Seven stage victories, leaders for half the rally, overall runner-up place for Paulo Gonçalves and ninth spot for Laia Sanz, add up to a more-than-positive final report-card for Honda and Team HRC at the Rally Dakar 2015. The team will be back next year to win.
Just one day after the end of the Rally Dakar 2015 and Team HRC already have their sights on the 2016 edition. Important conclusions drawn from this year’s event will form the backbone of work to be carried out in preparation for Dakar 2016.
After an almost twenty-five year official absence from the race, Team HRC have retaken the world’s most gruelling rally by storm, scoring the greatest number of stage victories. The ‘all for one’ work ethic, the ability to overcome every type of adversity, and the never-say-die approach, make it the team to be reckoned with.
It was a genuine challenge for the riders and the team responded accordingly with great competitiveness from both riders and machines. The Honda CRF450 RALLY passes the test with flying colours, with four of the five bikes making it to Buenos Aires over every type of possible terrain, at sea-level or at over 4,000 metres altitude, on route through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.
Joan Barreda proved to be an unyielding leader throughout the first week of rally and only a highly-controversial decision to race in perilous conditions robbed the Spaniard of final victory. Barreda collected more stages than any other in the Dakar 2015 and showed an unparallel level of competitiveness, hunger for speed, dexterity at navigation, sharp strategy, and above all leadership for Team HRC.
Paulo Gonçalves, similarly to Barreda, was in the running against a tough rival. The Portuguese ace finished as an exceptional runner-up not far off the eventual overall winner in Buenos Aires. Likewise, Hélder Rodrigues, two-time stage winner, and Jeremías Israel, put in fine unselfish performances and were always on hand whenever the team was in need.
A brilliant Laia Sanz shone throughout, surpassing all her own objectives and setting precedents by finishing higher than any other female in the entire history of the Dakar as she rubbed shoulders with the elite of the cross-country rally competition.