Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cyril Despres plus support rider Michael Metge go head-to-head with Team HRC’s Helder Rodrigues and Sam Sunderland in a dash towards the desert.
As the clock ticks down to the start of the 2014 Dakar Rally the final stages of preparation show no signs of slowing down. Among the bikers packing their bags for another trip to the desert is five-time Dakar champion Cyril Despres.
All eyes will be on Cyril as he takes control of Yamaha Factory Racing’s YZ450F Rally at the start-line of the Dakar in Rosario on January 5th. Cyril’s previous triumphs at the desert classic were all achieved on KTM machinery and seeing if the reigning champion can translate this success to his new team will be a major narrative of the upcoming race.
Cyril has been a key factor in developing the YZ450F Rally since signing with Yamaha Factory Racing earlier this year. The Frenchman’s search for a third consecutive victory follows a decade of dominance at the Dakar with wins at the world’s toughest rally-raid in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
On hand to assist Cyril during the Dakar will be Michael Metge who will act as support rider on the route from Rosario to Valparaíso. Michael has embraced his chance to ride alongside the best following an impressive 18th place finish on his Dakar debut.
Cyril’s greatest opponent at the Dakar will be the unforgiving terrain that has become the rally’s trademark as well as an increased distance at this latest edition of the race. Also looking to challenge Cyril all the way will be Helder Rodrigues and Sam Sunderland of Team HRC.
Helder will be riding his second Dakar as part of Honda’s factory team after battling to a seventh place finish at the previous edition. After an intense year of testing and racing Helder is hopeful of achieving the third podium finish of his Dakar career on this next trip to South America. To give the Portuguese biker the best chance of success Honda have supplied Helder and his team-mates with the brand new CRF450 Rally.
Also onboard Honda’s CRF450 Rally at the Dakar will be up-and-coming British biker Sam Sunderland. The recent Merzouga Rally demonstrated that Sam, Helder and the CRF450 Rally were ready to compete as they secured a one-two finish at the six-stage rally-raid.
With the Dakar seeing more investment from factory teams than ever before we are all set for a gripping contest between Yamaha Factory Racing, Team HRC and the Red Bull KTM Factory Team.
Cyril Despres #1 – Yamaha Factory Racing: “On some of the stages we have a pretty good feeling for what to expect but for the Bolivian stages we have absolutely no idea. What we do know is that they will be very demanding. For a start some of it’ll be raced at 4000m and at those altitudes the air’s pretty thin. Then Bolivia is both ‘marathon’ and ‘bike only’, so doubly complicated. But demanding is fine by me. What attracted me to rally-raid in the first place is the challenge and the harder it is the happier I am.”
Michael Metge #17 – Yamaha Factory Racing: “This is my second Dakar so I can’t make many comparisons with previous editions. This year I’m supporting Cyril and we’ve spent a lot of time together since he joined Yamaha. We get on really well, which is important because in my role communication and understanding what ‘my’ rider needs is vital. I have been soaking up his knowledge and experience like a sponge. His approach to the Dakar is almost scientific, I’m not sure there’s anyone racing a rally bike today that has his depth of understanding and I’ve learnt loads just sitting chatting on the way to training sessions. To be honest now I can’t wait to get going.”
Helder Rodrigues #7 – Team HRC: “The motivation for this next Dakar is of course to win the race. For Honda and myself it’s very important that we do a good job at the Dakar. We have done so much hard work on the bike this year and made a lot of progress so we are aiming for success at the Dakar. As well as working on the bike I have been training hard to arrive at the race in top physical condition. I’m especially looking forward to racing in Bolivia because we have been told that the conditions there will be tough. You always remember the toughest stages, they are what the make the Dakar such a special adventure.”
Sam Sunderland #18 – Team HRC: “You can never be too confident but to get the win at the Merzouga Rally before Dakar has put me in a good mood ahead of the trip. I’m going into the race with confidence in my riding, faith in my bike and the support of a great team. I’ve improved my navigation skills and I’m putting in the physical training so things are moving in the right direction. Now I have to keep up this level of focus during the entire two weeks of the Dakar. I have some custom earplugs that I had moulded to my ears because of the noise all day and night at the Dakar. They come in very handy when you get the chance to get some sleep.”