It’s On! The Hellas Rally Raid for 2018 is underway in Greece with 205 motorcycles and 21 SSVs facing the starter on Day 1.
Australian rider Andrew Houlihan (KTM EXC 450) has finished the first day in 46th place overall and 15th in the M2 450 class. Andrew’s time of 2:28:53 for the first special stage places him just 29 minutes and 39 seconds off the pace of the leader, Italian Jacopo Cerutti (Husqvarna 450 FE) who is competing in the Elite class.
That’s a fantastic result given this is Andrew’s first participation in the tough event, and his first international rally.
Andrew left Australia on the 10th May, travelling through London, Budapest and Athens before arriving at the bivouac at the ancient city of Olympia two days before the event.
That gave him time to recover from the long trip, acclimatise to the weather and familiarise himself with both the bike and the team he is riding with.
For this event Andrew is riding a 2018 KTM EXC 450 in the M2 class (350-450cc) supplied and serviced by Nomadas Moto Rally Services. The bike has been setup identical to the one he has been training on here in Australia.
He says he “made the right decision using Hernan Samaniego, very good operator and great set up”.
The team has 3 riders entered – Juan Pablo Guillen Rivera (#254) from Mexico, Deepak Kumar (#271) from India and Andrew (#245) – all aboard KTM 450’s.
Andrew’s comments from Day 1:
“It was absolute madness again this morning with over 300 riders taking off in 1 minute intervals.”
“A 20km liaison to our 1st special stage today and then it was on. The terrain and navigation was bloody difficult, todays course was more like the extreme enduro.
It was quite difficult and I made a few small navigational errors. The deep river crossing was a bit tricky as was the endless rock in the river bed. I managed to destroy a brand new tyre in the first day and will need another put on tonight.”
Andrew says he’s also enjoying the atmosphere in the bivouac:
“I get a chance to meet quite a few other riders as they pass by. What a life these guys have, every month a different Rally in a different country. There are quite a few Dakar competitors from this year that are racing, although there is a language barrier we still manage to have a good chat.”
“The ND Overlanders race team from Ireland have found a small Aussie flag and welcomed Katie and I into their area whenever we want.”
Day 2 will have riders travel a total of 324km with 2 special stages of 130km and 123km.
Riders will leave the start line for day 2 in one minute intervals from 7am local time (2pm AEST), and Andrew will start at 8.31am (3.31pm AEST).
Speeds should be higher than yesterday’s stage and navigation a little easier for the riders.