Ricky Brabec is currently recognized as Southern California’s newest off-road racing superstar, and he has already begun to make quite a name for himself not only stateside but worldwide.
Riding on the the wings of the Team HRC factory Honda rally factory effort in rallies all over the globe and 11-time Baja champion Johnny Campbell’s JCR Honda squad in the 2016 SRT/AMA National Championship Hare & Hound Series in the U.S., Brabec is truly flying high.
It hasn’t always been that way. The road to success has been a rocky one for Brabec. Growing up in the extremely competitive AMA District 37 Desert racing scene, he created quite a name for himself at a young age, but by the time he finished high school his race funding had dwindled, and working and partying caused him to drift away from racing. It wasn’t until 2010 before Brabec realized he needed to make a change if he wanted to have any kind of a racing career at all.
But change he did. From 2011-2013 Ricky rekindled his love affair with racing by competing in SCORE Baja and Best in the Desert events. His talent was never in doubt, and once he got his racing chops back in good form, he began to win. A lot. These performances did not go unnoticed, and he soon found a home with Scott Jacobson and THR Motorsports. With a good team behind him, Brabec didn’t disappoint, and in 2014 he pratically conquered the rugged western deserts, earning the SRT/AMA National Hare And Hound, SCORE World Desert Championship, and Best in the Desert titles all in the same year–the first racer in history to do so.
Brabec then capitalized on his off-road racing experience by taking on a new challenge when he received an offer by Team HRC to try his throttle hand at international rally racing. Once again, Brabec proved his capabilities, ultimately earning a seat with Team HRC for the 2016 Dakar Rally where he finished ninth overall in rookie outing. Now a full-fledged member of the team, Brabec appears to have a bright future ahead of him, and he could be America’s best hope for a Dakar Rally win.
The tattoo’d Brabec may project a bad boy image, but get to know him and you will soon find out that he prefers beating on people with humor and wit rather than his fists, and that when it comes to racing he is all business.
Nic Garvin: Bro! What’s up! You ready to handle this interview? Let’s go easy on you, what’s your favorite food!? Ha!
Ricky Brabec: Come on! Mexican food all the way homie!
Nic Garvin: Well, shoot. I could have answered that for you. So give us a day with Ricky Brabec
Ricky Brabec: Bro, go on to YouTube! I have a video on there. Well you know, I’m on my phone a lot, but, I guess I wake up, drink some coffee, go to the gym, get home eat some breakfast whip out the ole mountain/road bike and go for a solid training ride. Come home and be bored because everyone else is at work, or maybe I’ll go rip up the dirt in Honda Valley.
Nic Garvin: Well, I’d say that’s an advantage, living literally at Honda Valley?
Ricky Brabec: Ha! Yeah! You can ride right from my house. I’ve got trails, corner tracks, tracks, cycling roads, mountain bike trails, and have plenty of opportunities to go blaze new trail. When it rains its going to be epic! Essentially I can do everything I need to do right from my house because of Honda Valley.
Nic Garvin: So, is that an invite for us Dirtbikes.com dudes to come ride when it rains?
Ricky Brabec: Well, yeah. I need like five people dude. Half the dudes won’t even ride it, bro. I always picture my rides as if there is ribbon in the valley. You have to go where the ribbon is going, and that’s how I envision myself and my riding.
Nic Garvin: Well, that brings me to my next question. Currently you’re leading the SRT/AMA National Hare & Hound Championship, and you also have a National title. Tell us about the year that you not only won the National Hare & Hound title but also the SCORE and Best in the Desert titles. Was it a struggle racing all of those races?
Ricky Brabec: It worked out really well, actually. I had the backup for anything that I might need from Scott Jacobson over at THR Motorsports. Bob Bell at Precision Concepts basically built me the best bikes during the week, and we came out with three championships. Between those two guys, they helped me get to where I am today. There were tough times, but Scott always footed the bill for me, and still to this day he’s an awesome guy. It was mentally tough going to races, but physically I was there.
Nic Garvin: Speaking of, Baja. Do you see yourself going back there in the future?
Ricky Brabec: Yes. I want to get the 1x plate back. I think it would be very difficult to do. Colton [Udall] might want to beat me up, but I want to get it back at least one more time.
Nic Garvin: Give us some insight on how National Hare & Hound has helped you become a better Baja racer.
Ricky Brabec: Racing hare & hounds teaches you a lot; you can’t pre-run the course, and you learn to adapt to reading terrain at race pace. Baja is basically racing the bomb run for multiple miles of pure sketchiness. It’s more about smart racing–you can’t open your eyes and pin it. If you do, you’ll land on the ground. Going slower is faster for sure. It also helps the more time you spend down there, and you feel way more comfortable. It just benefits you all around.
Nic Garvin: You’ve got a lot of experience out in the desert, and you “guys” [Jacob Argubright, Nick Burson, Gary Sutherlin and Ivan Ramirez] are still on top of your game right now. Who do you see in your eyes that are up an coming?
Ricky Brabec: Well, look at you and Ryan Smith! You dudes were on the podium a few weeks ago at the National Hare Scrambles. Ryan and you are going good, dude.
Nic Garvin: Hey thanks! But I’m going to give credit where credit is due: Ryan has been racing a lot more and consistently been putting it up there.
Ricky Brabec: He’s on that Brabec program, dude! Ryan is going good. It’s all about that cycling and burgers, dude! You both are going good, though.
Nick Garvin: How about the kids? And the youth series that NHHA puts on?
Ricky Brabec: Man, that Tyler Lynn kid and Mason Matthews, those kids are ripping good right now. I know there’s a lot more kids, but I’m bad with names. They all are going good, but those two stand out the most, and I really think that the youth hare and hound series is great for the kids! Its good that Erek Kudla [Now working with the AMA as the Off-Road Racing Manager] started that. It gives the kids something that they’re going to see in the near future and getting used to for the big bikes. Just from what I see, these kids dig the series. The youth series is almost as big as the big-bike race. Half the campers out there are for the youth series, and it’s a great environment not only for them to be racing but also camping and spending time out in the desert.
Nic Garvin: How did your rally career begin? Seems like it was out of the blue!
Ricky Brabec: I didn’t even know I was going into rally. Quinn Cody called me really early one morning, because Quinn wakes up really early and likes to get all his bugs out of the way. So, he called me one morning and asked if I was interested in racing rally. I basically told him that I had no clue what he was talking about but told him it sounds fun, lets give it a try! He got me in contact with the HRC team to race in Dubai, and they liked my results so they brought me to the Ruta 40 in Aregentina, and once again liked my results there! That just ultimately landed myself in Dakar, and after that race they gave me a contract, and now here I am racing what I love to do in National Hare & Hound and rally racing with the two best teams [Team HRC Rally and Johnny Campbell Racing].
Nic Garvin: So, I asked Jake this question, but what was it like growing up and racing Jake [Argubright]? And what about your hiatus from racing?
Ricky Brabec: Of course, I was racing in high school against those guys [Argubright and Burson], and it was really easy for me to go race when pops was footing the bill. Then I graduated high school and eventually had to get a job and start paying for my own things. That gets expensive, as you know personally. It’s hard when you’re not a factory rider or a factory-supported rider. I started working hard and riding hard, but you start to party when you get out of high school because that is what everybody does. I fell off for a little bit, then one day I decided worked sucked. So, I lost the weight, put in the time and somehow connected myself with Scott Jacobson and THR motorsports. Once that happened, I progressed from there, and now here we are. Do you come up with all these questions? [laughs]
Nic Garvin: Well in a way I do. I come up with questions about subjects that I want to talk about with you!
Ricky Brabec: Hell yeah, dude!
Nic Garvin:: Well, let’s end it on a good note. Give us your favorite three racers and tell us why.
Ricky Brabec: Dave Pearson. He’s kind of big, like me! And of course Destry Abbott because he was old and killing everyone. You can’t leave out Kurt Caselli. He’s the man–best well rounded racer and won everything he went into.
Nic Garvin: Well, you seem to be following the footsteps of Kurt Caselli.
Ricky Brabec: Pssh! Yeah, right. I wish.
Nic Garvin: Ricky, thanks for taking the time to do this interview with Dirtbikes.com. We hope to see you excel in the near future.
Ricky Brabec: Thanks Mr. Nic.