Jeremías Israel back in action for the Atacama Rally

b_600_0_16777215_00_images_12-NIEUWS_AtacamaRally_2015_JeremiasIsrael_Atacama.jpg

For Team HRC, participating in the Atacama Rally offers a great chance for riders to further hone their skills as part of a training schedule that will eventually culminate in the Rally Dakar 2016. Team HRC will be present, from August 31st to September 5th, with Paulo Goncalves and Jeremias Israel.

The Portuguese rider currently occupies fifth position in the overall world championship standings with 39 points and will be battling to keep all title options open. Jeremías will be making his second outing of the season having recovered from an injury picked up in Qatar in April.

So Jere, first of all, what sort of physical shape are you in? You had your arm operated on after the injury in Qatar, the same one that had been hurt in Dakar 2014. How did it go?

“I had the arm operation to change the metal plate that I had from the accident in Dakar 2014. Now I’ve got a smaller plate and it’s much better. Taking advantage of the time with the surgeon, I also got my left ankle operated on which had been nagging me since Abu Dhabi 2013 when I fell onto Hélder’s (Rodrigues) bike whilst jumping a short dune. I’m feeling better by the day and I’m firmly focused on being at 100% for the Dakar 2016.”

I assume that you must be pleased to have renewed the contract with Honda HRC for the 2015 season and the Dakar 2016.

”I’m very happy and more than satisfied; I’m really looking forward to it. I feel that the team has great strength; each component of the team works well and brings something that will be great for the future. I hope that things turn out better in this Dakar 2016 and that it will be more competitive.”

You return to the competition on home soil with the Atacama Rally. What will you be expecting from the Chilean race?

”For me, it is an opportunity to get back to racing. Moreover, it’s the beginning of the final stretch of the year which will be very intense. I hope that this edition of the event will have an improved roadbook and hopefully the intense rains in northern and central Chile won’t complicate the race. I’ll take this opportunity to send my best wishes to those affected by this in the Tocopilla region.”

What else is in store before the Dakar 2016?

”Atacama and Morocco are in the rally plan prior to the Dakar as Peru’s Inca Rally has been cancelled.”

At this point last season you were beginning the recuperation process from the injuries sustained in the Dakar 2014. So far this year you’ve trained and run a lot more.

”It will be a positive year. Last year was a year for recovering and that limited me a bit. With the experience of everything that we have done this season, I will be looking to make it to the Dakar 2016 at 100%.”

How did it feel in the marathon stages of the Dakar 2015 in Uyuni, after the problems on the salt flats and Cachi, where you had to hand over your bike so that your team-mates could continue in the race?

”It’s hard to put those feelings into words, especially after what I’d been through with Joan on the 600 kilometres of salt lake, tracks and dunes. We interchanged, we fell, we pushed… it was an intense experience that is difficult to repeat and harder still to make it through to the finish. The marathon stage in Cachi and the struggle with Paulo’s bike was really tough too. The hardest thing wasn’t having to drop out of the race because it was something that I had to accept as it was a decision that we had taken together and we were very clear about. But what was really complicated was having to work with such limited tools, such little light, in the open air, in the rain, at night…. If a screenwriter had written the script, they wouldn’t have made it as extremely difficult as that. But in spite of all those negative aspects, I managed to overcome it all because of Paulo’s second-place finish. That result made it all worthwhile; I really felt it up close and I’m very proud of that historical result, also for Paulo. But most importantly, it strengthened the team spirit that means we can make it through even the toughest moments.”

Teamwork is one of the aspects of Team HRC that would have to be highlighted from the last Dakar, as well as the stage victories and Paulo Gonçalves’ runner-up spot.

”I think that there is a nucleus, a team that is really strong and committed. That’s precisely why I think that good things will come our way in the future, although we have to keep working. Obviously, the Dakar 2015 was complicated – everything happened to us – but in the toughest moments we saw the team’s essence come out. That is why I’m proud to be a part of this team after renewing the contract and have my sights set on the Dakar 2016. Now it’s time to give it full throttle!”

With an excellent relationship between the different members of the team.

”Yes. We had a team gathering where I met all the components. That allowed me to get right into it thanks to the good friendship with Joan as well as Wolfgang [Fischer] and Taichi [Honda]. I’d also have to thank Martino for making us feel so at home in the team. It turned out to be a really tough Dakar and when things go badly, that’s when you see the real side of people and how they react. That is why we have proved that we form such a powerful and willing team.”

You also recently got together with your fellow team-mates and you had the chance to meet the latest Team HRC signing Michael Metge.

”We had a test with the new bike and the opportunity to meet almost the whole team together. I had previously met Michael in Andorra and along with Joan we had a great week of training together. I think that Metge will make a great contribution as he is a really strong rider for the team.”

You had two very different experiences in the Dakar 2014 and 2015, despite the same final result. In 2014 you were fighting for the podium and in 2015 you were battling with the team to win the overall race.

”In some ways the results compare, but for me, the tasks and missions were very different. You form part of the HRC team with a very clear mission: to fight for victory. Everyone is working towards that. The last edition left one concept very clear: the commitment we have and what we are prepared to give to achieve it. Now we will tackle a much more productive season as we’ve got new equipment to work with, bikes to test… This means that we will arrive at the Dakar at full strength.”

Does it sadden you as a Chilean that the Dakar won’t run through Chile?

”It was a sad day when the news came through. It’s clear that the Dakar brings a lot of energy, an economic injection and moves a lot of money in the area, not to mention tourism and image. This helps too. I hope that the heads of government have made the right decision, although obviously I would have continued with the Dakar. I just hope that in the future they put Chile back on the Dakar route.”

And you helped too, putting in your grain of sand to send aid to the flood hit areas of Copiapó and your own region.

”It wasn’t much, but we did it thanks to my friend ‘Maqui’ Dollmann, a doctor and motorcycle enthusiast who managed it all and the people from Cruz Verde and Tamarugal who supplied the transport. Because of them we were able to sent a small contribution of 5000 doses of essential medicines to the area.”

 

The Atacama Rally 2015 is the fifth race of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship after Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Sardinia and Egypt. For the most part, the Chilean race will be fought out in the region of Atacama’s capital, predominantly a desert area, with dunes, sandy tracks, off road plus some stretches in the mountains.

The Atacama Rally gets underway from the city Viña del Mar, where the participating teams will first have to undergo the technical and administrative checks as well as a curtain-raiser on August 31. Competitors tackle the first special stage finishing in La Serena before heading north for four technical and navigation-filled stages in the arid Copiapó desert. Then it’s back to the finish at La Serena.