When you think of motorcycle rally racing, you think of the Dakar. And, when you think of a rally bike, you think of a hot-rod competition off-roader, with at least a 450 cc motor.
This week, Patrick Trahan is racing a rally that’s almost the antithesis of the Dakar, on a bike that has little in common with the machines seen in the classic rally raid every winter.
Trahan is racing in Thailand in the FIM-sanctioned Asian Cross Country Rally, riding a rally bike built around a CRF250L dual sport. That’s a long way from his days in the Dakar.
There’s a good reason you’ve never heard of the Asian Cross Country Rally — Trahan says he’s the first North American to run the race in its 20-year history. The rally started yesterday in Chiang Mai and ends Friday back in Chiang Mai, covering about 2,000 kilometres of trail. The whole race takes place in northern Thailand.
His bike is a natural evolution of a project he’s been working on for a while now. The CRF250L will wear the same rally kit that Trahan developed for another CRF250L he ran in the Merzouga Rally. In some ways, since the bike is manufactured in Thailand and Trahan is racing for the Honda Thailand rally team, he’s playing for the home team in this event. That whole subplot was part of the reason for deciding to do this race, he says.
He was also curious; he’d never been to Asia before, and as he puts it “What better way to travel than to race a FIM rally?”
The race itself will be quite different from what he’s used to, as much of the route travels through jungle, not sand dunes.
“It is more like an enduro than fast pace rally riding,” he said. “Enduro is not my specialty but I am okay. But it is still a rally and navigation is involved, so I will prepare myself very well in navigation and navigate as best as I can and it should give me a slight advantage over the other less rally-experienced riders.”
He says communication with his Thai teammates might be a problem, but at least the team owner speaks very good English.
Along with help from Honda, Trahan also received assistance from Japanese battery manufacturer Furukawa and toolmaker Vessel to attend the rally.
His goals for the rally? First, he wants to finish — Trahan’s had his share of bad luck at rallies, including a problem with the dodgy CRF250L starter relay at Merzouga. He also wants to draw attention to the race.
“I think that the rally scene is changing and people are drawn to other place than Tunisia, Morocco or Egypt. Africa is, in my opinion, still a dream area for rally. But I think that riders are starting to want to discover other places to ride, especially if they are exotic like here in Thailand.”
He also plans to take use his experiences to improve his rally bike, and hopefully come up with a CRF250L rally package to be used to base a rally academy around, as well as rally tours. But for now, his focus is on crossing the finish line.
You can find more details on this year’s Asia Cross Country Rally here.