“Make those who start suffer and make those who remain dream” was the motto of Thierry Sabine's Paris-Dakar, died on 14 January 1986. Two years later, on the occasion of the release of the Africa Twin, Honda France offered to 50 by “those who usually stay” to also participate in the Dakar 1989.
In 1988, Hervé Guio, the head of Honda France, had already christened the new XRV 650 Rd 03 with the brilliant trade name of Africa Twin (will do so again with the first names of the Transalp and of the Dominator). François Charliat was then responsible for advertising and promoting the network. In his spare time, at the beginning of January, was also a water carrier for hrc's official top riders. After the Dakar of the 1988, that didn't end, his NXR went up in smoke due to a leak in the tank, Charliat was also offered a leadership position in the Honda team for the following year. “I refused. I didn't feel legitimized. I was able to go to the 90% for a long time, but I couldn't go any further like the ones that preceded me. I preferred to stop. “
A godsend to Hervé Guio, who quickly found a substitute for him. It was not the Neveu and the Lalay who had the task of aiming for victory in Dakar, but 50 Private! At the exit of the Africa Twin, Hervé Guio, on a night of drunkenness or i don't know what occasion, said in front of an audience of journalists: “This is the bike of the Dakar, it's Charliat who developed it with the Japanese, it's the perfect bike for a private, true François? And we're going to do a great operation 50 Africa Twin in Dakar“. After this announcement, told me: “Well, François, you have to do it yourself. How much you need? What you need for the bike?”. “
Different times, different customs! This is not Charliat's first hot potato. He's already had to improvise a Supermotard Challenge trophy. “following an error of order on the volume of the 500 Cr“, the largest 2T cross bike of the time, it's not the easiest to sell! He was put in charge of an adventure that was officially called Goal Dakar. “It was a program that depended on R&S. There was always competition between R's departments&S and HRC, it was a little bit’ like the workers against the gentlemen”, says Charliat who remembers the preparations and specifications that he himself drafted.
The Japanese came to visit us in Paris and asked us what to do on the bike.
We were in the Marathon category. So we had to change some things. I had the cartridges changed in the forks, the shock absorber instead was prepared at home, so much no one would come to check. And the fuel tank had almost doubled in capacity. The bike could not be lightened (270 kg in marathon version). It was what it was.
We had also reinforced the cup and integrated the water tank as disre already. The bike was tested twice in Japan, then two months before the Dakar, the 50 motorcycles were delivered to Paris. It's a special series, with engine and chassis serial numbers beginning with 5. In the parking lot of Honda France, looks like a battlefield. Military tents are set up to accommodate these 50 motorcycles and pieces from Japan, service equipment, all this guarded day and night.
We also had to take care of finding the support vehicles. We had three trucks, two Unimog 4×4 plus a Kamaz 6×6 rented in Switzerland. We have organized a competition for network mechanics. There were ten of them in one of the organization's planes, plus one on every truck. As many drivers and even three warehouse workers. In total, 21 People with my deputy and I to oversee the operation!
"All included, For 81.500 Franks at the time, Honda provided candidates with a complete motorcycle and service package with ten mechanics. “I told myself that the guys who left for the Dakar have often forgotten a lot of things. They tried to make a nice bike, but they often didn't have the tools to repair a simple drilling, no easel to work on in the evening, not the right jacket in which to put the cards. With my six or seven years of experience, I made sure they had a kit ready for the race."
Although the bike was not a missile, fine. But you had to know how to bring it, it wasn't really a motorcycle for beginners, but two-thirds of them were. He was taught to read a roadbook. It was the age of the first scrollers. I also had some of them make sandwiches before they started.. The boys didn't take care of anything! “A budget for spare parts of 15.000 francs is part of the package, each piece used is then deducted later.