“Participating in motorcycle racing at this age is really challenging and foolish; even I think it’s a silly adventure. Nevertheless, no matter how stupid and foolish it seems, I’m still going to do it! By and by, I’ll make progress with this route. There is only a month left until Dakar, and at this point, I am determined to race.”
This was what the 45-year old racer Jun Mitsuhashi, who is racing on a motorcycle again after 13 years, had said regarding his participation at Dakar Rally (Argentina and Bolivia). A send-off party was held for him in Tokyo on December 2.
The two-week race is a time battle that will take place over 9,000km across the off-road, such as deserts, sand dunes, mud, and the wilderness. It is referred to as the “world’s toughest rally”; there were particular years when the percentage of those who finished the rally was less than 50%.
In this rally, Mitsuhashi has shown brilliant results, such as dominating the production vehicles class five times. However, after the 2015 series, he has left the team.
Mitsuhashi said, “I don’t want to end it like this,” and while he was looking for a new challenge, KTM Japan contacted him. It has been a long while since a Japanese rider has joined the Dakar motorcycle rally. At this point, the project by KTM to support riders moving from here on has begun.
Mitsuhashi, the reigning champion in the car class, has no track records for motorcycle for more than 10 years now. The rally organizer initially had disapproved Mitsuhashi’s entry with a motorcycle because they had some misgivings about it.
Eventually, they have accepted his entry with the condition that Mitsuhashi has to finish the race and demonstrate his true ability in the rally, making it a challenging race for Mitsuhashi.
Although they have hastily elected to be in Merzouga Rally in Morocco in early October, this test is imbued with significance for the Dakar Rally; hence, many factory teams have also participated in it. Mitsuhashi finished in 14th place overall among more than 100 entries. There were only 10 entries who had no penalty in the race.
“Mitsuhashi is a rallyist with an extremely great talent and is one who excels at self-control. Despite being away from motorcycle rallies for a long time, he still managed to be in the upper ranking by being in control of the machine until the end without pushing his limits.”
This was said by Philip Dabrowski, the team manager, regarding Mitsuhashi’s valuable skills as a rider.
In addition, he joined the team in November, carried out his personal fitness training and a training in riding a motorcycle in Spain once more and committed that “I will not lose to young racers.” He added, “Nevertheless, I can’t go back to the level I was in when I was still in my prime of youth.”
In the send-off party, he cheerfully yet seriously stated, “I would like to return without getting an injury.” He has firmly set his sights on his first exploits in running the whole course as a Japanese rider.
(Translated by Aileen Bolo)