Team HRC returns to the track for an important test session in preparation for the Dakar 2013 after participating in the 2012 Morocco Rally, when the five-rider Team HRC squad competed together for the first time. The rally was predominantly a shakedown of the machine, data-gathering and Dakar preparation exercise and, in that respect, was an outstanding success. Since then, the work has gone on without breaks in Japan, where the HRC engineers have focused on the development of the CRF450 Rally machine.
The Mojave desert in California, with its hi-speed gravel roads, sand roads and washes, rocks and hard terrain will be the theatre for Team HRC’s final Dakar test. Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Felipe Zanol, Javier Pizzolito and Johnny Campbell will focus on testing the final machine’s durability and finalizing the suspension and FI settings. According to the intense testing programme, the Honda riders will cover 4,000kms, which will be a half of the Dakar route.
The 5 Honda riders will also test a newly developed Pirelli front tyre as a result of the Morocco Rally tests and race. During the tests conducted in Morocco, in fact, Pirelli was able to confirm and strengthen the rear specifications and, thanks to the precious feedback from all 5 riders, the Italian company turned its attention to the front tyre, improving performance in record time and giving Honda the opportunity to test it during the USA session.
As Salvatore Pennisi from Pirelli states “in Morocco we confirmed the excellent performance of the Scorpion Rally tyre in the 140/80-18 rear sizes, which Honda had identified as the best rear rally tyre, and in the 90/90-21 front sizes. The latter is absolutely unrivalled in terms of performance on hard terrain. In the African test Pirelli worked on improving performance of its product on the sand. For this purpose our engineers worked on the tread pattern, changing the layout of the knobs where needed in order to guarantee better directionality and floating on sand”.
Helder Rodrigues: “I look forward to this final test. I’m very confident because already in Morocco the CRF 450 Rally machine proved to be competitive and now we are testing a further step of development. This final test is crucial to finalize all the settings before the big Dakar challenge. I have trained a lot in this period, both in the gym and with outdoor running, cycling and riding”.
Sam Sunderland: “I have been working really hard on my fitness to be in the possible best physical shape, with lots of cycling and running. I am very happy with the bike and we have made huge progress in such a short time because of the great infrastructure of the team and everyone at HRC is working so hard all with the same target in mind. With this final test I expect to gain more information with the bike and finalize my suspension and EFI settings for Dakar. The area we test in America is very good and simulates the terrain of Dakar and the Californian heat is also a good test”.
Felipe Zanol: “I have trained a lot in this period and also competed in the Brazilian Enduro Championship, which is also good training. My last enduro race was very good, I won and claimed my eighth Brazilian Enduro Championship title. I am very happy but now I’m 100% focused on the preparation for the Dakar. We have improved the bike a lot and I think we can evolve further. The bike is very fast and comfortable and each time I ride I feel more confident”.
Johnny Campbell: “It has been a busy time for me with the Baja 1000, which is the most important race for JCR/Honda. We had 19 pit stops, 3- chase trucks and over 100 support staff on the ground including a helicopter for radio and race management. The race was 1121 miles long and it took us 20hrs and 9 minutes to complete the event. My 3-Racers Colton Udall, David Kamo and Timmy Weigand did an absolutely amazing job. Besides my commitments with the Baja 1000 duties, I have found the time to work out in the gym, surfing and riding all types of dirt bikes on everything from the deserts of Baja and California, to Local MX tracks pounding laps. My expectations for this test are to finalize our engine and suspension specs and make sure the HRC CRF450 Rally is 100% ready to win in Dakar”.
Javier Pizzolito: “I have trained a lot in the last period, cycling, at the Gym and three times a week on my CRF 450R. I raced also in some Enduro rounds here in Argentina but without taking any risks, it was more an exercise and it gave me a good handling on the bike. We are getting closer to the Dakar and I have to say that the expectations for the return of the Honda factory squad on the Dakar after so many years are really high. Since the Dakar is staging in South America and in Argentina, the interest and the support of the people is amazing and I’m very proud to be part of the Honda project”.