The waiting is over. On July 2nd, Honda announced what the 187,000 Honda associates across the world and all the cross country rally fans had been waiting for for 24 years: the return of the Honda HRC works team to compete in the Dakar, the toughest Rally in the world.
Three months later, on October 2nd the new CRF 450 RALLY model was unveiled at the 2012 International Motorcycle, Scooter and Bike Fair in Cologne, Germany.
After having competed nine times in the motorcycle class in the Paris-Dakar Rally, from 1981 to 1989, and having scored 4 consecutive titles for an overall record of 5 victories in 9 years, Honda returns to the Cross Country rally competitions with a new machine, the CRF 450 RALLY, a racing machine based on the CRF450X, and a strong line-up of 5 riders: the Portuguese Helder Rodrigues, the Brazilian Felipe Zanol, the Brit Sam Sunderland, the American Johnny Campbell and the Argentinian Javier Pizzolito.
TEAM HRC will make its debut in the Morocco Rally, the perfect place to see the whole team together and do the shakedown of the bikes. Already from the entry list, it’s clear that the Morocco Rally will be a sort of mini Dakar, as all the important teams are represented. The Rally opened officially today with the technical and administration checks.
The first Leg will start tomorrow, Monday the 15th from Erfoud. The 55 competitors in the bike category will complete a loop of 271 km of special stage that will bring them back to the bivouac based in Erfoud for the first 2 days. Then from Leg 3 the circus will move direction Zagora, always in the south of Morocco, where the rally will take place from the 15th to the 20th of October, 6 Legs for a total 2074 km (1544 km of selective sectors).
Arrived in Morocco on the 11th, TEAM HRC carried out two days of testing on the dunes of Merzouga, for a first shakedown of the machines before the start of the Rally.
Helder Rodrigues: “It’s an honour for me to be part of TEAM HRC. It’s a great opportunity in my career and I will do my best to thank Honda for the faith they have in me. All the team are gathered together for the first time in Morocco on the occasion of the Morocco Rally and it’s great to work with so many experienced engineers. I like the machine and I’m confident because the CRF 450 RALLY has improved a lot since the first test and I look forward to a good race and to a good team result”.
Felipe Zanol: “I have been a Honda rider since the beginning of my career and I’m very excited to be part of this project. Testing in Morocco before the rally was a good opportunity to test the different setting of the suspension, engine and fuel injection. The machine is progressing really well and I look forward to the race”.
Sam Sunderland: &ld quo;I feel privileged and honoured to have been chosen to be a Honda factory rider. It’s something I have dreamed about since I was a kid. I’m the young and inexperienced guy in the team and I’m learning a lot from Helder and Johnny, who have a great deal of experience. I feel a lot of support, the whole team is helping me out. I’m trying to soak up as much as possible and this race is a very good occasion to gain more experience with navigation and as a shakedown of the machine”.
Johnny Campbell: “I’m very excited to be part of TEAM HRC that will compete in Dakar. As a rider this is one dream that I thought would never happen to me in my career. I’m anxious to compete and see the team do well. My experience so far in Morocco has been exciting, I like the terrain and the atmosphere”.
Javier Pizzolito: “It’s a very special moment fo r me, I have ridden Honda all my life and I have been a rider of the official Honda Argentina Team since 2001. It’s great to be part of this important project and I’m very motivated. It’s the first time that we are testing all together and it’s very exciting. The CRF 450 RALLY has improved a lot since the last time I tested and I look forward to competing with it”.