Sam Sunderland – HRC Honda & Dakar 2014…
“HRC is a huge name in motorcycle racing and I’m honored to compete for them at such a young age and in a sport where the top guys are all 30 years old and more. The Japanese engineers are amazing – really hard working and they really take pride in what they do. Sometimes it’s tough with the language barrier but luckily their English is much better than my Japanese!
“I first got involved with the Honda Europe Dakar team in 2011, after I competed in the first round of the world championship in Abu Dhabi and won two stages. I was offered a ride in the 2012 Dakar but unfortunately I was forced to retire early in the race due to an electrical problem. When HRC started there official Dakar effort it was through the experienced staff that ran the Honda Europe team and I was chosen to be part of that team.
“The atmosphere within the team is really good right now, especially with the new bike and recent results in Morocco. Starting out with the new bike and competing and winning in two races is unbelievable. Of course I’m happy to have taken one of those wins for the team, but the team also know that the Dakar is different and a lot more demanding for both man and machine. But for the team it’s been a really positive start with the new bike.
“Heading into the 2012 Dakar things were very different because Honda only had a very short development period. It was a positive Dakar for Honda having all bikes finish, two inside the top 10. They took a lot of data and motivation and turned it into making the bike we have now, which is awesome.
“For Dakar 2014 my personal goal is to finish. I’m confident in my speed, I’m feeling good with my bike and navigation. I feel confident that if I can bring it across the finish line I will be in a position I’m happy with. HRC is defiantly going into Dakar 2014 to fight for the win. But Dakar 2014 will be tough.
“The race looks to be one of the toughest yet with many daily stages over 800km, and one at 911km. To put that into perspective it’s like going from London to Scotland and back each day – mostly off road.
“KTM have a new bike and of course it’s going to be a good bike. They have many years of experience in Dakar and have the same team of engineers as they did when they won with their last bike. The fact that KTM have a new bike, like Honda, is good. There’s a lot of competition, which is good for everyone involved and good for future development.
“Marc Coma is back and Cyril Despres is on Yamaha, with a lot of motivation to prove his new bike and team. They are legends of Dakar and have proven that over the past years, time and time again. They do an unbelievable job, but over the past few years other guys are have started to arrive at their level and things are getting closer and closer at the front of the race, which is awesome and the reason I can’t wait for Dakar to start.
“But the start will also be a sad occasion because Kurt Caselli should be there with us. Kurt’s recent passing came as a huge shock and is unbelievably tragic. I was with him the week before he died, in Morocco laughing and joking. He was such a great guy, a true legend in the off-road world, and an unbelievable talent on two wheels. I still can’t believe he has gone… he will be greatly missed.”