New SHOEI NXR Indy Marquez replica

Special design for Marc, to race the United States. Now available on the Shoei NXR for everybody.


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Marquez achieves objective at Jerez

Repsol Honda Team rider takes important podium finish, placing second just a week after surgery.

Marc Marquez took a valuable podium finish at the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday. The reigning MotoGP World Champion placed second in front of his home fans, just a week after fracturing the little finger of his left hand.

Starting from second on the grid, Marquez made a good start and kept up with race leader Jorge Lorenzo, who had taken off from pole position. Both began to open up an advantage over the rest of the pack, but the Repsol Honda rider was unable to match his rival’s pace for the duration. With 6 laps remaining, Valentino Rossi came up to within just over a second of Marquez, but the reigning MotoGP World Champion managed to increase the pace again and reopened a gap –crossing the line with a lead of over six seconds.

With this result, Marquez cuts 4 points off Rossi’s lead in the MotoGP World Championship. Rossi has 82 points, Andrea Dovizioso 67, Lorenzo 62 and Marquez 56. The next round of the World Championship will be the French Grand Prix, held in two weeks’ time at Le Mans.

Marc Marquez:“This is a track where we’ve always struggled a little because of my riding style –and this year also because of my injury, but today we achieved what we set out to do. On the opening laps I followed Jorge, but by lap five I could tell that although my finger was not a problem, I was unconsciously working more with my right arm and it began to stiffen up. From then on, I decided to just try and finish the race strong. Then I saw that Valentino was closing in on me and I thought “it’s going to be Argentina all over again” but I gathered strength and this time I was able to maintain the gap between us. We leave Jerez a little closer to the World Championship leader, but Jorge has extended his advantage.”

1 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 44:57.246
2 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda +5.576
3 Valentino Rossi Yamaha +11.586
4 Cal Crutchlow Honda +22.727
5 Pol Espargaro Yamaha +26.620


1 Valentino Rossi Yamaha 82 points
2 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati 67 points
3 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 62 points
4 Marc Marquez Repsol Honda 56 points

Test/Photo: Repsol Media Service

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Go for a ride with Shaun in Valkenswaard

Take a ride with Shaun Simpson at Valkenswaard/NL in the first free practice session of the Grand Prix of Europe. The Scot set the third fastest lap in the morning period as well as Time Practice and was third again in the Qualification Heat until a small slip dropped him to sixth place. On Sunday’s race day Shaun closed a solid weekend with 5th overall. Check out the lumps and bumps of the Dutch sand in what is round five of eighteen in MXGP this year.

Photo: PR Youthstream

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Marc Marquez undergoes successful operation

Repsol Honda rider operated on this afternoon to treat fracture to little finger of left hand, suffered while training dirt track. His participation in the Spanish Grand Prix has not been ruled out.

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez has been successfully operated on this afternoon by Dr. Xavier Mir, Head of the Unit for Hand and Upper Extremities Pathology at the Hospital Universitario Quiron Dexeus in Barcelona.

Dr. Mir commented after the surgery that Marquez had “attended the casualty department of the Hospital Universitario Quiron Dexeus having suffered a crash in training this Saturday morning. The patient presented a deformity to the little finger of his left hand and a subsequent X-Ray showed a fracture of the proximal phalanx, with displacement. Therefore, we decided to treat the injury -as we would in the case of any other patient- by fixing a titanium plate to his finger. This will allow us to initiate functional recovery after 24 hours and give him a chance of racing at Jerez.”

Text/Photo: PR Honda Rcing Corporation

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Barreda and Goncalves on the final podium in Qatar

The FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship winds up with a stage victory for Joan Barreda and a second-place for Goncalves assuring both riders a step on the final rostrum as the championship’s second round finishes.

It was yet another display of velocity and tactics as the Honda CRF450 RALLYs of Team HRC’s dynamic duo Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves notched up a second consecutive one-two to round off the Sealine Cross-Country Rally in style.

The 365.28 kilometre special stage, offering up the now habitual mix of rocks, dunes and navigation, was dominated by the Team HRC riders who had fought tooth and nail all week to overcome the handicap imposed on them by the unfavourable starting-order of the first day.

Starting out from six position today due to the new rules which allow riders to select their starting positions out of the top six, Team HRC hit hard and snatched a fine stage victory. Barreda crossed the finish-line with a 1’21 advantage over team-mate Paulo Goncalves, in second. After five days of racing, the Portuguese ace consolidates his third overall position, coming home 1’53 behind Barreda, runner-up of the Sealine.

Joan Barreda:“It’s been a good week with a fast pace all through the rally. I pushed really hard and I’m pleased. It was never an easy job, particularly the first day; we knew that it would be a complicated one. We were looking to change the strategy of the first day and we were just six seconds off winning the first stage. We been battling with Marc all week and in the end the difference has been minimal. I’m happy with the hard work that we’ve done. The consolation is that we can really believe in the right direction that we are taking.”

Paulo Goncalves:“The rally has finished – the second race of the world championship – but maybe the previous result in Abu Dhabi was our setback, as it meant that we had to start from the front. The positive aspect is that we have never stopped fighting. That way, we have been able to win the last three stages and recuperate quite a lot. Barreda finished second and I came third. With the new rules it was impossible to win, but the most important thing is to finish on the podium. The bikes performed perfectly. We are pleased. Now it’s time to look forward to the next goal and do everything possible to achieve it.”

Results Stage 5
Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 BARREDA Joan SPA Team HRC 4:07’51
2 GONCALVES Paulo POR Team HRC + 1’21

3 COMA Marc SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 3’17
4 VILADOMS Jordi SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 5’01
5 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 7’24
7 WALKNER Matthias AUT KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 27’53

Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap

1 COMA Marc SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory 19:56’48
2 BARREDA Joan SPA Team HRC + 4’40
3 GONCALVES Paulo POR Team HRC + 6’33

4 VILADOMS Jordi SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 17’59
5 QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI KTM Warsaw Rally Team + 18’00
7 WALKNER Matthias AUT KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 1:40’18

Text/Photo: Honda Raciong Corporation

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Double for Team HRC in the Sealine fourth stage

Joan Barreda and Paulo Gonçalves take the top-spots in the penultimate stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally as the Honda CRF450 RALLY seals a second consecutive win in Qatar.

Team HRC haven’t thrown in the towel yet, today scoring a remarkable one-two as the rally heads towards the final-day showdown. Joan Barreda sneaked the victory ahead of team-mate Paulo Gonçalves, which seats the two in podium places.

The Honda CRF450 RALLY riders started today’s escapade from advantageous rear positions. There ensued a high-speed hunt as the Honda buddies imposed themselves on the rest of the rivals, who saw their surplus time whittled down by the end of the day. Joan caught up with Paulo and the two chased down the leaders and track-openers. By refuelling they had reached the main group who they then tracked until the end of the special stage, crossing the line virtually together.

The triumph moves Joan Barreda up to second overall place and to within eight minutes of the leader Marc Coma. Portuguese rider Gonçalves lies third, one and a half minutes off his Spanish side-kick and 8:29 behind the Sealine front-runner.

The 2015 Sealine Cross-Country Qatar Rally winds up with 365 kilometres of special stage tomorrow.

Joan Barreda: “Today was a great day. I started out from further back and I pushed hard the first 150 km with Paulo. We were able to catch the other riders up before we got to the refuelling and we rode with them until the end. It was a really good stage. Tomorrow is the final day and I’d like to be able to make up some time, but it will be difficult.”

Paulo Goncalves: “We had another good day today. We started out from nice positions. I was setting a fine pace, good enough to catch the leading group. I managed to make up more time. Tomorrow will be important to keep the podium places. The bike is working at 100% and everything that we’ve tried is going really well. It’s crucial to stay as focused as possible to not make any mistakes on the final day.”

Results Stage 4
Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap
1 BARREDA Joan SPA Team HRC 4:32’38
2 GONCALVES Paulo POR Team HRC + 1’56

3 COMA Marc SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 4’00
4 QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI KTM Warsaw Rally Team + 6’02
5 SUNDERLAND Sam GBR KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 8’05

Rider Standings
Pos. Rider Num Nation Team Time/Gap

1 COMA Marc SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory 15:30:40
2 BARREDA Joan SPA Team HRC + 7’57
3 GONCALVES Paulo POR Team HRC + 8’29

4 QUINTANILLA Pablo CHI KTM Warsaw Rally Team + 12’15
5 VILADOMS Jordi SPA KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 16’15
7 WALKNER Matthias AUT KTM Red Bull Rally Factory + 1:15’42

Text/Photo: Honda Racing Corporation

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Goncalves triumphs in the third stage of the Qatar Rally

Team HRC come away from the third stage of the Sealine Cross-Country Rally with a positive report-card as Paulo Goncalves moves back up among the front-runners, winning the stage and clawing back positions in the general standings.

Joan Barreda came very close to pulling off a spectacular result today after having the misfortune to be first in the day’s starting order. The Spanish ace managed to lead for over three-quarters of the race, but a minor navigational distraction in one of the trickier stretches of the route put paid to his victory aspirations and meant that he had dropped time as well as his overall second position before the day was through.

Barreda’s comrade-in-arms Paulo Gonçalves took up the torch, coming from behind to take the triumph which will now allow him to choose tomorrow’s starting position amid the first six starters, as determined by new race regulations.

It wasn’t all good news for Team HRC as Jeremías Israel was forced out of the race. The Chilean rider had to turn back and head for base some 70 km into the race as his arm – injured by the impact of a rock yesterday – began to play up. Jeremías should be back in competition for the Argentinean Desafío Ruta 40.

Tomorrow (Thursday) sees the penultimate stage of the rally. Once more, riders will be faced with 400 km of timed special stage as the fight for room on the rostrum heats up and the Sealine Cross-Country Rally of Qatar nears its end.

Paulo Goncalves: “A great day and a fine special today. I started out from eighth which was a good position and I did pretty well as I managed to catch up with the riders who had started out before. I pulled back quite a bit of time. I’m now ten minutes off the top-position in the general with the chance now to choose which of the first six positions I’d like for tomorrow’s start. I’m pleased for me and for the team which is running really well. There’s still a couple of days to go, so let’s see how it turns out.”

Results Stage 3
Pos.    Rider    Num    Nation    Team    Time/Gap
1 GONCALVES Paulo        POR    Team HRC    4:29’46

2 QUINTANILLA Pablo        CHI    KTM Warsaw Rally Team    + 2’04
3 COMA Marc        SPA    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 3’59
4 WALKNER Matthias        AUT    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 6’11
5 VILADOMS Jordi        SPA    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 8’02
6 SUNDERLAND Sam        GBR    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 12’01
7 BARREDA Joan        SPA    Team HRC    + 13’53

Rider Standings
Pos.    Rider    Num    Nation    Team    Time/Gap

1 COMA Marc        SPA    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    10:54’02
2 VILADOMS Jordi        SPA    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 10’12
3 QUINTANILLA Pablo        CHI    KTM Warsaw Rally Team    + 10’13
4 GONCALVES Paulo        POR    Team HRC    + 10’33
5 WALKNER Matthias        AUT    KTM Red Bull Rally Factory    + 11’08
6 BARREDA Joan        SPA    Team HRC    + 11’57

Text/Photos: Honda Racing Corporation

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“Fuji-Gas” celebrates 20 years in the Trial World Championship

April 14th marked the twentieth anniversary at the top-level of world championship trial for Takahisa Fujinami. After eighteen seasons featuring in the top five overall finishers, the well-loved Japanese Repsol Honda Team rider continues to cut it alongside trial’s elite and now looks forward to starting another season with a curtain-raiser on home soil.

1996 was a year that saw the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Damon Hill clinched the Formula 1 title, Mike Doohan the 500, Max Biaggi the 250 and Haruchika Aoki the 125; the Spice Girls’ first album came out, as did Los del Rio’s global hit “Macarena”. It was also the year Takahisa Fujinami made his world championship trial debut. Now, some twenty years on, the Repsol Honda stalwart remains actively engaged in the highest-level of competition with a track record that takes some beating: eighteen years amid the top five world championship finishers. The 2004 champion is still making history.

How do you remember your world championship debut in Trial twenty years ago?
For me Tarrés, Colomer or Lampkin were heroes that I had seen in the magazines and on videos; I’d never actually seen them ride. Jordi was my hero and to be able to compete with him was fascinating. I had been the Japanese champion the previous year, but I was aware that a lot of the technique was still lacking. The first race went terribly, but I learnt a lot and in the second I finished in sixth place and was super-happy. Everything was very positive, I wasn’t afraid and I gave it my all to compete in the world championship. But the first year was really hard. Above all because it was just me and my father and we didn’t have either a mechanic or a minder, while the others had several… and even a personal cook! I felt that if I could make it into the top five, then straight away I could become one of them.

You joined the team that Marc Colomer was in, who would end up winning the title that year.
Yeah, I was riding the same prototype bike as Colomer. And the first year I finished the world championship well, in seventh place. Marc won the title and I finished seventh on my debut at sixteen years of age. I was really pleased.

In spite of being an inexperienced world championship rider at sixteen, you finished the following year in the top group. The improvement was immediate.
Yes, but it wasn’t easy. In 1999, the year that I finished runner-up, Dougie was always ahead: out of twenty races, he won eighteen of them and there wasn’t a chance of disputing the title. There was a great deal of difference between his level and that of the rest. I only stood a chance of becoming champion in 2003, where I was very competitive. I won more races than he did and the title went to the wire. It was really hard for me because I lost.

At the end of your second season in the world championship you won your first race. How did you feel in Thalheim?
It was my second year in the world championship and I was seventeen years old. My minder Shinji Murata, who came from Japan, had a bad accident the day before. They sent him to hospital and I insisted that he go back to Japan to get it checked as he had lost consciousness. I was without help and that day I had Oscar Giró as my minder for the race. We communicated in Spanish, well, a bit basic, but it was as if I was Marc Colomer… It was a shame for Murata, but it was a pleasant surprise to win the race; I was under little pressure but in the end I won it. Runner-up was Kenichi and third was Jordi Tarrés. It took a lot longer for the second victory to come.

In 2004 you won the title and in doing so became the first Japanese rider to take the Trial championship. A landmark for you and for Honda.
Yep. Honda has always been a great help throughout my world championship career. And for Honda, a fact that a Japanese rider had won the world championship was also very important. Until then, few Japanese had won things. It was a great success.

You’ve shared the garage with four world champions: Marc Colomer, Dougie Lampkin, Toni Bou and Laia Sanz. What can you say about each of your team-mates?
Marc Colomer was my first team-mate and we got on really well but I didn’t hit it off with him like I did with Dougie and Toni. With Dougie, away from the races we’d meet up and there were “good vibes” and with Toni too. I’d go so far as to say that he’s more than a friend. I think that I’ve never had a problem with any of my team-mates. Neither with Laia, who is a great friend. She has a high-level and it’s amazing what she has achieved.

The 2015 season begins next week in Japan.
The fact that the world championship begins at home means one thing: maximum pressure. But it also means that I have a bit of an advantage because the Japanese crowd gets behind me and pushes me on to victory. It’s going to be very important to have a good race and fight to win. There will be a lot of pressure, but at the same time, performing in front of the home crowd is a big motivation. In Japan I’ve always had great results. And we know what the sections will be like: demanding and very hard, but that’s what is suited to the ‘Fujigas’ style.

How did you get the ‘Fujigas’ nickname?
It was in my first year and first race in Madrid. There was a really difficult section with an enormous wall that no-one could get over. I gave it full throttle and got over it. A spectator asked me what my name was and I said ‘Fujinami’, and he told me that it wasn’t and that it was ‘Fuji-Gas’. I loved it and straight away adopted it as a nickname.

What will you remember the most about the world championship?
Several races, but one in particular, in the United States. It rained so much and the time was really tight. The sections were totally flooded and the engine got soaked. I had to stop, dismantle the bike and get the water out. I continued, did well and won a really tough race. Normally, in the United States I’ve always done well. In Japan too. Two years ago in Motegi, I was tied with Fajardo until the final hazard. I heard over the P.A. system that I had the chance to win and the crowd began to get behind me. It was incredible.

Best of luck to you for your twentieth season!
I never imagined that I’d be having my twentieth anniversary in the trial world championship! I’m 35 now, but when I was 31 or 32 I had started to think that maybe it was time to think about retiring. But, as you can see, at my age I’m still able to compete in the world championship. It’s a great motivation. I’m not too old yet!

Text/Photo: Honda Racing Corporation

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Sofuoglu wins again in World Supersport

Kenan Sofuoglu (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) came out on top of a final corner battle with another rider to secure his second race win in Assen/NL.

After a four-rider fight at times in the earlier stages of the 18-lap WSS race it came down to a last lap decider between Kenan Sofuoglu and pole man Jules Cluzel. Sofuoglu saw Cluzel go inside at the final chicane and then go wide, but the two came together on the exit, with Sofuoglu the winner by 0.879 seconds.

Sofuoglu took his career total of WSS wins to 29 today and in doing so took a championship lead of 25 points after four rounds.

Jacobsen was eventually a distant fourth after being a potential podium rider for most of the race. He is second in the standings with 55 points to Sofuoglu’s 80.

The fifth round of the series will take place on May 10th, at Imola in Italy.

Kenan Sofuoglu:“In the last few laps I really pushed and pushed and reached almost the qualifying lap time with a 15-lap old tyre but Cluzel was still following me. I knew in the last lap he would try to pass. Anyway, we won the race, took the 25 points, and we deserved to win. The bike worked very well, Pirelli brought good tyres, and they too worked well. The Kawasaki Puccetti Racing team is giving me a very good package and the Kawasaki support is always there. I am very happy to win for Kawasaki, for the second time this year and we have very good points for the championship. It looks like we are getting stronger and stronger.”

1. Kenan Sofuoglu
2. Jules Cluzel

3. Kyle Smith

Championship Standings
1. Kenan Sofuoglu 80 points

2. Patrick Jacobsen 55 points
3. Jules Cluzel 45 points

Text/Photo: PR Kawasaki Racing

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“The last three years have been the best of my career” – ITW Paulo Goncalves

The greatest achievements of Paulo Goncalves’ rally riding career have come since signing for Team HRC several years ago. These successes include clinching the 2013 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and taking runner-up position in the most recent edition of the Dakar Rally.

Historically, Portugal has a habit of producing great adventurers. Names which include New World discoverers, conquistadors… and rally-raiders! Portugal, a land steeped in rally tradition, hosted the start of the last two African editions of the Dakar and has also produced one of the great contemporary specialists; Team HRC’s Paulo Goncalves. In Esposende, in his hometown, the Honda star flanked by wife Sofía and children Erica and Ruben, providing additional motivational support, will be in attendance as the Sealine Qatar Cross-Country Rally – the second rally of the 2015 world championship – gets underway this weekend.

After the second place in the Dakar 2015, you were back in action in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. What sort of form is Paulo Goncalves in?
I’m here two months after the end of the Dakar where I picked up second place and I’ve got a bit of rest. I’ve restarted work and am looking forward to fighting once again for the world championship after a couple of problems in the last race’s penultimate stage left us without the chance of winning.

Dakar 2016 details are to be announced tomorrow, but Chile won’t be included. That’s a great pity.
Yeah, that’s the way it is. Chile has been a really important part of the Dakar. Atacama has always been synonymous with the toughness and the surprises in the way the race plays out. The heart of the South American rally is largely there. I don’t know what the organisation will do to make up for the absence, but with the experience that they have, I’m sure they will be looking for a solution. It’s a shame Chile won’t be included, but the Dakar 2016 will continue to be a tough, hard Dakar.

The 2014 Dakar was a terrible one for you, but you made amends but finishing on the podium in 2015 with a great chance of actually winning the rally, for both you and the team.

It’s true that 2014 didn’t work out right at all. Two months earlier I had been enjoying the world championship title, then in stage five of the Dakar I was out of the race. I had great hopes but everything went down the pan. It was a really hard moment for me, but I kept my head up and made up my mind to support my team-mates. The Dakar finished, then I spent the rest of the season fighting for the world championship until the final race. In the end, I wasn’t able to hang on to the title, but had to accept second place.
We went to the Dakar 2015 with the whole team determined to be in the running for an overall win. We knew that the team was strong and well-prepared. Joan was ahead with a good margin and I was battling for the podium. Unfortunately the Uyuni Salt-flats left Joan out of the race and I lost time that day too, but was more fortunate than the other team-mates and was able to stay in the fight for the victory. After a great battle I finished runner-up. It was a great way to put the accident of the previous year behind me and a fine motivation for the team that so wants to win. The path is paved and the moment for a win for us will arrive.

In the Dakar your team-mates helped you to overcome some complicated moments.
Yes. I had some troubles in the second marathon stage that I wouldn’t have been able to overcome without the help of my team-mates. That is the strength of our team: we are well-structured and the team functioned in the best way. Jere made a great sacrifice so that we could keep battling for the podium; Joan, Hélder, Jere and I worked until it was time to start and the team was rewarded with a second place finish. This is one of the great values that the team has; that it works really well together. All the team for Honda and Honda for the victory!

To win stages and have a good team. 100% Honda philosophy.
The Honda philosophy, ever since I’ve been racing, has been to win races. The work that we undertake in all the competitions that we enter, is done to win: stages, races… and if we don’t, we have to think that we are competing with strong rivals who are also well-prepared. But Honda always starts out with clear chances of winning. The machines, the team, the riders… the whole outfit sets out to win. I think that there hasn’t been a single rally since Honda came back that we haven’t won at least one stage in. We still haven’t achieved the ultimate goal yet, which is to win the Dakar, but if we carry on like this, it will come.

Some of the characteristics that define you as a rider are your stamina and your sacrifice. As much in your preparation as in your family life, which is very important for you.
The riders, at this level, are professionals who know how to do the job. Luckily, we have a job that gives us great pleasure and that motivates us on a daily basis. We’ve been chosen to take a place, but it’s got to be won.
You’re right. My family is very important and it brings me a lot of stability and makes me happy. It’s not easy when you are away for two or three weeks at a time and you have a six-year-old and a four-year-old, but it happens to other people too. You have to find a way not to let the strength or the concentration wane.

Are your kids very demanding? Do they always want dad to come home with the trophy?
What they want is that dad arrives back safe and sound. That’s the most important prize for them. We do a high-risk sport and the external factors that affect the race have always to be considered.
But they do always ask if I have won. But I have to let them know that dad is in the running with a lot of other very well-prepared riders with the same set of objectives. When you don’t win, you have to know how to respect and value the one who does. We shouldn’t make kids believe that it’s all about winning or losing. They should learn to respect and give it their best. Then the win will come. And if not, it’ll come next time, but you have to be satisfied with the job done.


With values like those, pretty soon they’ll be overtaking their father!
At the moment they are still too small to race. I’ve no idea if they will ever actually want to race! I’m not pressuring them into it. If they ask, then I’ll try and help them to do it well.

Patience is another of your virtues.
After more then twenty years you realize that things don’t always work out the first time around and you have to wait for the right moment. One has to value those around you at all times, especially when things are not going well. Our competition is like a marathon: the race isn’t won in the first minute or in the first kilometre, but is a continual battle.

If we take a look back, after a great career in motocross, you moved on to rally, a speciality where you’ve achieved many successes.
I ran my first Dakar ten years ago, but I wasn’t competing in rally, just in the Dakar. I came from cross and thought that the Dakar was won from the first kilometre. Obviously the results didn’t come because I fell a lot and I didn’t have a clue about navigation.

About four years ago, the Speedbrain team gave me the chance to leave MX and enter the world of rally. It was a great change and over the last few years I’d been in the running for the world championship and I managed to win it. And now with the latest result in this Dakar, we’ve got a team that allows us to work with the best equipment and I’m pleased to have got such a result. The last three years have been the best of my race career and are getting better and better.

After so many years racing, this is the greatest moment of your career; with the best weapon and the best team-mates… where you’ve ceased to be an outsider and have become a contender for victory in any race that you compete in.
At 36 years of age, I’ve got the best bike, the greatest team and over the last two years, the best results of my life; a world championship title and a second place in the Dakar. This is a motivation. In a certain way, 36 is getting on a bit. Maybe I’m maturing like a bottle of Port…. At 20, 25 or 30 I was never able to get results like that. But now I’m raising the level and improving the performance, but this is also due to having a great team behind me.

The next big test is the Sealine Qatar. The race is very different from the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, without as many dunes, but with very tricky navigation.
With a lot of stony track and a lot of navigation, finishing the stages in the dunes, almost all together. There’s about 20% sand and 80% navigation. The HRC objective is to continue to develop the bike, as our chances of taking the world championship title are reduced after the results in Abu Dhabi. That’s why there will be less pressure. We’ll go into it much more relaxed and we can test out the navigation and the bike.

What’s your opinion about the new rule of being able to choose the starting position in the following stage?
The rule doesn’t seem fair to me. In Abu Dhabi it worked to my advantage, but it still doesn’t seem right. I hope that it gets changed, because it’s not the correct method. A race should be won by racing. If the race forces you to stop before the finish-line to have a chance to win the race, it’s no good. If you can choose between the first three starts for the following day, then maybe it would be fair. I suppose that the rule will get modified soon.

Text/Photos: PR Honda Racing Corporation

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