The road to the 2022 Dakar Rally has certainly been eventful for Australian rider Andrew Houlihan.
COVID-19 caused the cancellation of many events on Andrew’s 2021 race calendar, and a crash on a training ride earlier in the year resulted in some serious injuries and destroyed Andrew’s KTM 890 Rally training bike – one of only 700 in the world.
Even the trip to Saudi Arabia had its moments, with travel plans constantly changing as flights were cancelled because of the COVID outbreak in Europe.
Andrew left Australia in mid December with his wife Katie and headed firstly to Spain to meet up with teammate Pablo Guillen. From there they headed to Greece to spend time with some of the people who supported them during Andrew’s recovery from an incident in the 2018 Hellas Rally. And then it was off to Switzerland to spend Christmas with the rest of the team before departing for Saudi Arabia.
Now settled into the bivouac in Jeddah, it’s time to focus on the mammoth event ahead.
He’s reacquainted himself with his KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica, and done his first shakedown ahead of Stage 1A of the 2022 Dakar Rally on Saturday (local time).
Stage 1A takes competitors from Jeddah to Hail and consists of a 595 km liaison and a 19 km special. This format is a little different to last year and replaces the Prologue we’re used to seeing.
And then it gets serious!
During 12 gruelling stages riders will cover over 12,000km – 4,240 km of which are specials – through some of the toughest terrain in the world. And the promise this year – sand, sand and even more sand!!!
Competing in the Dakar Rally requires immense physical and mental fitness, high levels of strategic thinking and planning, and an ability to read roadbooks and navigate far better than most people could ever imagine. Oh yes – you obviously need to be able to ride fast for long periods and have an understanding of motorcycle dynamics that mere mortals will never have.
This is Andrew Houlihan’s (#62 – KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica) second Dakar and he is once again riding with long term teammate Pablo Guillen (#35 – KTM 450 Rally) from Mexico. This year their Nomadas Adventure Coca-Cola Racing Team has expanded to include another Mexican – Antonio Vicente Guillen Rivera (#111 – KTM 500 EXC-F). Are Pablo and Antonio related? You bet! 🙂
Greek rider Vasileios Boudros (#147 – Husqvarna 450 Rally) is also riding under the Nomadas Adventure banner.
Andrew goes into the 2022 Dakar Rally grateful for the backing from his many loyal sponsors and supporters – Speedcafe.com; Motorcycle Life; Alistair Nicoll – Link Fire Australia; Milton Walsh – Shaun Walsh Earthmoving; Coca-Cola; Brian Bayley; Ian McKinley; Kriega Australia; Aurora Rally Equipment; Daniel Verbaan; Performance+ Nutrition & Training; Fuel Torque; Adventure Gear Online; Buzz’s Bikes & Bits; Fist Handwear; Whitefang Hurley; Dakar Games; Cameron Jones; Firetail Robotics; Scott Britnell – Go Ride It; Goldentyre Australia; MOTO KIT; Future-Sport Motorcycles; Rapid Bike Australia; and Rally Spec.