Paolo Ceci: A question of experience

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As the countdown to the Dakar 2016 ticks down, Team HRC’s participation will rely on one vital factor: experience. Paolo Ceci has dedicated more than eleven years to Rally and has formed a tight bond with the Dakar, having made it through to the final finish-line on the last four attempts.

Paolo Ceci is looking forward to the great Dakar challenge with the new revamped Honda Racing Corporation team. Finally, after eleven years battling in the world’s toughest race, Ceci will be hoping to add his grain of sand to a team with distinct chances of grabbing the overall victory. “I’m really glad to be in an important team like Honda HRC and am very thankful for the opportunity. I hope to be able to support the team so that Honda can finally win this Dakar 2016,” states the Italian rider. So, let’s find out a bit out this experienced rider.

-The family of Paolo Ceci has always had a passion for motors… but four-wheeled ones!

– Yeah. My first contact came when I was eight years old when I started with a kart. My father was a big rally car fan and he had competed in some regional races. But my adventure lasted just a year as there was a very particular atmosphere that I didn’t like. My parents signed me up for tennis and I was competing at that until I was sixteen. Finally, one day I came across an old motorcycle that my uncle had in an old half-abandoned house in the mountains and I can say it was there that my passion for bikes began. I started a little late, because youngsters now start very early, but I think I took the right steps. I took part in Enduro for a while, but then I discovered MotoRally and I fell in love. I have won many Italian titles and two Bajas European Championships.

-The factor that sets rally apart from other specialities is the road-book and the navigation.

– Rally is the most complete speciality that there is, because riders have to be good, quick, but also be able to read the roadbook, be able to navigate and have some good notions of mechanics. A rally raid race is very cerebral and the psychology plays a part too. You have to know when to accelerate and when to let the others do the work; you have to know how to control the race. Of all off-road disciplines, Rally is undoubtedly the most complete.

-And the Dakar is everybody’s dream.

– It’s a dream, yes. I saw it on the TV when I was little and I liked it, but I never thought that I’d be racing myself years later. My first Dakar was with Team Aprilia, which was a nice experience with a new bike; I finished fourteenth. I had a rather ‘particular’ experience in 2012 riding for the Bordone-Ferrari team. In 2014, I collaborated with the Bolivian Juan Carlos Salvatierra, who needed a water-carrier and I rode with him for Speedbrain. Last year I took part again with a new KTM. This year I got a call from Honda and obviously I decided to take up the new challenge.

– You didn’t hesitate for a second to join Honda!

– It is a really great challenge with Honda, who, along with KTM, are the most important in the Dakar. It’s a nice challenge also to ride the most developed, most revolutionary bike to the greatest Dakar heights. In a race with so many variables: dust, water, weather complications, heat, cold, rain and altitude… Anything can happen, so for me it is an honour to be working for the team and I will do everything to help get Joan or Paulo onto the top of the podium.

– What are your strengths?

– From the sporting point of view, without a doubt, the navigation. In the Italian school we’ve learnt a lot. Shortly before joining Honda I started my own school to teach youngsters. I think that mechanics is another of my strong points as I’m a rider that likes to get his hands on the bike and work with it as much as possible. In case anything goes wrong – let’s hope it doesn’t – I can always try to fix it. If we have to change the engine or there’s any other kind of setback, I will be there, ready to muck in. Even an insignificant fall can develop into a serious problem, so since I’ve been with Honda I’ve been working very closely with the mechanics to learn as much as possible about the bike.

– What is Paolo Ceci’s aim in this Dakar?

-It is to work for the team and work towards getting a victory for Honda. I know my team-mates pretty well and I can tell you that they are great people and fine riders. They are mature, experienced and fast. It would be perfect if both of them won it. The aim is to win the race and I haven’t got a favourite. I hope to do the job well and continue with the team.

– With Peru pulling out of the competition, Argentina will have a great weight in this Dakar. What do you think about this edition of the race?

– The fact that there is no Perú isn’t good for the race; no doubt about it. The sand will be missing, which makes the race very different. With the race covering such a lot of Argentina we will have a strong “déjà vu”, something that we already know about, but I’m sure the ASO will surprise us with some hard stages. The second week will be harder than the first one. We will go to some very tricky areas: Fiambalá, Chilecito, La Rioja… it will be really tough. I hope that Marc’s arrival as Sporting Director will bring lots of navigation with it. The race should be hard and difficult. Let’s hope that Marc knows how to make it complicated, without destroying the riders.

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