It’s been 23 years since Honda last ran the event in an official capacity, and much has changed since. The route no longer runs from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal, as the region is deemed too dangerous and politically unstable.
Today, the event is simply called the Dakar Rally, and it’s run in South America, thousands of miles away from the city it’s named for. That doesn’t make the rally any less challenging or any less dangerous, and it’s still considered to be among the most grueling motorsport events on the planet.
Team HRC, Honda’s effort, will enter the 2013 event with riders Helder Rodrigues (who finished third in 2012), Felipe Zanol, Sam Sunderland and Javier Pizzolito. All will be riding specially prepared prototype Honda CRF450X motorcycles, and HRC will further support a few non-factory teams riding the CRF450X as well.
The 2013 Dakar Rally begins in January and starts in Lima, Peru. The two-week event will run through Peru, Chile and Argentina, with the motorcycle group racking up over 5,000 miles of terrain that varies from sandy desert to rock-strewn mountain passes.
Honda faces serious competition from KTM, the Austrian motorcycle brand that’s won the event the past 11 years running. There’s no doubt that Honda can throw more resources at its effort, but winning the Dakar Rally still requires an element of luck. Even a Honda-sized budget can’t buy that.