Jeddah, Saudi Arabia – 15/01/2021
“I wanted something difficult and Dakar delivered”, says Andrew Houlihan.
After over 8,000 km of dealing with sand, rocks, stones, more sand – and let’s throw in some massive dunes – and so much dust he could barely see at times, Andrew Houlihan has finished the 2021 Dakar Rally.
For Andrew, that also marks the achievement of a massive goal that’s been years in the making.
And during the 12 days of racing, there was something else that Andrew had to deal with – he had fractured the scaphoid in his right wrist in a fall on day 3!
For the rest of the rally he rode with his wrist heavily strapped and in intense pain.
“It then became a mental and physical challenge every single day”, he says.
Despite that, he steadily worked his way up through the field to finish the rally in 50th place.
He said the final stage was probably the best day and riding conditions.
He travelled much of the short 202km special with his Coca-Cola Nomadas Adventure teammate, Pablo Guillen, crossing the finish line together. Pablo finished in 48th overall.
The only issue during today’s final stage was that his airbag vest was set off by a heavy landing as Andrew jumped an erosion hole. He needed to stop for nearly 20 minutes to replace the air canister.
For both riders, simply completing the gruelling rally is an achievement, especially on their first attempt. Many didn’t.
“I ended up in 50th place which I’m very happy with, and rolling up on that finisher’s podium was something I’ll never forget. It’s an amazing feeling.”
“To my teammate Pablo – thank you! And congratulations on your 48th place.”
The rally was won by Kevin Benavides ahead of his Monster Energy Honda teammate Ricky Brabec.
Benavides becomes the first South American to win in the bike category, and the Honda 1-2 is the first since 1987.
The two KTMs of Sam Sunderland and Daniel Sanders filled 3rd and 4th places.
Apart from Brabec, Sunderland was realistically the only other rider in a position to challenge Benavides for the win. But his hopes faded as he searched for a waypoint in the dunes for just over 10 minutes early in the special.
Sanders, who was only recruited by the KTM factory outfit late last year, finished the best of the Australians.
He came into the Dakar as a rookie but with extensive off road racing experience. The question was whether his relatively raw navigation skills were enough to get him through the complex process of navigating through the Dakar. He proved they were!
After a successful first run in the Dakar Rally, the Nomadas team now packs up and heads home.
Andrew’s final words today …
“I haven’t been on social media throughout the race and have just seen all the messages. Thanks to everyone for your support, I’m blown away by how many people were following my progress.”
“A huge thanks to Alistair Nicoll for coming to Saudi Arabia with me and being there for me through the race. Alistair also compiled the daily report that was published by Motorcycle Life and SpeedCafe.”
“Thanks to my rally family, Pablo Guillen, Hernan Samaniego, Tess Escribano, Ashish Raorane, our mechanic Jakob and Santiago our photographer.”
“Just like previous events I have kept an in depth daily diary of everything that occurred, I will share this over the next few weeks.”