Honda recently announced that it will put together a works team in the motorcycle class for the 2013 Dakar Rally, scheduled to take place January 5-20 in South America’s Peru, Argentina and Chile. Team HRC includes 2012 Dakar podium finisher Helder Rodrigues, motocross and enduro rider Felipe Zanol of Brazil, Sam Sunderland from the United Kingdom and Argentine Javier Pizzolito. Rodrigues hails from Portugal and has been riding for the Yamaha program in the past years. His experience in developing a Japanese 450 will be of great value to the Honda effort. After winning Stage 9 and 13 during the 2012 rally, he was only 18 minutes out of the runner-up position which was held by factory KTM pilot Marc Coma.
Honda last took part in the Rally 23 years ago when the Rally spanned two continents as it travelled from Paris to Dakar. The company competed nine times and won five of the contests between the years 1981 and 1989. During its absence from the world’s largest off-road race, Honda has been crushing the competition in North America’s biggest desert competition, the Baja 1000. The CRF450X has been the staple machine of their Baja success. Perhaps some of the things they have learned in Mexico will translate to the Dakar bike?
Team HRC will be aboard a prototype bike produced by Honda’s R&D Center. The machine will be based on Honda’s existing CRF450X, a popular enduro racing bike. Kit parts from that bike have been developed for use on the prototype and will be given to a limited number of teams. Honda made a splash in the past two rallies with Baja champion Quinn Cody wading into the fray. He was the top rookie in 2011 and crashed out of contention spectacularly in 2012. Neither appearance was a true factory effort.