Skyler Howes charges into World Rally Raid championship with Dakar podium momentum Saturday’s Supercross Round 7 in Arlington: How to watch, start times, streaming info
“Keep it simple, fool” may seem like a weak-minded anathema to Skyler Howes, who became the fifth American driver in history to finish on the podium of the Dakar Rally last month.
With his signature handlebar moustache and a zen-like attitude for zapping 100-foot sand dunes at 100 mph, Hawes is one of the most unique and intelligent athletes you’ll find in motorcycle racing, and even more so in motorsports in general.
But the St. George, Utah native says his approach is based on a very simple and crude concept.
“There’s a funny saying that when racing in the desert, you have to be a certain dumbass to go fast,” Howes told NBC Sports with a laugh. “Because any reasonable person would look at this as an unreasonable and illogical decision to drive so fast through the desert through terrain that you have never seen before. So there’s this funny aspect, but I look at my thinking and how I approach things more in terms of the idea of experience rather than purpose.
“Of course I want to win and I have a list of things I want to achieve, but the experience I’ve had in life in terms of struggle and success has made me appreciate it all a lot more. So I look at each day as an experience and what I can learn from it, not as an expectation. Thus, some other people may expect to get this particular result or expect it to happen. I think of it more as an experience.”
Hawes’s career as a rising star in the world of rally cycling has been eventful. Although he comes from a family of desert racers (the mustache is a nod to his grandfather), Hawes is relatively new to the sport and in 2019 had to pay his way to Dakar as a rookie privateer.
He broke his neck three months before the 2020 Dakar but still managed to finish ninth. A fifth place finish at the 2021 Dakar saw him enter Husqvarna Factory Racing and resurrect his career.
Last year, Howes, 30, won several races in Morocco and Sonora, Mexico, before finishing third overall in the bike category at the Dakar Rally (8,500 kilometers in 14 days in Saudi Arabia).
This weekend he will take part in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, second round of the World Rally Raid Championshiptakes third place in the standings and is ready to fight adversity.
For Howes, this is as much a part of the journey as the results.
“It’s kind of my way,” he said. “I had to sell everything to get to this point, primarily because I didn’t want to look back and say, ‘What if I try harder.’ In the same way, I approach the race as a whole. I don’t want to look back and say that I could probably win if I just tried a little harder. It’s always a joke I tell if someone is upset that they didn’t win. “Well, you should have just gone faster.
“So I have this aspect that there is a bit of zen in it. If you make a mistake, well, that’s what it is. This is what happened today. All you can do is take that experience and use it the next day, the next race, and hopefully you do better. At the end of the day, I want to look back and enjoy each of these experiences, good or bad, and be able to use it in my daily life for the next race and be able to learn and grow from it.”
NBC Sports caught the eloquent Hawes last week (video above or by clicking here) before he left to return to the Middle East for his second major motorcycle event in two months in the Arabian Peninsula. He will be one of the favorites for the second round, especially after Dakar winner Kevin Benavidez. withdrew after being injured in an accident.
Here is the forecast for Skyler Hawes heading to Abu Dhabi (whose first leg starts on February 26):
Q: How does it feel to bask in the glory after finishing on the podium at the Dakar Rally?
Skyler Howes: “It was pretty cool. My girlfriend and many of my friends put on this party which was really cool. I saw so many people come out and express their love and support and it was amazing. It’s just that everyone in the US, Utah and around the world supporting this catwalk has been such a cool thing.
“But since we’re at home, it’s definitely not the time to rest. It took me about a week to finally get my adrenaline down and get back on a sleep schedule, but it was a direct return to training because we’re leaving here pretty soon for the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. It’s straight back to work. This result is something really cool and I want to celebrate it, but I think it will have to wait until the summer.”
Q: So, after two weeks of grueling desert driving in a foreign country, it takes about a week to detox when you return to the States?
Skyler Howes: “Yes, it’s hard because you almost fall into this state of flow. You enter this awakening zone at 2:30 in the morning. You are on your bike by 4. You start the special when the sun rises. You eat energy gels and protein bars all day. Pasta and other things to keep going.
“By the time you get to day 10 or 12, it will be like normal life, and that’s how it should be. And once you cross the finish line, it’s like a huge adrenaline rush. The second you get home and sit on the couch for a second, it’s crazy to think about it. ‘Cause when you’re chasing, that’s what you gotta do. One day right after another. And once you can essentially relax, that deep sleep and everything else will definitely want to work. You get very tired, and in addition to this, the biorhythm changes. It’s a heavy loss.”
Question; After Dakar, you also went to Austria. spend time at Husqvarna headquarters Also?
Skyler Howes: “Yeah, there was also a big celebration for all the workers. So we had to drive around the factory while the workers were resting. Gotta sign autographs and celebrate with them. Which is nice, because after all, we are factory racers, so basically these people can have jobs and build bikes. So to drive and meet them face to face and have a more personal experience was really, really cool. Because usually they just build motorcycles and don’t necessarily see them racing or just on TV. So being there in person, shaking hands and seeing everyone was very, very cool. They put on a really nice party for us and it was a really cool experience.”
Question: Is Husqvarna also having some fun with your mustache?
Skyler Howes: “We have a draw that you can win one of my T-shirts if you post a video or photo with the best mustache. There are good ones there. One had me dying of laughter, he had a mustache drawn to his ankles. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. So it’s cool to keep enjoying the sport.”
Q: Tell us about racing in Abu Dhabi and the World Rally Raid Championship. Do you think that you have every chance to win the title, despite the lack of performance experience throughout the season?
Skyler Howes: “It’s strange to think about it because I have already competed in several Dakars, but in fact this is just my second attempt at becoming a world champion, and the second time in Abu Dhabi. We were basically racing in the same desert at Dakar, so I had a kind of pre-race. By the time we got to the race it had already been 10 days but we would be in the same desert with the same dunes.
“To start with, I really enjoyed the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge because it is a super crazy area in the UAE. He started hard, by the end of the year he grew up with a victory in Morocco and a huge podium at Dakar. So confidence is good. We have worked very hard, my coach and I, in terms of fitness. Because I’m relatively new to this. I’m only into the whole rally world for the first couple of years, which is weird to think about because now that you have younger guys, I’m looked at almost like a veteran. But I’m relatively new. And considering what I had to do to get here, the last two years have been years of recovery.
“I had to rebuild my finances, I had to rebuild my health and fitness. There were so many things that had to take a backseat to get into racing in the first place, so the last couple of years I’ve been rebuilding and now I’m starting to feel like I can lift my head up. water and fully focus on yourself and training.
Q: Will Abu Dhabi be less grueling than Dakar?
Skyler Howes: “Yes, (other) circles of the world, for example, are a quarter of the distance. We’re only racing for five days, not 15. So the length and size of the event itself makes a huge difference. Morocco can be quite physically demanding and very intense. Abu Dhabi is just a full-on dune race that requires a lot of physical effort. Then Sonora will face its fair share of challenges, which is now world travel. I’m sure they’re going to throw us a lot more stuff.
“Each race has unique challenges, but Dakar in particular only runs one race all year. Your result and everything connected with it, looks at you, much more pressure. These world rounds are really important for getting good…