Ricky Brabec won Vegas-to-Reno for the third time of his career.
For as strange as this unprecedented year has gone, it’s actually working out well for Monster Energy Honda Team/Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Ricky Brabec. He started out, of course, by becoming the first American to win the Dakar Rally and followed that up with a triumphant Sonora Rally performance. And with the majority of remaining rallies this year cancelled or postponed due to the ongoing global pandemic, he couldn’t pass up the chance to do a race closer to home: the 24th Maxxis/Casey Folks Vegas-to-Reno, round three in Best in the Desert’s American Off-road Racing Series.
Having won in 2014 and 2017, a victory this year would put the two-time AMA Hare & Hound Champion in elite company indeed, further cementing his name among the legends in desert racing lore.
It wouldn’t be easy, though. He’d drawn the 10th starting position, meaning he’d have to battle dust for much of the 514 miles between the resurrected Amargosa Valley start and the traditional finish in Dayton. But Brabec proved up to the challenge, finally charging into the physical lead not far from the finish and completing the journey by himself in seven hours, 59 minutes and 54.75 seconds.
“I knew winning wasn’t going to be easy and [defending race and series champ] Skyler [Howes] kept me on my toes all day; we were both pushing it,” Brabec admitted. “This third win really means a lot.”
Brabec was fourth-fastest entry overall, three Trick Trucks besting his time on the high-speed course. It also put him over 17 minutes ahead of Champion Adventures Honda’s Nic Garvin, who also soloed but on a production AHM Factory Services/STI Tires/Torco CRF450X, finishing in 8:17:10.59.
The trio of Nic Colangelli/Evan Kelly/Sage Vincent rounded out the top three aboard their 3 Bros. KTM/DT Racing/Acerbis 450 XC-F in 8:19:01.56.
Garvin enjoyed a little over 100 miles leading the way, having drawn the first start position. However, he couldn’t answer when Howes caught and passed him on a high-speed road section, so Garvin settled in behind.
Howes appeared to be well on his way to another win aboard his Garrett Off-road Racing/Lake Powell Off-Road/Fly Racing-backed Husky FE 501. Unfortunately for him, he crashed out late in the race, saying, “Garvin said I just drifted around a corner into a rock and high-sided, according to my tracks. Really glad it wasn’t worse. Got all checked out and I’m fine. Glad Ricky was there to wake me up and get me situated so I could ride into the pit.”
Brabec was the first on scene, throwing his bike down and quickly assessing Howes. After making sure Howes wasn’t seriously injured, Brabec rode on, the new physical leader after spending so much of the race in dust.
“I got to pit three (one of only three pit stops the team scheduled for him, taking full advantage of the nearly nine-gallon onboard fuel capacity) and I had only made up like 40 seconds, I think, on Skyler,” Brabec said. “Then I got to pit seven and Johnny pulled me aside and said, ‘You’re going to have to drop the hammer the rest of the way because Skyler’s not letting up.’ I was able to push and catch Skyler’s dust and then I was in Skyler’s dust from pit 10 to almost 13 and then he hit a rock, unfortunately, and high-sided and kind of knocked himself silly.”
Garvin was next to reach Howes and said, “I could see the pit so I made sure he was good and about that time I realized that I was in second.”
He was also worried that he’d lose second since he was dealing with an unknown issue: “I had to baby the motorcycle basically at quarter throttle for the last 65 miles or it’d quit, so I was actually sweating bullets.”
However, the eventual third-place team of Colangelli/Kelly/Vincent had its hands full battling the 3 Bros. KTM pair of Hayden Hintz/Trevor Hunter and Beta’s Zane Roberts/Joe Wasson. After starting 11th, Colangelli/Kelly/Vincent moved into third in the first half of the race, Colangelli citing a fast bike and excellent pit work. A tire change at pit seven dropped them behind a bit, but they regained the lost ground and ended up with third, while Hintz/Hunter and Roberts/Wasson rounded out the top five.
For more information and the complete results, visit www.bitd.com