A new season of the World Rally-Raid Championship kicks off this week with the Monster Energy Honda Team all set to tackle the Dakar Rally aboard the new Honda CRF450 RALLY. The current FIM Manufacturers’ World Championship holders will see a line up featuring world leading riders with victories on the Dakar and the very hardest of W2RC rallies under their belt.
With the only American to win the Dakar, 2020 winner Ricky Brabec, alongside Chilean rider Jose Ignacio Cornejo who is looking to get that elusive podium finish, American Skyler Howes, who was a new signing to the team in September, will also be on a mission for victory after his third place finish in 2023. Spaniard Tosha Schareina will also be one to watch after his victory on the Argentine Desafio Ruta 40 last year.
The 2020 and 2022 Dakar Rally runner-up Pablo Quintanilla will be looking to go one step higher on the podium to take the most prized trophy in motorsport back to Chile, while Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren will also be strong in the overall standings after his success over the past two seasons at Andalucia and Abu Dhabi.
Honda is no stranger to winning the world’s toughest rally, its first victory coming in 1982 at the hands of Frenchman Cyril Neveu who went onto win it again in 1986 and ’87, before Edi Orioli and Gilles Lalay took over the top step with the ever dominant NXR750 in the two years that followed when it was the original Paris-Dakar Rally in Africa.
Ricky Brabec added his name to the history books in 2020 and Kevin Benavides made it a second consecutive victory for Honda in 2021 as the Monster Energy Honda Team will now look to make a return to the victory circle with a strong rider line up.
The 2024 Dakar Rally is shaping up to be harder than the previous editions as the riders will not only endure 7,967 kilometres of riding across a prologue and 12 stages but it’ll also include the new ’48-hour chrono’ stage which will test the endurance of man and machine across the legendary Empty Quarter in Saudi Arabia. There’ll be no communication with the outside world, no help from mechanics and entrants will have no idea where they are in relation to their fellow competitors when they bed down for the night at one of seven bivouacs dotted across stage six. Plus it’ll hit at just the midpoint of the event, so although a rest day follows, there’ll be a further six days of action to go.
The fifth Dakar in the spectacular Saudi Arabian desert will see 60% of all-new sections on the stages as the route starts at the historical AlUla before winding across to the far Eastern town of Shubaytah before returning to the finish at the coastal town of Yanbu by the Red Sea after 14 days of rallying. Expect plenty of stunning backdrops as the riders make their way through this epic adventure in a test of skill, speed and endurance.
In the words of the creator of the world’s most famous motorsport event, the late Thierry Sabine,« A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind » and this challenge will commence for the Monster Energy Honda riders on Friday 5th January 2024 when the 46th edition will kick off with a 28km Prologue.
Ruben Faria – General Manager : « The 2024 Dakar Rally will be a really tough as what David Castera (Director, Dakar Rally) has done is make the stages longer and tougher than 2023. He’s introduced new ideas including the 48 hour chrono stage which will see the riders supplied with just basic rations and just a tent and sleeping bag plus there’ll be no campers, no mechanics and all in the middle of a 600 kilometre stage, so it’ll be very difficult.
« The riders have tested the new Honda CRF450 RALLY early during 2023 and all the riders have all enjoyed riding it during testing too. We had a very successful test before the Rallye Du Maroc in October before our riders teamed up with each other meaning Adrien and Tosha went to Morocco, Ricky and Skyler trained in the USA and Pablo and Nacho rode at home in Chile. We also had a test in early December too so I’m happy that all our riders are in good shape with no injuries on a new bike that we believe will perform well. »
Pablo Quintanilla #7 : « This is a special one as this is my twelfth Dakar, so I’m super motivated to start plus I feel really good and strong and, I am without injury and that’s important for this race. As always I will do my best with the goal to win. I will do everything to achieve this as the most important thing when you finish a rally is to feel like you gave 100% to fight for the victory. »
Ricky Brabec #9 : « I’m looking forward to this edition of the Dakar as we will be going in through rocks and riding a bit more in the open desert so that’s good for as I feel like it’s my strong point on the motorcycle.
« It’s going to be a long 12 days with many new things out there with the 48h Chrono stage, fresh locations and the unknowing factor of the weather as things like this all play a factor. I’m really looking forward to getting to the finish of this Dakar as this is my ninth one, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed and keeping my hopes high for a good outcome. »
Skyler Howes #10 : « I am pretty excited for the 2024 Dakar. The route looks really fun with some new challenges and looking at the differences in terrain with more broken rocks and stones, it looks like this year it’ll be very physically demanding which is good for me. I prefer to have a rally like this as it makes things more challenging with the navigation plus this makes for a good rally. I am feeling focused and confident so I’m excited to see what this Dakar can bring us with the new motorcycle. »
José Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Cornejo #11 : « Heading into this rally I’ve been having some good training sessions after having had a good couple of recent rallies with the team so I’m happy with the bike, in a good place and looking forward to 2024. My preparation coming into the Dakar has been similar to previous years so I’m ready both physically and mentally for this tough challenge. »
Adrien Van Beveren #42 : « We compete in the World Rally-Raid Championship but the Dakar Rally is the one that everybody wants to win and that’s also my dream; my life is centred around this so I’m really happy to be here for another chance to go for victory.
« The new Honda CRF450 RALLY is amazing. I had some requests after the Morocco rally and the Monster Energy Honda Team and Japan have been working really hard for me that’s made me really happy with the modifications on my bike. I can’t wait to start. »
Tosha Schareina #68 : « It’s very exciting as it’s my third Dakar and the first with the Monster Energy Honda Team. We know it’ll be a tough rally but it’s the first year I arrive with my homework done regarding navigation and bike training as having been able to do the World Rally-Raid Championship and having done extra kilometres of training in the desert, this has given me extra confidence to face the Dakar properly. »