Life begins at 40
Many riders dream of a “Factory Ride”, a term very loosely used at times. For me it would be riding for a factory backed team in national, but more likely at international events. Well that dream has just become a reality.
Growing up on a sheep and cattle property near Longreach in western Queensland, I have always loved riding offroad motorcycles and started racing motocross at 18 on a YZ250. I pursued motocross up until I was 26 when I started Centretune Motorcycles, and also started our family with my wife Cherie. For a few years there was little time for bike riding until a mate convinced me to do the Finke Desert Race which got me interested in racing again. From there the cross-country racing bug truly bit hard and I have been back to Finke every year since for my tenth finish from ten starts, along with seven Australian Safaris of which I won the last two.
In 2012 I had the opportunity to race the Dakar alongside veteran David Schwarz. Unfortunately, my introduction to the legendary race ended with an engine failure. But the bug had bitten hard enough to try again and so I self-funded through lots of sponsorship and fundraising, to afford a ‘rental’ ride with Yamaha France on a rally kitted YZ450. I literally rocked up in 2013 with a gearbag and no idea if any of the team could speak English! This effort ended much better, with a 14th place outright and 2nd rookie. I wanted to ‘step it up a level’ for another attempt but despite plenty of door knocking for three years, there was little support, particularly for non-European riders. Now at 40 years old I had given up on the opportunity of racing Dakar again for lack of support, and also due to the last five years of drought affecting most of my customers in outback Queensland.
How does this relate to the “factory ride” I mentioned at the beginning? Well, I never actually gave up fully on my dream and decided at least I could race the Abu Dhabi round of the World Cross Country Championship. The race didn’t go well as I was carrying injuries from the Condo 750, but the motions were already set in place with a few old 2013 Yamaha France contacts. We discussed my possible inclusion in the team for later this year. Since this meeting I have had to stay tight lipped, until the team officially announced their lineup this week just prior to the OiLibya Rally in Morooco
So… I am RAPT to announce, that I’ve signed on to the official Yamaha Factory Rally Team as the ‘water boy”. This means I have to look after their main riders Helder Rodrigues and Adrien Van Beveran if they have problems. This position can work several ways. Aussie Matt Fish was ‘water boy’ for the Husky team in 2013 – and spent most of his time working on their bikes, often towing them! On the other hand, Ruben Faria finished second outright in 2013 by ‘shadowing’ his team lead rider Cyril Despres all the way to the finish. So I am very open minded about my chances of a good result. My duties start with the last round of the WCCC in Morocco which starts October 1st and then onto the Dakar in South America first week of January 2017. I get to race the latest generation Yamaha rally bike which I have already ridden in a testing session in Morocco.
The “Factory” part of the deal is still sinking in. Our bikes are supplied, entries paid, we’re assigned a mechanic each with access to many exclusive parts/motor and suspension combinations. And the unbelievable luxury of a motorhome at Dakar. Plus, the training and knowledge that can only come from the years of experience these guys have attained.
I am grabbing this opportunity with both hands and can only thank the people that helped get me to this point. Ray Howard at Yamaha Australia, who pestered Yamaha Europe as much as I did, Geoff Olholm at Cairns Coconut Resort and all my long-time sponsors. And especially to Cherie and my boys Nate & Matt for their support. Please jump on my facebook page “Rodney Faggotter Offroad Racing” and lend your support. Thanks!
Photo Ross Briggs