What’s a guy gonna do, if he’s won at the Isle of Man TT, arguably the world’s most epic roadracing venue? Simple: Start training for the Dakar.
The word from the UK this fall is that James Hillier, who won the IOMTT’s Lighweight race in 2013, has a new target in sight. Now, he’s training for the Dakar Rally, planning to race the 2022 event.
It’d be a big change for Hillier, who’s taken 14 podiums at the TT over the years (he holds record for fifth-fastest lap around the Mountain Circuit), as well as racing at the North West 200. But don’t think that doesn’t mean he knows offroad riding; top-shelf riders from the public roads scene will mess around on dirt bikes, to keep their skills up. But usually, it’s nothing terribly serious—Hillier would be the first IOMTT race winner to actually compete at Dakar, if he puts it all together.
Hillier plans to race the 2022 Dakar with the OMG Racing team. He obviously needs some proper rally races under his belt for practice; he plans to race the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and the Dubai International Baja. No word yet on what he’d be riding, but Hillier’s often been linked to Kawasaki, although that’s changed in the past season or two. Kawi doesn’t really have an off-the-shelf Dakar bike, so don’t be surprised if he’s aboard a KTM like almost every other privateer.
How will Hillier’s experience blasting down public roads benefit him while at Dakar? It’s a different world, for sure, with new terrain every day. The winning strategy isn’t just to “send it.” Riders must be able to navigate, repair their own machines, and generally survive in the desert. However, that’s why he’s racing shorter events in the next few months, right?