Honda has announced their lineup for the 2015 Dakar Rally.
After years of absence from the world’s biggest off-road race, Honda re-entered the Dakar race in 2013, a few years after the race had left the African continent and moved to South America.
For this year, the team will consist of Joan Barreda, Paulo Goncalves, Helder Rodrigues, Jeremias Israel, and Laia Sanz. That’s a very strong lineup – Barreda, Goncalves and Rodrigues are all threats to win a stage at Dakar.
In particular, Barreda jumped out to a decent lead at the start of the 2014 rally, but a navigation screw-up in Stage 4 let eventual winner Marc Coma get past him.
As well, Goncalves is the reigning champion in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, proving he’s got the skills necessary to win. Sanz has won the women’s category at Dakar (in 2011), and is a perennial champion at trials riding around the world.
Last year, the Hondas proved much more successful than they had in 2013; Rodrigues finished in fifth, Barreda finished in seventh and Daniel Gouet (not a factory rider) finished in eighth. Three riders in the top 10 isn’t bad, but you can bet Honda would at least like a top-three man (or woman, in Sanz’s case) representing their brand at the rally’s end.
While the riders all repeated the usual team line about how much they were looking forward to this year’s championship and how great their sponsor’s bikes are, Paulo Goncalves was especially enthusiastic, saying “It’s very small, powerful and easy to ride. It’s the best bike I’ve ever had and I’m sure it was an important element in becoming world champion. It’s a fantastic bike and if I could, I’ll marry her!”