Rocket Rod's Dakar Rally

Rocket Rod Faggotter of Longreach’s Centretune MCs didn’t start out as Yamaha’s #1 Factory Rider for this year’s Dakar Rally. But he certainly ended up with the whole team behind him during the last few stages that saw him place 16th outright.
It wasn’t easy. The Dakar never is. But to come from a strict support rider role - where instructions dictate you carry all the tools and fix all the bikes – to #1 rider status is an extraordinary journey. It’s a journey that started out as a self funded privateer desperate to fulfill a Dakar dream in 2012. His efforts were rewarded with a spot on the Yamaha Factory Race Team in 2017, but disaster struck last year when Rod was forced to retire with mechanical failure.

So props to Rod, the Yamaha Factory Race Team and in particular the incredible WR450F that hauled him across South America for 9000kms on the same engine. Note that most top teams freshen up their engines regularly – but Rod’s #44 machine ran the same motor for the duration of the world’s most demanding off road race. Which speaks volumes for the reliability of Yamaha’s reverse fed four valve 449cc powerplant. Here’s Rod’s story in his own words.
Rocket Rod’s Race Wrap
Jetted out of Brisbane on new year’s January and after three flights arrived into Lima, Peru – but not before our mates in Auckland airport confiscated my Vegemite and two rear shocks I was taking over to trial, arrrrrggggh!

 Next few days I was busy with prep, scrutiny and riders brief and one ride to re-adjust to the rally bike. First week went well, holding a spot in the top 20 overall.

 I lost some time on day five when Franco my teammate cartwheeled and destroyed his front end and map gear. Got him going and he followed me until things got dusty and confusing and I lost track of him so I rode my own race for the rest of the day.

 After the rest day we were into Bolivia – where it was cold (zero degree mornings), wet and high altitude. The next few days were above 3500-4000 metres with a top of 5000 metres. None of the bikes run well at this altitude which makes the heavier sand sections really challenging.

My team mate Franco Caimi got stuck in a bog hole on day one of the first unsupported marathon stage. I stopped and with the help of USA MX legend Andrew Short, we got him out. Then about two hours later he got stuck again. This was a trickier situation and it took four of us to get him out.

All this bike unbogging at altitude with low oxygen really drained me and I was a bit spent by that afternoon. Then Franco DNF’d with a fried clutch so he never made it back.

I serviced team mate Adrien and Xavier’s bikes that night as well as my own. Next day was going well but then Xavier broke his arm in four places, which was a major dampener on the day. Now down to two Yamaha riders…

The next two days was even colder and wetter with tougher terrain that I didn’t adjust to well. At this stage I was hovering around just out of the top 20 and a little unimpressed with myself.

Then we entered Argentina and the weather, terrain and altitude were more to my liking. But then on day 10 Adrien crashed 3km from the end of the stage with a huge lead and injured himself - broken collarbone, ribs and punctured lung.

I stopped again on this stage to help Alexandro Botturi - who was on Yamaha’s Factory Team team last year. Alexandro had crashed and knocked himself out and his front wheel was bent so much it wouldn’t turn through the front forks. Luckily he was okay and the organisers gave me back my time for stopping.

Now we were down to just one Yamaha rider in the top 20 – me! So there was even more pressure than I already gave to myself. I was going to push the bike to the finish if I had to…

The next few days were fortunately uneventful – no crashes for me and I steadily worked up to 16th outright at the end. It was disappointing that we had two race stages cut from the event because I was feeling good and recovering well – something that not crashing definitely assists with!

Overall I am super happy to complete another Dakar especially after last year’s mechanical failure. I am very grateful for the opportunity again supplied to me by the Yamaha Factory Team. And of course super appreciative of all my supporters and sponsors. I really appreciate all the support that has got me this far.