Well the Dakar is finally over. Each year for two entire weeks I do nothing but stare at the computer each morning for 4-5 hours. Obviously I don’t get much else accomplished during the race. There is such a volume of race news to go through every day, it doesn’t make much sense to post anything else. The good news is that our viewership numbers take a big spike during the event and that makes it all worthwhile. Let me share some final thoughts on Dakar.
Once again KTM really showed everyone how it is done. Team, riders and bike, this is the complete winning package. Of the 8 factory A and B team riders, Despres, Faria, Caselli, Lopez, Pedrero, Przygonski, Van Niekerk and Curtis, every single one finished the event.
It was a very different type of race this year without Marc Coma. With no major rival, Despres controlled the pace from behind rather than from the front. Had Coma been here, I believe the two of them would have quickly outpaced the field in their own private battle. As for last minute replacement Kurt Caselli, I can only think that we are looking at a future Dakar champion in the making.
What this brought about was a race with many different stage winners. Everyone got their chance to shine, Honda, Yamaha and Husky all had multiple days with stage wins or strong finishes. But in the end, the results don’t give much pity on the weak, there can only be on winner. It was really a KTM show with the top five overall spots.
So who were the other big winners and losers of the event? Add Yamaha to the winner’s column. With a competitive bike and three riders who all spent time at the top, Pain, Casteu and Verhoeven, it was a very good race for them. It is interesting that these are all YZ450 based bikes. Now in its third year of Dakar racing, the YZ looks like a very competitive package.
These are bikes from Yamaha France and Yamaha Netherlands. Apparently they are not even all the same configuration. One report puts them at nearly 20lbs lighter than the KTM 450RR. It would be very interesting to find more tech information on them. Yamaha also gets a nod for powering all three Gas Gas riders to the finish line on WR450 based bikes.
Next comes the HRC Honda team in the middle ground. They faced many challenges, with two of the fiver riders unable to take the start due to injury. They also get credit for all three bikes finishing. The primary riders, Rodriguez and Pizzolito finished in the top ten. Team water carrier Johnny Campbell perhaps captured the most attention with a second place stage finish. Johnny was the right guy in the right place that day, as all the leaders got lost.
So most would say it was a good first effort for the Honda squad. Yet, this is HRC Honda and winning is really the only satisfactory outcome. Expect this team to see some major changes when they come back next year. Regardless, it sure was great for us to see Johnny Campbell performing on a world stage again.
If I have to call a loser for the 2013 Dakar, it is the Speedbrain Husqvarna squad. This is the team that should have been the real challenger to the KTM domination of the desert. The 449 has five years of development now, first as a BMW and now as Husky. This year they added a whole new frame design and the bike has performed well in many of the other rallies this season.
Like everyone else, the team riders all had strong days. But an early mechanical problem, for team leader Barreda put him out of the hunt for an overall. Support rider Jordi Viladoms was the top runner for a few days, but he went out with a mechanical DNF.
Allesandro Botturi was the late replacement for the injured Quinn Cody, but he quickly showed himself up to the task. His consistent riding kept him right near the top. He seemed to get stronger as the race progressed. But a mechanical problem dropped him out of the race near the end also. In the end, a 10th place for Gonclaves would be the highest spot for the team.
We can’t leave out the three rider Gas Gas squad. They are not quite on the same level with the other teams, but all three riders finished. Marc Guasch was top man in 27th. Laia Sanz rode right in the top 30 for the entire event, only to have one bad day with mechanical problems that would drop her way back. But she is an impressive rider, often finishing right in the mix with many other well-known riders.
I know that there are far more great stories from this year’s Dakar, but most we will never hear. It is such a shame that we do not have any decent media coverage here in the US for the event. The biggest off road race in the world and we do not have a single motorcycle media person at the event, amazing.
Now it is only eleven and half months until we can start the 2014 edition of the race. Things look bright for the Americans. Surely Kurt Caselli has earned a regular spot in the race. Hopefully Quinn Cody will make his Dakar debut as a Husqvarna team member. As for Johnny Campbell, as good as he rode; I can only think that he is wondering if he might be getting a little too old for this. (I can get away saying this as I am older than him). But he certainly did his share for the team and more this year, so maybe he has one more Dakar left in him.