Reigning champ unhappy with new rear tyre limit for 2021 Dakar Rally

Monster Energy Honda’s defending champion Ricky Brabec has slammed a new Dakar Rally rule that limits riders to six rear tyres for 12 days of racing.

With the start of the 2021 event in Saudi Arabia just weeks away, the American described the rule – introduced by event promoter ASO in an attempt to lower speeds – as “horrible” and said he thinks it could have the opposite effect to its intention of improving safety.

“I don’t really agree with the new rules – I think they are more dangerous,” he said. “If we have six rear tyres for 12 days of racing then you have to go two days on one rear tyre and with a bald tyre you can’t really slow down so I think that rule’s absolutely insane.

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“I think that’s the worst rule that ASO could ever make. That’s not really going to slow anyone down – I think we’re still going to push. We’re racing, we’re not out there on a trail ride.”

The 2021 course will comprise 12 stages plus a prologue and 4,800km of timed special tests and, with so many unpredictable factors likely to come into play over such an extended duration, Brabec isn’t about to make any bold statements of intent. 

“It’s definitely harder to back up the championship than it is to get the first one. The target for me is just to show up and ride. We don’t really have a strategy until halfway through the race – just trying to survive every day to get to the rest day and then I think the race will really start.

“Just to stay healthy every day, make it to the bivouac every night and ride as smooth as we can. We’ve been putting in a lot of hard work in California and let’s hope it pays off again.”

Since his Dakar win, Brabec has claimed victories in the Sonora and Vegas to Reno rallies.

“We’ve tried to stay busy throughout the whole year and tried to find any race we can. Due to COVID there hasn’t been much going on. I haven’t really changed anything – obviously what we did worked so we tried to start where we left off. Hopefully it’s still going to work for us in 2021.

“I feel like it’s going to be just as fast as the 2020 Dakar. It’s going to be tough to win again – two times in a row is really tough. We’re going to try to push but we’re also going to try to save our rear tyre for two days. We need to realise that our tyre’s not in the best shape and we need to stay safe and ride conservatively. I think there are days to push and days to kind of sit back and relax and save some energy for another day.”

Brabec – who is joined by José Ignacio Cornejo, Kevin Benavides and Joan Barreda on the factory Honda squad – also discussed team tactics.

“Every rider on the team wants to win so I believe we’re going to race our hearts out and try to do as good as we can, each and every rider. Of course, it’s good for the team to win but every rider wants to win so there’s a lot on the line – all of us are going for it and I think we just race our own race until something starts to shape up and we start strategising how we can keep the one rider ahead. 

“This is something you do maybe after rest day because the first six days everyone is going to be racing and the times are going to be close. You can’t go into the Dakar with the strategy of placing your people. I believe we’re all going to race to win until we know for sure someone on the team can win and then that’s when we come in to surround the rider winning.”

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