When Rod Faggotter crossed the Dakar finish line in 16th place, the enormity of the result was easy to miss.
The modest motorcycle dealer from the wide open expanses of Longreach in Western Queensland was the first Yamaha rider in a sea of KTM and Honda machines, possibly the first non-professional, but definitely the only guy in at least the top 20 with a full-time job.
It also so happened he was riding for the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team as 'Water Boy' (rally sport's term for support rider - there to provide on-course support to other team members where needed). That meant he spent plenty of time helping his three team mates through various obstacles, geographical or mechanical (qualified mechanics who can run top-20 at Dakar are something of a rarity).
In the end he was the only member of the team to make it through, and in a 14-day exercise in resilience, navigation and measured, high-speed riding over treacherous terrrain, it shows an incredibly specific and well-developed skillset.
So let's find out about Rod:
Name: Rodney Faggotter
From: Longreach, Western Qld
Discpline: Rally / Desert
Bike: Yamaha WR450F & YZ450F
Sponsors: Yamaha, Yamalube, GYTR
Centretune Motorcycles, Dunlop Tyres, Thor Mx, Force Accessories, Safari Tanks, RK Chain & Sprockets, Scott Goggles, Racetech Suspension/ Shocktreatment Suspension, Centwest Engineering, Kustom Mx, Stegpgz, Aquayak Kyaks, Scotts Dampers, Gaern Boots, Outback Aqua, Cairns Lasertag & Kart Hire, Coconut Racing, Rynpower, Storeboard. Yamaha Yamalube Official Rally Racing Team
I ride a motorcycle because:
I have always enjoyed it! We grew up on a property where my mum and a brother still live. Awesome freedom.
The reason I compete aboard one is:
It takes me different places around Australia & the world and I get to compete against my heroes. I enjoy the challenge too.
What I love about my racebike is:
It’s a FACTORY bike! Its badass!
My discipline of motorcycle sport is:
Desert/Rally, because it's value for money / adrenaline for 4 -12 hours a day! And the track is always new and unknown.
The biggest high I ever got from competition was:
I'm still getting it! - racing all sorts of world & American champions & legends of enduro & motocross from around the world.
My favourite part of the world to compete is:
Peruvian sand dunes, ITS EPIC – the dunes are huge and we are so small as riders trying to cross these things!
The person who taught me the most about my sport is:
Steve Gall, Tim Cole & Richard Moore
The person whose backing makes all the difference is:
Outside of my motorcycle life:
I own & run a Yamaha/Kawasaki dealership called Centretune Motorcycles in Western Qld.
You might be surprised to know that I:
Only started racing when I was around 20
In the next 12 months, my goals are:
family / work & after that maybe some more rallies
The thing I'll be focusing on the most in that time is:
How are you feeling, Rod?
“I've recovered really good this time, I only had a few tumbles and lost the front end once which was a little bit of a hard one, but no bruising or blisters. I feel like I've cheated the system!
Last year I went down on the bitumen took skin off in a few places. Injuries like that make it a long Dakar.”
What's different with how you do Dakar, compared to the front guys?
“It's a hobby for me, so I don't have the time available to train the way the Pro guys would. Not saying I could win... Toby's got more talent than me, I admit that!
Our budget is much smaller, but I'm still on a good deal - I've got the motorhome and access to the masseuse, and my bike is good! The bikes all have different strengths and weaknesses comparatively, but ours are definitely up there.
Since we're based on a production WR/YZ, with fuel tanks and navigation equipment added, it's not a ground-up rally bike like some of the others. I reckon ours is a good thing. It's certainly a lot cheaper!”
What's a water boy?
A "Water Boy" is a support rider who help the other members of the team finish within reason, especially mechanically. Towards the end when Adrien, Xavier and Franco had all gone out, a few of the journos had some fun with the fact that their water boy was still going!
With those huge 600-700k days, is it hard to occupy your head for such long hours in the saddle?
It's not like 600 kilometres down the bitumen, you're always navigating, monitoring the bike or trying to get a drink. Even when it's two or five kilometres between markers there's that much going on that isn't marked, whether it's the road, the animals, local people or spectators. You're never bored
and it's never easy. You'd never get more than a minute or two where you could hold it flat out without responding to something. It's like high speed trail riding into the unknown.
How was the support from back home?
The support from Australia is great; sometimes you'll go a few days without internet coverage, then some days you'll have an hour of your own time, or definitely on your rest day you have time to read through and see what people are saying.
Aircraft generally go to oxygen at around 3000 metres, but you guys go way past those altitudes in timed stages during the Dakar, don't you?
We got up to around 5000m during one stage. The rest day in La Paz (3000m) beforehand was a good adjustment period. Some guys get altitude sick - I don't, but I was definitely down on energy. I went up a flight of stairs and I was puffing hard - if I had to go up two I'd have been stuffed. Plus at that height the bikes run like XR200s at times, too, which makes things interesting.