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Joan Barreda riding for Monster Energy Honda Team

Monster Energy Honda’s Joan Barreda chats Dakar challenge

Dec 192016

At 33 years of age Joan Barreda is in his physical prime to be attacking the world’s toughest race. 9000km (5600 miles) in two weeks through three countries and a plethora of terrain, conditions and navigational twists means the Dakar Rally is not only the jewel of the off-road crown but arguably the hardest and most punishing test of man and machine. Athletes have perished and prospered on the Dakar trail and it takes a certain type of individual to even consider hitting the challenges of phenomenal speed cross country against the clock and more than a hundred other single-minded and mentally dogged rivals.

With six Dakars on his CV and the achievement of thirteen stage victories across three editions, Barreda has nevertheless had to watch others spray the elusive and treasured final podium champagne…so far. However the factory racing department of the world’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer – HRC - have been shearing the development trimmings of their rally project for what will be their third attempt at the South American spectacle.


What’s your take on the coming Dakar…?

I think with more enthusiasm than ever because we have put in so much work, and every day this makes you dream a little bit more and think about everything that is possible. I cannot wait to get there and start. It has been a strange year for the team in 2016 but we have made some important changes and pressurised HRC back in Japan to have the definitive bike that we need. We’ve pushed hard on reliability and have done a lot more kilometres. We’ve changed the logistics of the team and also brought in new staff with a crucial point of experience that perhaps was lacking in the past for what is quite a young group of people. So we have been building on small points and details all around us. We are a good mix. Having management and other riders with experience comes in useful when you find yourself in a race where the stages become complicated. These guys become like a ‘filter’ and we can benefit.

What about expectations of the route?

This year I think with Bolivia, a few stages in a row and a lot of elevation means it will be a bit different to what we’ve had in the past. It will be important to maintain both the wear on the bike as much as myself. The navigation elements will be hard; I’m sure the route and the rally will push us to the limits. We have to keep very concentrated and focussed to remain in the game.

Is this the best Honda so far?

Well, we’ve had really good bikes before and at a really high level. I would not say this one is better than any others but we hope it will be safer and reliable; this is the first objective. I don’t think we have any huge gains in performance compared to 2016 but this bike has many more kilometres accumulated and a very strong backbone. The feeling is great because it has always been an agile and good-handling motorcycle. It is powerful. I haven’t tested anything else that comes close. We will be strong.

Your rivals: it seems you might have more enemies in the team than out?!

I hope not! If you want to win the Dakar then you have to beat everybody else…but I’m confident in the team [structure] and the way we are set-up. There is a good feeling between us and we know that when things get tough or complicated then we are there to support each other. Running close together in the pack is always an advantage and I think we have a collective that can do that and also near the front of the standings. With so many KTMs it was easy to feel almost ‘alone’ as a rider sometimes…but I think that will change now. We know there will be a pretty big group of other riders that will be pushing hard but we have to keep focussed, keep the bike running and on two wheels.

What do you like and fear most about the rally?

The thing I like the most is the whole effort made by the team in the build-up and through the race. I have a big responsibility and job on the bike but the engineers, technicians and teams also have a big role. Fear? Obviously a crash. It is something that could happen any time, any day. Your health is always the number one priority, without a doubt.