James Hillier has announced he is setting himself the target of entering the Dakar Rally in 2022, making him the first Isle of Man TT race winner to take on one of motorsport’s most gruelling challenges.
One of road racing’s foremost racers with a victory in the 2013 Lightweight TT under his belt, Hillier will now embark on his most ambitious endeavours yet with a year of training in readiness to enter the Dakar Rally, the world famous endurance event covering 500 miles of sand dunes in its current Saudi Arabia location.
Hillier will attempt the feat with the Rich Energy-backed OMG Racing team, with whom he signed ahead of the 2020 season. However, having spent the year on the sidelines after every notable road race was cancelled due to COVID-19, Hillier has confirmed he will remain with the team for 2021 in the hope certain events are able to get underway next year.
In the meantime, he will train for the Dakar Rally by entering the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and Dubai International Baja events, subject to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.
He becomes the first TT winner – and only the second rider outright – to attempt entering the Dakar Rally.
“I’m really pleased to continue with RICH Energy OMG Racing for the 2021 season. Although we weren’t able to race the bike this season due to the pandemic, I feel really settled within the team and our testing programme alongside the British Superbike riders at Monteblanco and Jerez went very well.
“We’ve now got more time to continue developing the bike ahead of next season’s racing, to ensure we’re right on the pace once things do get underway.
“Being involved with the Dakar project with RICH Energy OMG Racing is seriously exciting. It’s a massive task but I have full faith in the team and can’t wait to continue our preparations with some more testing and a few rally events as soon as possible to really settle into this new challenge.”
Beginning in 1979, the initial decades of the Dakar Rally saw competitors traverse Paris to Dakar (the capital of Senegal), but it has more recently been run in South America.
It was moved to Saudi Arabia for the first time in 2020, though the inaugural event was marred by the death of two competitors. In all, 30 competitors have died on the event, though collisions with local people and even terrorist related incidents have accounted for a total of 75 deaths over 41 year span.