There has been a lot of movement in the rally raid scene lately. First, Laia Sanz jumped ship from Honda to KTM, then Marc Coma announced his retirement from racing and that he will become the new Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally, and now we get word that Husqvarna will enter the world of rally racing with a factory team.
The move is perhaps not that surprising, considering that KTM now owns the Husqvarna brand, and that the Austrian company is a fierce rally raid competitor, but this means also that the historic Husqvarna name will return to one of the most iconic races in the world.
Making a strong debut, the Husqvarna factory team effort is comprised of riders Ruben Faria of Portugal and Pierre-Alexandre Renet of France, who will in-turn race upon the the Husqvarna FR 450 Rally bike, which is likely to be very similar to the KTM 450 Rally race bike.
Faria is of course well-known in rally raid circles, having been a veteran of the KTM factory team for many years. Renet is a newcomer to the sport though, but he comes with an impressive enduro resumé.
“We are pleased and proud to be taking the Husqvarna brand another step forward into rally sport. Husqvarna has a rich tradition of racing and this represents an opportunity for us to honor and extend this tradition,” said Robert Jonas, Husqvarna Motorcycles Vice President of Motorsports.
“The Dakar is the most prestigious rally on the calendar. We’re determined to compete on equal terms with the world’s best teams and we are ready to accept the challenge of rally sport at its finest. We are also very confident that it will be rewarding for our brand and our factory team.”
This announcement all means that Henk Hellegers Husqvarna racing effort will become an official satellite team for Husqvarna, at the Dakar Rally.
It will be interesting to see what sort of machine Husqvarna actually debuts for The Dakar, and whether the squad will show the same racing prowess that KTM has exhibited over the past decade.
With HRC stepping up its rally efforts, and Yamaha said to have a new bike on the way, the addition of Husqvarna to the factory mix brings at least the illusion of strong competition amongst the brands, even though the team’s branch grows from the same tree. That should mean good racing for Dakar fans, either way.