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Americans Are Taking This Rally Thing Seriously

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Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Maybe that’s why rally racing isn’t as popular here in the US as it is in Europe or other countries. We don’t see it and we don’t see American racers competing in it. Perhaps Americans just need to get better at geography, as a lot of the races are in far off lands we have little to no reference of.

But Ricky Brabec wants to change that. Actually, he just wants to ride a big dirt bike really fast and that is exactly what he does. It is us, the few rally fans in America, who want him to change that. Over the last seven days, the 2017 OiLibya Morocco Rally has torn across the deserts of North Africa and the Monster Energy Honda racer took his first stage victory in an FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship race and the first time Brabec finish on a podium in such an event. He finished third overall behind teammate Kevin Benavides and KTM Factory Racing’s Matthias Walkner.

Here is what Brabec had to say after his stage victory: “I had a tough time over the previous days with a bad cold that meant I didn’t feel at all comfortable over the first day, but I think that the heat has done me some good. I’m really happy to have won this first stage in the world championship and for the two final stages we will see if we can help the team get a result. The navigation today was pretty difficult in some spots. It was a really fast track today so it was fairly easy to look down and take your time. Some parts were really confusing with all the tracks going in every direction, which was tough. The bike feels good. The rougher terrain for me is better. I was raised in California and our deserts are pretty rough so I’m used to that and it’s one of my strong points. We’ll see what tomorrow has to bring. I can open the track well and get a top five in the stage. The speed is there for us; it just comes down to navigation at that speed, which is tough. We’ll get there eventually. I’m still learning how to go fast and read the roadbook at the same time. We’re working on it.”

And what he had to say after the final stage: “I started off with a cold and sweating and getting hot for no reason; stuffy nose, sore throat. It’s been tough. It was tough for the first few days but I was able to get my stuff together. Eventually I made it happen and got my first podium in a professional world championship rally. That’s pretty big for me. It’s gonna make the plane ride home a little bit better, knowing that I did pretty well. So I’m happy. For this we’ve had a very good experience going toward the Dakar. We have a very strong team despite some problems. The whole team wasn’t here, but I think that Honda can take some Dakar podiums. The bike ran perfectly and we didn’t have to change anything except the tires. Thanks to my mechanic Hide. He’s amazing. Thanks to the whole team for setting up a good spec for me and now we’ll push forward toward the Dakar.”

Not to be counted out, we Yanks have another spoon in the pot—Rockstar Husqvarna’s Andrew Short. Now, he has nowhere near the experience Brabec does when it comes to rally and off-road racing, but he does have almost two decades of motocross and supercross racing experience to draw from. We’re guessing he probably won’t be using any of the same exact skills like whipping over triples or railing bowl turns in rally racing, but, hey, racing is racing.

“My main goals coming into the Morocco Rally was to finish, stay safe, and learn,” Short said. “I’m happy to say I’ve managed to achieve all of them. Looking forward now I feel that I have to learn a lot in a short amount of time to be where I want to be and be competitive. On one hand I’m very happy; on the other hand I know I need to keep working hard to get where I want to be. I’m very thankful for the team and appreciative of all the resources they have been giving me. I really enjoy the rally community and the race and everything that went along with it. It was a good week here in Morocco.”

We look forward to seeing more rally racing from Shorty, and we can be confident that we have a seriously legit American contender in next year’s Dakar Rally.

Position Rider Country Team Constructor Time/Gap
1 Matthias Walkner AUT KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 10:03'49
2 Kevin Benavides ARG Monster Energy Honda Team HON +13'42
3 Ricky Brabec USA Monster Energy Honda Team HON +16'58
4 Antoine Meo FRA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +18'27
5 Joan Pedrero SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory SHR +22'28
6 Adrien Metge FRA Sherco TVS Rally Factory SHR +36'52
7 Pablo Quintanilla CHI Husqvarna Factory Rally Team HSQ +37'22
8 Joaquim Rodrigues POR Hero Motorsports Team Rally Hero +44'29
9 Laia Sanz SPA KTM Factory Racing Team KTM +44'52
10 Lorenzo Santolino SPA Sherco TVS Rally Factory SHR +54'30