American Ricky Brabec and his HRC teammates tackle Desafio Ruta 40 in preparation for the Dakar Rally.
As I sit here in Southern California, the mecca of desert racing, it is hard to understand how American riders have made so little impact on the world of rally racing. The Dakar Rally is something nearly every dirt biker has dreamed of competing in. Not only is it a huge challenge, but the fascination with the exotic nature of Dakar is like a siren song to almost any motorcyclist.
Yet only a handful of Americans have competed at the top level of Rally racing. These riders represent some of our best; Danny LaPorte, Chris Blaise, Jimmy Lewis, Andy Grider, Quinn Cody, Paul Krause and of course the late Kurt Caselli. With the exception of a few stages, big wins have been elusive for the native born desert racers.
Now Ricky Brabec gets his chance as a member of the HRC Honda Rally team. Ricky is a homegrown desert racer too. He has competed in AMA district 37, the National Hare and Hound series and of course Baja. He is no newcomer either. He has been at the top of the local scene for nearly a decade.
Like Caselli, speed should be no problem for Ricky. I remember Kurt explaining to me that the top rally guys didn’t really go very fast in his opinion. But compared to Kurt’s speed, I guess no one is very fast. Yet Rally racing is far more than just going fast, there is so much to learn. The technical aspects are pretty daunting, there are lots of little things that have to be learned so well as to become automatic responses.
On top of that is the game of cat and mouse rally racers play with each other. Being fastest is not always the best strategy. If a rider knows that tomorrow is going to be a difficult navigation stage, he may choose to lay back today and finish behind the top riders so that he does not have to start first and open the next day’s stage.
Okay, now let me share one quick story I have with Ricky. Back in about 2009 I was racing a local desert race. I started well, but had some mechanical problems that put me way behind. So I was just cruising to get to the finish. As I crossed the last valley, I came on Ricky who had broken a chain and was pushing his bike. The finish was in sight, but still a mile or so away. I stopped and checked on Ricky. I offered to tow him to the finish, but he replied, “No I am fine, it isn’t too far”. I countered that it was still a long way to push and I wasn’t really racing myself. But he insisted, so I just rode on and let him keep pushing. I thought it was pretty humorous. Click Here…