“Don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out and meet the bloody thing.”
– Barry Sheene
Ricky Brabec is rolling towards the airplane that will deliver the defending Dakar Rally Champion to Saudi Arabia where he’ll prepare to defend his 2020 title.
‘It’s always good, I believe, to train with another Dakar Rally racer, so that way you can get some experience gauging speed and time and when you go to the line at Dakar on day one,” said the Californian. “Andrew Short is great. Andrew is, in my opinion, a really good asset. He is smart. He’s full of information, whether it’s supercross, motocross, parts preferences, bike preferences. He’s been around a very long time and he’s not an airhead.”
Looming before Andrew Short and the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Official Team WR450F is the 2021 version of the Dakar Rally. Short, a veteran Monster Energy AMA Supercross and Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship challenger here in the U.S., is also a Motocross of Nations champion with Team USA who won nine AMA races and hit the podium 55 times.
Q: A lot goes into tooling up for the Dakar Rally. Can you speak to all that?
ANDREW SHORT: Yeah, that’s what’s so cool about rally. In motocross, you go fast during the race and go hard from the time the gate drops until the checkered flag. In rally, there are so many things that go into it. It’s not just about speed. It goes from the preparation beforehand, and even thinking about what to pack, and the travel, and it’s just a big sense of adventure from the time you commit to it. This is what attracts me to rallying and that rally spirit and what it stands for. You always have to adapt and do the best with what you have. You see and encounter all kind of things, and you have to have an open mindset.
Q: So when you get to Saudi Arabia, where do you go?
AS: The first hurdle was traveling because of COVID; all of the regular flights were cancelled, even if you had a visa. The promoter, ASO, which also does the Tour de France, they charter flights from all over to get people to the race, and you have a 48-hour quarantine and a COVID test. Once you’re inside the bubble where the race is going to start and finish, you pretty much don’t leave, which is fine for rally. They have a bivouac set up, which is essentially just pits if you’re a racer. It goes from place to place. So yeah, the first little bit it’s a lot of scrutineering, checks and safety checks and all kinds of this nature that takes place at the beginning, but once the racing starts, it seems like you’re mind never turns off or stops. You’re body is always moving and thinking and trying to strategize what’s going to happen in the coming days, so you’re wide-open and full-gas.
Q: I was at the Motocross of Nations at the 2010 Motocross of Nations where you led TEAM USA to victory. What a fabulous thing to look back on, huh? And what a cool counter-balance it is that having won the greatest motocross race in the world, now you’re racing in the greatest rally race in the world.
AS: Well, I think it’s a passion, you know? I love riding dirt bikes and it doesn’t really matter if I’m racing or riding. It can be trails or mountains or going to Baja – wherever – I love it all. It’s massive worldwide attention this race gets. This is an epic life experience. I raced a lot of motocross races all over the world from Japan to Europe and Supercross races all over the place. To do an event like this, an event that I never cared about or knew about until just recently… this is something that will be a part of me and leaves an impression for the rest of my life. It’s also cool to be surrounded by people that are so committed and people who want to be the best.
Q: I’ve spoken Ricky Brabec all week and he’s been extremely complimentary of both you and your professionalism. How do you like working and training and testing with Ricky and Johnny Campbell and the rest of the Honda HRC outfit?
AS: Yeah, I do nothing but the technical side with them, you know? I’m a completely different program. For one, it was really awesome to have had an American do so well at Dakar and do the unthinkable. It’s like the Americans winning 6 Days (Note: International Six Days Enduro race, which has been held since 1913). Forever, no one thought that would ever happen, and to see Ricky win and overcome all of that, it’s huge just to be a part of that group and to ride and train with those guys…
Jimmy Lewis has been a huge asset with the navigation part. He’s got a great mind for sharing and teaching and learning for dirt bikes. We’ve had access to deserts back in America. All of us got together and we were able to ride and do a lot of navigation and road book training. I have to be good at navigation because I’m not wiling to take the chances and go as fast as I can. I mean, Ricky goes really fast in the desert because he grew up there and he knows it and it’s part of his DNA. I have to really lean on navigation to be good and to have a chance. I like that aspect. Hard to learn. I really underestimated that.
Q: You’re a supercross racer running 110 miles an hour on flat dirt and trying to read everything and trying to deal with the navigation… How is that for you? You came from racing on tracks in stadiums before 50,000 fans, and now you’re out there in the middle of nowhere…
AS: If you’re going in the right direction, it definitely helps! If you’re confident in where you’re going… I mean, you’re riding for hours on end. You make one mistake or go the wrong direction, that’s 15 minutes. There is so much that goes into it. Everything is gnarly. If you’re bike breaks out there, you have to fix it yourself. These are things that I never had to carry or even think about in Supercross; these are skills that value. It’s just one thing after another in rally.
Q: Can you win this thing?
AS: I really feel like I had a really good chance last year to win, but had some stuff happen to me on day one and day two and my race was over. I’ve never been so dejected. Dude, I was in a bad spot after that. I had a good opportunity and it just didn’t go my way. For this year I have a little bit more of a open mentality, especially this year. I don’t want to crash. I have to be in it every day, and if I can make it to the rest day in good position, I’ll be in a good spot to do good in week two. I need to be a little smarter. I need to let the race come to me. Last year I felt like I had a good opportunity to win it, but forced it and crashed and made some poor decisions. I wanted it too much. This year, I think I have a great chance at doing well. We’ll see what happens.