A long-term goal of racing Dakar in 2021 has set Andrew Houlihan on an adventure that almost cost him his life. A head-on collision with a lost competitor at an event in Greece in 2018 left Houlihan with serious injuries. However, the 49 year-old has worked his way back to full health and fitness and is about to tackle the 2019 Hispania Rally.
Houlihan will race the opening round of the 2019 European Off-Road Rally Championship in Valencia, Spain starting March 4. The four-day Rally will be raced over 1,500km and Houlihan has chosen a Sherco 450 SEF Factory edition for the job.
“I’ve had my eye on Sherco for three years and but never rode one until I purchased this bike,” Houlihan explained. “The first ride told me I had made the right decision. The finish on the Sherco is excellent. I can’t fault one thing on this bike. The engine has so much versatility. Even with the tall gearing I have on, it’s comfortable on single trail and as the bike is so agile but also stable it’s a real pleasure to ride.”
Houlihan purchased a Sherco 500 SEF Factory edition from Buzz’s Bikes and Bits in Albury and has clocked up almost 9,000km in preparation for the Hispania Rally.
“I do big rides to test the bike and myself both mentally and physically,” Houlihan said. “I have five European Rally events, three African Rallies and one in Mexico at the end of the year so I have been preparing accordingly. Good examples are rides from the Sunshine Coast to Albury and a ride from Albury to Cameron Corner and back. All I do is change the oil and service the air filter after every ride.”
Houlihan has fitted a 15-litre Safari fuel tank for extra fuel range, a custom-made higher and wider seat for comfort, Twin City Engineering foot peg extenders, 15/47 gearing for comfortable high cruising speeds and a navigational tower to mount his ICO, road book and tablet for reading maps on the fly.
“With this gearing I can cruise at 150kph and maintain high speeds of 175kph. For the amount of work this bike has done and where it has been, it still looks good and it’s going strong. The engine is so strong I have total confidence in it.
Andrew Houlihan will continue racing as many rally events in 2019 and 2020 as possible as he prepares for his attempt at the Dakar Rally in 2021.