Honda unveiled its new CRF450 Rally model Dakar racer at the 2012 International Motorcycle, Scooter and Bike Fair in Cologne, Germany. The world debut of this production-based race machine centers on its entry in the Dakar Rally, which will be held in January 2013.
America’s Johnny Campbell, the 11-time Baja 1000 champion who previously gained Dakar Rally experience in Africa, will join riders Helder Rodrigues (Portugal), Felipe Zanol (Brazil), Sam Sunderland (United Kingdom) and Javier Pizzolito (Argentina) in an international effort. Honda entered factory teams nine times from 1981 onward in the forerunner of the present Dakar Rally, the Paris-Dakar Rally. Cyril Neveu (France) rode 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. In 2013, Honda will aim for its first rally victory with a model built from a production-based machine.
The CRF450 Rally model is based on Honda’s commercial CRF450X off-road racing machine, but it differs in a number of ways. Changes include its use of Honda’s Programmed Fuel Injection (PGM-FI) system, increased fuel capacity and the addition of a sophisticated navigation system. In addition, other changes were made to the bodywork and chassis for protection, efficiency and durability. The CRF450 Rally model in its current configuration has undergone extensive testing in Japan and will be tested further in its first race at the Morocco Rally, beginning October 14th. The Morocco Rally will serve as a real-world test 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.”
Image courtesy of American Honda