Today at Intermot 2012, Honda unveiled the CRF450 Rally, the machine it plans to enter in the 2013 Dakar Rally, marking the manufacturer’s return to the race after more than two decades. Honda has competed nine times from 1981 in the forerunner of the present Dakar Rally, the Paris-Dakar Rally. Cyril Neveu of France took Honda to its first victory in 1982, the race’s fourth year, and from 1986 to 1989 Honda won four consecutive titles for an overall record of five victories in nine years.
The CRF450 Rally is based on Honda’s commercial CRF450X enduro racing model, and features electronic fuel injection, auxiliary fuel tanks in the panniers and lower side fairings, and the requisite navigation equipment located behind the windscreen. Interestingly, the navigation device is not a GPS, but instead is a backlit unit designed to hold the “Road Book” — a set of pace notes each competitor receives and is then free to modify.
Honda will enter a five-man team, including 11-time Baja 1000 champion Johnny Campbell (USA), Helder Rodrigues (Portugal), Felipe Zanol (Brazil), Sam Sunderland (United Kingdom) and Javier Pizzolito (Argentina).
The CRF450 RALLY model currently under development has already undergone testing in Japan, and will be ridden in its first race at the Morocco Rally starting October 14th. The five riders set to compete in the Dakar Rally will ride the Morocco Rally mainly to gather data, identify any problems with the machine under actual race conditions, and pinpoint any operational issues.
Tetsuo Suzuki, President of Honda Racing Corporation (HRC) and Honda Motorcycle
R&D, said, “Our young engineers have created a race machine based on the CRF450X
production enduro bike. The Dakar Rally is a race that continues for two weeks
across the hardest terrain of three different countries. The Dakar Rally is extremely
long and extremely tough. This is a new challenge for us. Previously, we entered the
Dakar Rally with machines purpose-built for racing. This time, we are aiming for our
first victory in the Dakar Rally with a production-based machine.”
Johnny Campbell said, “My participation in the Dakar Rally over the past few
years has been an amazing experience. I have been working very hard to bring the
enthusiasm and attention of the USA to this prestigious global event. I am excited to
be part of Honda’s official Dakar race team and I’m committed to its success. My role
will be to provide consultant, development, rider and mechanical services as needed
to the project.”
Unfortunately, there is no news yet as to any plans to mass produce a Rally version of the CRF450X.