred by my crash last year and I still dream of winning the Dakar. This has been my motivation to work hard and prepare myself for 2021. My training has gone really well and I have been in Dubai riding in the dunes for a while now, so I feel like I am back to my best. I managed to race the Hail Rally recently, which was a positive part of my training. With the race taking place on the same terrain as the Dakar it also included tricky navigation, so it was perfect for me to race there. My bike is good and I feel good, so I am really confident now and I can’t wait to go racing again.”

 

Franco Caimi was a consistent threat for top five stage results throughout the 2020 Dakar Rally, with the 32-year-old ultimately placing eighth overall to match his career-best result from the 2017 edition. Since then, Franco returned home to his native Argentina and following a brief recovery period and time to reflect, he switched his attention to the 2021 edition. Now, with months of focused training under his belt, Caimi is confident in establishing himself as a title contender. 

Since joining the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team in March 2020, Andrew Short has spent much of the year riding in the Nevada desert, becoming fully acquainted with his Yamaha WR450F Rally machine. Following months of training, he made his racing debut with the team at the Andalucia Rally in Spain where a positive result saw Short confidently adjust to his new team surroundings and further develop his bike set-up. Looking ahead, Andrew has drawn upon his experiences from previous Dakars to form a solid race strategy heading into the 2021 event as he looks forward to taking on the Dakar rally challenge.

 

Much like his teammates Franco and Andrew, Ross Branch has spent much of 2020 training, clocking up countless miles on his Yamaha WR450F Rally in his Botswana homeland. Working on further improving his roadbook skills, and now armed with the full support of the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, Ross is excited to race at the 43rd edition of the Dakar. With Branch looking to harness his raw speed to ensure consistently high stage results, the 34-year-old is aiming for a top 10 overall result.

 

The team’s youngest rider is 26-year-old Jamie McCanney, who is well prepared for what will be his second Dakar Rally. Still very new to the discipline, the Manxman made his Dakar debut a little over a year ago, making positive steps as the event progressed. Towards the end of the two-week race, Jamie enjoyed some rapid progress, delivering his best on stage 11 with sixth overall – a result that helped push him up the leaderboard to 15th in the final classification. With valuable experience earned, and with more time spent working on the set-up of his Yamaha WR450F Rally, McCanney is confident of improving upon his debut result.

 

That’s just on two wheels though. Add another set of wheels for the car and side-by-side classes, and the battle for victory tages just as fiercely.

Nani Roma

 

Joan “Nani” Roma has spent half his life contesting the Dakar, and is one of its most experienced competitors. The 48-year-old Spaniard won the motorcycle class in 2004 in Africa on a KTM and repeated the incredible feat on four wheels in South America in 2014 with Mini. While Roma again scored big with an awesome second place at Dakar 2019 in South America, the Spaniard’s Saudi Arabian campaign ended in 27th last year. 

 

This year Roma comes armed with the all new BRX Hunter - built by legendary British engineering firm Prodrive. “My first Dakar was in 1996; I was 23 years old,” explains Roma. “At that time, the main motivation was to discover the world. (Dakar Rally founder) Thierry Sabine was my inspiration, and it was a dream come true to take the start.

 

South America or Saudi Arabia it can be from 6 to 8 hours, but if something goes wrong, be prepared to spend the night in the freezing desert. I’m ready for the challenge ahead this year - as I always am for the Dakar. Dakar is about always being ready and never giving up. I have an exciting new car and team supporting me this year, and I’m confident we can push for a great result.”

Nani Roma

 

Joan “Nani” Roma has spent half his life contesting the Dakar, and is one of its most experienced competitors. The 48-year-old Spaniard won the motorcycle class in 2004 in Africa on a KTM and repeated the incredible feat on four wheels in South America in 2014 with Mini. While Roma again scored big with an awesome second place at Dakar 2019 in South America, the Spaniard’s Saudi Arabian campaign ended in 27th last year. 

 

This year Roma comes armed with the all new BRX Hunter - built by legendary British engineering firm Prodrive. “My first Dakar was in 1996; I was 23 years old,” explains Roma. “At that time, the main motivation was to discover the world. (Dakar Rally founder) Thierry Sabine was my inspiration, and it was a dream come true to take the start.

 

South America or Saudi Arabia it can be from 6 to 8 hours, but if something goes wrong, be prepared to spend the night in the freezing desert. I’m ready for the challenge ahead this year - as I always am for the Dakar. Dakar is about always being ready and never giving up. I have an exciting new car and team supporting me this year, and I’m confident we can push for a great result.”

Monster Energy Can-Am

 

Winners of last year’s Dakar Rally - the Monster Energy Can-Am Team are back in action with four crews. Brazilian Reinaldo Varela, Pole Aron Domżala, Spaniard Gerard Farrés are joined by a new face, American Austin Jones. 

 

The incredibly talented Jones - who thanks to his father Jesse Jones has enjoyed a lifelong immersion in off-road racing. Jones started out as his father’s co-driver in ‘Best in the Desert’, then later graduating to winning events like the Parker 425 and Baja 1000 before committing to the challenge of mastering European-style off-road rallies with Monster Energy Racing Can-Am Team.

 

Jones also replaces 2020 winner Casey Currie, who is sitting this year’s edition out. Casey said: “In 2019 we worked all year chasing the Trophy no other American has won. In January we accomplished the goal of winning DAKAR. Since then the World has changed and goals had to be shifted. With the new goals we have decided to sit this year’s Dakar out. I appreciate everyone reaching out and I love talking Rally and Dakar. We will be back for 2022.”

 

The four drivers - along with their co-drivers Maykel Justo, Maciej Marton, Armand Monleón and Gustavo Gugelmin - will be pushing their SSVs to the limit in pursuit of the ultimate off-road podium.

 

Fielding four cars - including a new face; the incredibly talented American driver Austin Jones - who thanks to his father Jesse Jones and a lifelong immersion in off-road racing. Jones started as his father’s co-driver in ‘Best in the Desert’ competition. 

 

Later, Jones graduated to winning events like the Parker 425 and Baja 1000 before committing to the challenge of mastering European-style off-road rallies with Monster Energy Racing Can-Am.

 

Returning to the Monster Energy Can-Am is the former winner, Brazilian driver Reinaldo Varela (2018); also returning is renowned racer Gerard Farrés, from Spain. New to the team is the up-and-coming Polish hotshoe Aron Domżała.

 

Let battle commence!

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