Honda's Manga: 'The Road to Dakar'

Road to Dakar -

Contributor Nayalan Moodley, AKA DarcNoodles, co-founded and wrote for South Africa’s vanguard Otaku Magazine. Japan has been his home since 2008, and he is currently a freelancer specializing in words, photos, videos, graphic design, and illustration.

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Honda has a long and well known racing heritage, and whether on 4 wheels or 2, their teams have taken top honors in a number of the world’s premier motorsports competitions. Until this time last year, they'd spent well over a decade absent from one of the biggest...

Backstory: Honda and the Dakar Rally
In 2012, Honda Racing Corporation entered their first factory works team into the Dakar Rally since their hat trick 1987, ‘88, and ‘89 winning streak. The competition was held in January 2013 and spanned over 8000km between Chile and Argentina. TEAM HRC gained enough experience and data to develop their CRF 450 Rally bike which was unveiled in October. Since then, they have popped the champagne in all the big rally raids this year and are confident that they have a shot at the Dakar 2014 podium.

Team HRC Riders Johnny Campbell, Helder Rodrigues, Javier Pizzolito finished the 2013 Dakar Rally. 

As part of the buildup to the January 4, 2014 start, Honda released a manga titled The Road to Dakar, a fictionalized account based on actual events that led up to their 2013 return.

About that Manga...
It should be stated at the outset that, while I am a gearhead and a fan of many track and street motorsports, I’ve never really enjoyed rally raid events.

The Road to Dakar manga, however, is an interesting read. It is not the best artwork, but that doesn’t distract from the story. It’s fictional but based on actual events, and the characters are based on real individuals. The artist managed to capture their likenesses in a compelling way and that connection to reality kept me clicking through the pages.

Chapter 1 introduces Katsumi Yamazaki, the Dakar Rally TEAM HRC director, Tetsuo Suzuki, the president of HRC, and features engineers Yotaro Mori and a man named only as Sasaki. As an intro should, it sets the premise for the entire manga and develops a decent connection between the characters and the reader.

The flow was a bit static at times, and the English translation occasionally felt a bit too translated, but at the end of the first chapter I genuinely felt like I wanted to read on. The full manga's linked below. A few sample pages:

Page #3:

Page #7:

The english is grammatically accurate, but the overly direct translation does erodes some of the emotional impact. 

In truth, I expected it to be fodder for Honda fanboys, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it rather appealing. While I don’t think I’ll be watching extensive Dakar Rally footage, nor will I swap my Nissan Silvia S14 for a Honda S2000, I’m genuinely looking forward to Chapter 2.

If you want to take The Road to Dakar for a spin, check out the source link or jump to the gallery:

For those who like moving things that go vroom, here’s TEAM HRC’s CRF 450 Rally bike:

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Images: Honda; DarcNoodles
Contributor Nayalan Moodley, AKA DarcNoodles, is also working on YouTube fame, blogging Japanese randomness, hunting for tech deals in Akiba, driving his car sideways, volunteering in Tohoku, and shooting things.