We already knew that Husqvarna would be entering the competitive world of rally raid racing, but now the Husqvarna Factory Racing Rally Team has finally announced its team members.
Headlining the Husqvarna team is Ruben Faria, the Portuguese rider a familiar name for anyone who has been following rally raid racing or the Dakar Rally. Faria will be joined by two-time Enduro World Champion Pierre-Alexandre Renet from France, and Dakar stage-winner Pablo Quintanilla of Chile.
The team doesn’t have long before the 2016 Dakar Rally, but Husqvarna hopes for a podium result at the iconic race. The team will campaign on the Husqvarna FR450, which we assume will closely resemble the KTM 450 Rally.
When Marc Coma hinted at a return to the Dakar Rally for 2016, everyone assumed it would be on a bike and with KTM. The famous Spanish rally-raid racer has other plans now, announcing his retirement from the sport, and also that he will begin working as a Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally. This makes the announcement a double-shock, one because we expected to see Coma vying for his sixth Dakar Rally win, and two because it was expected that when he did stop racing motorbikes, he would follow the path by many competitors, and race in the four-wheel classes. “This level of responsibility is an opportunity for me to put back into the rally everything that the Dakar has given me,” said Coma, while talking on the Dakar Rally website about his new position.
The route for the 2015 Dakar Rally has been confirmed, and details have been dropped on what could be the most grueling motorcycle event on Earth. The 14 day, 13 stage Dakar will take competitors through Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and back to Argentina again, making for roughly 9,000 kilometers of terrain to navigate.
The 68 motorcycle competitors will have the added challenge of two marathon stages — stages where only the riders can work on their bikes, and can receive no help from their support crews.
Marc Coma is a heavy favorite for the 2015 edition, especially with rival Cyril Despres making the career switch to race on four wheels with Peugoet. However Coma can expect strong competition from his teammate Ruben Faria, not to mention from the likes of Joan Barreda on his Honda, and Olivier Pain on the Yamaha.
We had to check the date on this one, because five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres has announced that he will not be on two-wheels for this year’s rally raid, and instead will campaign in the car class with Peugeot. The announcement comes as a bit of a shock, after Despres rocked the Dakar Rally world last year, announcing his switch from KTM to Yamaha. Signing a contract with Peugeot Sport, Despres will be leading the return of the marquee’s re-entry into rally racing, after taking a 25-year hiatus from the sport. Despres will be following in the footsteps of another French motorcycle rally raid racer, Stéphane Peterhansel, who like Despres moved from Yamaha Racing’s motorcycles into racing cars.
After a strong showing in the 2014 Dakar Rally, HRC says it will make the Honda CRF450 Rally available to privateer racers next season. This news has been on the wires for a while now, but it comes with added weight after Laia Sanz, the top female competitor in the Dakar Rally, finished 16th overall on the “pre-production” privateer bike – an impressive feat to say the leaset.
Like its counterpart OEMs, HRC will develop each machine to suit the buyer, with prices expected to reach into the $30,000 to $40,000 realm. Like the pricing schemes from KTM and Yamaha, we imagine that sum comes without any technical support from HRC on the race course.
The final stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, Stage Thirteen was a formality for most, but proved was still another day in the office for these riders as they tackled the 157 km special. Cyril Despres was quickest across the line, but the Frenchman was caught speeding in the liaison stage, and suffered a 15 minute penalty because of it. The error tossed Despres back to fifth for the day, leaving HRC’s Joan Barreda to win his fifth stage in this year’s Dakar Rally.
Barreda would surely have been a podium finisher this year, and possible rally winner, had he not suffered a catastrophic electrical problem on Stage Twelve. Surely disappointed with his result, the Spaniard can take solice in proving the competitiveness of HRC’s Honda CRF450 Rally package.
“Today is the last day of the Dakar. For us it feels tough because I lost a lot of time with a problem after a fall at kilometer 200,” said Borreda. “But today I was back in the saddle like a pro, and I did a really good job in the special. In the end it wasn’t the result that we were working for in the Dakar. Well, now it’s time to go home and try to get to grips with what happened, how and where we went wrong and see how we can sort them out for next year.”
As riders finished the last majorly sandy stage of the rally, the 699 km run from El Salvador to La Serena for Stage Twelve, leaders have shuffled yet again and disaster has struck, leaving some shaking their heads.
Marc Coma is breathing a bit easier today after opening up the gap between himself and his closest competitor, Joan Barreda, to 3:4:54. Barreda suffered a serious setback after having electrical problems and losing nearly two and half hours, dropping to seventh place overall.
“I had electrical problems. The bike wasn’t working well and the battery gave up. It was very difficult. I just had to try and get to the finish. All is lost. I’m going to finish the rally. And that’s all,” said Barreda.
Coma, finishing second on todays’ stage, has put nearly two hours between him and now second place overall, Jordi Viladoms of Spain, making his 15 minute penalty for an engine swap a non-issue for the overall standings.
Stage Eleven, from Antofagasta to El Salvador, proved to be the most challenging stage of the 2014 Dakar Rally, and saw riders pushed to their limits as they spent nearly seven hours on their bikes, battling rivers and the infamous Dunes of Copiapo.
As we enter the final stages of the 2014 Dakar rally, this is still anyone’s game as the stage and overall leaders have begun to shuffle.
The two French teammates of the Yamaha Factory Racing took today’s stage, placing first and second. Cyril Despres took first with a stage time of 6:38:59 with his teammate, Olivier Pain, following a close second at 2:37 behind.
Stage Ten of the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 688 km ride from Iquique to Antofogasta, started with a descent down the dunes towards the Pacific, where more dunes and plenty of fesh fesh lay ahead — for those unfamiliar with Rally or Baja, fesh fesh is a sticky, talcum fine sand that has been eroded over time, leaving surfaces extremely slippery and at times, acting like a sand trap.
Undoubtedly the Factory Honda Team is celebrating today as teammates Joan Barreda and Helder Rodrigues took the first and second place victories on today’s tough stage.
Despite a 15-minute penalty yesterday for speeding, Joan Barreda continues to gnaw away at his fellow Spaniard and overall leader Marc Coma, giving him his fourth stage win of this year’s rally and closing the gap between them to 44:24.
Today’s stage for the 2014 Dakar Rally, a 486 km sprint from Salta, Argentina to Calama, Chile, gave riders quite a view as they glided across parts of the largest salt flat in the world, and up the Andes Mountains as they enter the Chilean section of the rally.
After taking third on yesterday’s stage, Cyril Despres of France took today’s stage win putting up a 5:23:20 on his Yamaha YZ450F Rally, with Joan Barreda of Spain coming in second at 2:09 behind him. This pushes Despres up one position into 9th place overall.
“The idea isn’t really to go looking for stage victories but to try and get back to the front of the rally,” Despres said. “Today, by making up the difference on the tracks between myself and the first riders, I won the special and that’s always a pleasure.”
Stage Seven saw the riders of the 2014 Dakar Rally back in the saddle, after having Saturday off as their lone rest day. If the riders thought their re-entry was going to be easy, they were wrong, as Stage Seven marks the first part of another marathon stage — a stage where only the riders can service and repair their machines after the stage’s end. Today also marks the first time that The Dakar has been held in Bolivia, the 28th country to host the iconic race.
First out of the gate, Alain Duclos suffered a navigation error, and lost nearly 20 minutes on the course finding the right route. The mistake cost the Sherco rider his third overall position, as he falls to fourth overall, behind KTM’s Jordi Viladoms.
Halfway through the Dakar Rally now, and Marc Coma has a good cushion over the rest of the field. His advantage isn’t insurmountable though, and today Joan Barreda took his first chip at his fellow countryman’s lead. The HRC rider stole four minutes from his KTM counterpart, with Barreda now 38 minutes back from Coma overall. The deficit isn’t enough to concern Coma yet, but if Barreda can keep up the pressure he might stand a chance for the overall win.
Cyril Despres also had a productive day, as the Frenchman finished third on the stage. This moved him into tenth overall, and while Despres’ bid for the 2014 Dakar Rally is surely done (it would seem the Yamaha PR team has already packed things up, as their site hasn’t updated since their disastrous Stage Five), Despres’ first term on the Yamaha YZ450F Rally could still see him finish in the Top 5. Undoubtedly, a strong pace over the remaining stages on helps build his campaign for the 2015 rally raid.