Honda has announced its intention to participate as a works team in the motorcycle class in the Dakar Rally to be held in January 2013 in South America, travelling north to south through Peru, Chile and Argentina.
The Honda team, to be called Team HRC, will include Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues, who took third place in the 2012 Dakar Rally, and Brazilian Felipe Zanol, who brings a wealth of experience in motocross and enduro race events, as well as Sam Sunderland (United Kingdom) and Javier Pizzolito (Argentina).
The manufacturer will have its work cut out for it at Dakar if they are to make a dent into the dominance shown this year by KTM. Cyril Despres won ahead of fellow KTM rider Marc Coma and KTM motorcycles took seven of the top eight places in the class. New Honda gasser Rodrigues was the only man to break up the KTM party, finishing third on a Yamaha.
“The Dakar requires competitors to cover several hundred kilometers per day for more than two weeks. It needs a totally different type of vehicle from events such as motocross, trials and road races,” said Tetsuo Suzuki, President, Honda Racing Corporation. “Honda has put a great deal of effort into designing and building a powerful and winning machine. We are aiming for the championship from this first year.”
Honda competed nine times in the motorcycle class in the forerunner of the present Dakar Rally, the Paris-Dakar Rally, from 1981 through to 1989, and was a winner five times during that period. It has been 23 years since it last participated in the Rally.
They will ride a prototype machine developed and produced by the Motorcycle R&D Center at Honda R&D. The prototype machine is based on the CRF450X, the popular worldwide enduro racing model that combines ease of handling with superior competitive strength. Kit parts designed for use on the standard CRF450X model have also been developed and will be made available to a limited number of teams.