Laia Sanz and Honda’s return to Dakar
The 2014 Dakar Rally once again delivered in heaps. There were spectacular moments… and grueling hours as many competitors made it back to the bivouac just in time to start the next leg of the rally! No sleep, just racing,
It was one of the toughest Dakar rallies yet. Honda rider Joan Bang Bang Barreda would attest to that. The charging Barreda saw a possible first win since 1989 for Honda disappear in the smoke of melting electrical wires in the last stages of the rally.
Honda HRC entered a star team in 2014. Barreda was joined by Helder Rodrigues, Sam Sunderland, Javier Pizzolito and Paulo Goncalves. They were equipping with the fast CRF450 RALLY.
Honda motorcycle Dakar Rally history
Between 1981 and 1989, Honda won the Dakar Rally 5 times (’82, ’86, ’87, ’88 and ’89) on 3 different motorcycles, the XR550, NXR750V and NXR800V.
29 years later, in 2013, Honda returned to the Dakar, taking the experienced Helder Rodrigues to a promising 7th place finish and team mate Javier Pizzolito to 8th on the CRF450 RALLY.
Honda’s 2014 Dakar
Honda claimed that 2014 would be different and, no, they did not win the Dakar but they brought new excitement into the Dakar. It was Honda’s proper return to Dakar racing. The Honda had wings. It was one of the fastest 450s, taking 6 stage wins.
Barreda won the last stage, ending 7th in the final rankings. Rodrigues had the best finish for Honda, taking 5th place. (Daniel Gouet on the Tamarugal XC Rally Team Honda in 8th).
That may not sound impressive on paper but think of it as you would of some legendary boxing matches. Never mind the results, round-for-round the riders were giving it their best punches. There were thrills and spills galore. This was top class rally racing, reminiscent of the Paris-Dakar days.
And the winner is…
The master of the dunes, Marc Coma, won the Dakar for a 4th time, again on a KTM, followed by his team mate Jordi Viladoms.
Olivier Pain grabbed 3rd place from the storming 5-time champion Cyril Depres by a mere 5 minutes, both on a Yamaha.
But the prize for the most outstanding ride goes to… another Honda rider! Female world champion motorcycle rider, Laia Sanz, on the KH-7 Honda.
Sanz bettered her 39th place finish in 2011 and 2012 to once again win the Female motorcycle category, this time in an incredible 16th place (179 bikes started the Dakar and only 78 made it to the finish line). And that makes the lanky Queen of Dakar our Woman of the Month.