The Dakar is a rally raid race held off-road through deserts and over mountains. Known as the toughest motorsports event in the world, Dakar takes place on over 8,000 km of completely unpaved road and spans approximately two weeks. The competition is divided into three categories: motorcycle (moto), car (auto), and truck (camion).
The bikes at Dakar require not only speed, but also the adaptability to run in a vast range of road conditions including desert and mud and the durability to keep running for a long time. The riders at Dakar need the navigation skill to reach the finish in the most efficient way as well as the physical strength to withstand the harsh environment together with extreme riding skill.
Moreover, Dakar is a competition between teams. Competing on the riders’ side is a large support staff including mechanics to cope with unexpected problems, a team manager to guide the team toward their goal, and specialists to plan the best route.
Bike performance, rider skill, and team talent-all are needed to win. This is the appeal of the Dakar.
The inaugural Dakar was held in 1979. The rally raid traversed the 10,000 km from Paris, France, to Dakar, Senegal as the Paris-Dakar Rally. Thierry Sabine, the event’s founder, undertook a Herculean effort to recruit staff, attract sponsors, define regulations, and develop a timing system while at the same time arranging travel for staff who had to move in step with the event’s progress, persuading the countries along the route to grant official permission, and covering numerous other tasks. Sabine truly built this magnificent rally from scratch.
Since the second year of the event, major car and motorcycle manufacturers have joined the competition with their factory teams. Starting with the third event in 1981, the rally has been held as an official event of the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile) and FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme). The Dakar has been held yearly except for its cancellation in 2008. The 36th edition will be held in 2014.
Every year, Dakar sees a total of over 500 vehicles a the start, but only a half—sometimes even a third or so—finish this grueling competition. For this reason it bears the moniker, "the toughest motorsport event in the world.”
Competitors must face tough situations along the entire course, as they run through the desert in sweltering heat over 40ºC for several days on end and then cross the Andes Mountains, sometimes in light snow. Unexpected difficulties like a gaping hole and or steep slope may suddenly emerge from the natural landscape covering vast desert and rapid rivers. Even at the risk of their own lives, riders seize the challenge of the race, which poses the danger not only of spills and falls but also of being lost and stranded along the way if they misread the course.
After Honda made its first Moto category appearance in the third Dakar, the winner crossed the finish on a Honda bike five times during the nine years between 1981 until 1989.
In Honda’s debut rally, four riders including Cyril Neveu, winner of the first two Dakars, raced on Hondas with the fastest coming in sixth. The following year, now the fourth edition, Neveu removed a blemish by claiming Honda’s maiden victory.
Between Rallies five and seven, new factory teams from other manufacturers toughened the competition, limiting Honda’s top finishers to second, third, and fifth for each of these years and causing victory to elude Honda’s grasp for a while. Then in the eighth rally in 1986, Neveu won again and Honda dominated the event with a 1-2-3 finish. Honda continued on to achieve a streak of four consecutive victories through 1989.
|Year||Number of competing vehicles||Top finish|
After a 24-year absence, Honda returned to the Dakar in 2013. For this race, it developed the CRF450 Rally based on the commercial CRF450X and entered three riders: Helder Rodrigues (Portugal), Javier Pizzolito (Argentina), and Johnny Campbell (U.S.).
The rally extended 8,420 km from the start in Santiago, Chile, to the finish in Lima, Peru, passing through Argentina along the way. After covering the entire route including desert, stretches of rock and sand, mountain passes, and even mountain ranges, TEAM HRC reached its primary target of having all machines make it to the end. The team also celebrated the success of having two riders in the top ten overall with Rodrigues and Pizzolito in seventh and eighth respectively.
TEAM HRC will enter the Dakar 2014 with five riders: Rodrigues and Pizzolito will both return from 2013 to be joined by Sam Sunderland (U.K.), Joan Barreda (Spain) and Paulo Goncalves (Portugal). The experience from the previous Dakar bodes well for even better results in 2014.
|06/01/2014||San Luis||San Rafael|
|07/01/2014||San Rafael||San Juan|
|17/01/2014||El Salvador||La Serena|