ISLE OF MAN TT STAR JAMES HILLIER HAS SWAPPED TARMAC FOR DIRT ROAD AS HE AND THE TEAM TACKLED THE ANDALUCIA RALLY 2021 ON THE ROAD TO DAKAR 2022!
Isle of Man TT star James Hillier and his RICH Energy OMG team took on the rugged terrain of the Andalucia Rally in Spain last weekend. An entry list that boasted former world rally champion, Carlos Sainz, his daughter Laia and multiple Dakar contenders on two and four wheels only added to the sense of occasion. The rally forms part of the 'Road to Dakar' challenge in which new competitors must demonstrate their ability to use the coloured road book, a scrolling map that forms a crucial part of the instrument panel, and prove themselves competent in rally competition and gain the 'passport' to the biggest rally of them all, The Dakar.
The stages are of an overall length with a section that's set against the clock. A Super Special stage of 32km around the rally base of Villamartin opened proceedings; a shorter stage to get accustomed to the terrain where Hillier and the team must complete the 1000 mile, five-day rally to gain the ultimate goal of qualification for the 2022 Dakar rally in Saudi Arabia. Despite having no expectations before the event and after just two shake-down tests in the Middle East, it was an exceptional first day's action.
Day 1 proper was a 293km ride across the open terrain of Andalucia of which 257km was timed and the first opportunity for Hillier to get to grips with his RICH Energy KTM450 Rally in which he placed a creditable 27th before the longest stage of the rally on day 2 where competitors tackled a huge 497km loop that included 381km of timed route. Day 3 was a slightly shorter affair, a 471km trip that included 311km of timed route. A boost in the standings was the result of Hillier's efforts as the TT winner rose to 15th place overall and 4th in the 'Road to Dakar' challenge', as he used all his experience and knowledge to get the best out of his KTM machine.
Day 4 proved an opportunity for Hillier and his team to improve on their current standing and confirm that all-important qualification. 340km faced the competitors for the final day in Spain, a route that took in 284km of timed route as the rally reached its climax. After a total of 1244km of timed stages, 1629km overall and 12hrs 27mins of rallying, Hiller was delighted to finish the rally in 15th place with a fabulous 3rd in class and top British entrant - a successful competitive debut for the RICH Energy rally team!
After the event Hiller said, "We had a really good event, it was four stages and a prologue - lots of learning, loads of riding and finished 15th overall, so very happy with that. I didn’t really have any expectations coming into the event, the plan was just to finish and to learn so this exceeds everything we could have even hoped for.
I really enjoyed it, the RICH Energy OMG Racing team worked great and the bike hasn’t missed a beat all week.
Now we’ll head back to the UK and look at what additional events we’ll look to compete at in the build up to Dakar 2022.
A massive thank you to everyone at home for all the support".