online from 13 January 2009

updated July 2022

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650 2nd series


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In the late 80's it was possible to run the Dakar in the 'Marathon' category with bikes derived from the series and adapted to the race. For this reason, and also to meet in some way to the next withdrawal of the official Honda Rally (after 4 victories at Dakar), during the '89 edition Honda France, through the Director Jean Louis Guillot, launched in autumn '88 the Operation "50 Africa Twin to Dakar. " It was made an initial selection among 150 candidates, 50 were selected and were given special prepared Africa Twin 650's to race in the 'Marathon' category. Meanwhile, the bike was prepared: a nearly definitive Honda RD03 650 had a good final figure to Pharaons Rallye 1988 in the hands of Joel Daures (Honda NXR driver at Dakar '88). So 49 bikes left for the 11th Dakar, the Alsatian Heintz saw it cancelled its participation in a few days before departure, when Honda Motorcycle France and equipment had already been purchased, because the Libyan authorities did not accept his entry into the country as belonging the French army. Among the starters a young French girl, Maryline Lacombe, also an Italian (Roberto Boano), and a few riders of other nationalities (Spain, England, Senegal).

The engine and frame numbers of these 50 bikes started with 5 as on the standard RD03, but a very precise range was used (hence the possibility of recognizing the real Marathons from fakes and replicas). At the Dakar usually a number of parts of the bike were punched and numbered with the same number of the race pilot, so to avoid the use of non-authorized parts.

The operation was a success, 18 AT finished the race and Patrice Toussaint (16th) and Patrick Sireyjol (just behind him) got the first two places in the Marathon class, with Boano 4th.

The following year, for the 12th edition of the Dakar, 50 other motorcycle were set up, slightly different from the previous series, with frame and engine numbers beginning with 6 (from 600001 to 600050). About twenty AT were delivered in France, at least 3 in Spain, while around fifteen of these motorcycles reached Italy, in mid-November '89, and then too late to join the rally. At least one was booked for the race at the last minute by Ermanno Bonacini, but just after a few stages he run into a serious fall, which forced him to an immediate admission to hospital and leave the bike in Libya.
Antonio "Toni" Boluda, was very good in this Dakar: 18th overall and winner of the Marathon category. Andrea Mazzali ran the Pharaons of '90 with one of these bikes, which he got directly by Carlo Fiorani, then head of HRC (to which he returned for a while after the Ferrari experience).

In 1990 were built very few makes (only 8, once again frame and engine numbers beginning with 6) of 'Marathon' 750 but during the '91 Dakar they were "switched" to the Silhouette class, because they had a single disc front brake instead of 2! But once again there were excellent performances of Boluda and Boano, respectively 10th and 11th overall and just behind Medardo among the Silhouettes! In the 13th Dakar, however, there were still a few RD03 Marathons, including the one given by Fiorani to Bonacini, taken from the ugly incident of the previous year thanks to the care of Dr. Costa, those of Paladini and Nassi, and another dozen, of which unfortunately only the Sireyjol one reached the Lac Rose.

Other AT Marathon were in the race in Paris-Le Cap of '92, a couple of 650 with Italian Morelli and French Rivet.

In '94 the Italian Saravesi brilliantly concluded the Pharaohs with a first series, while the French Roche participated in the Dakar.

It is also sure that some of these bikes did run other rallyes (Atlas, Baja Aragon, Sardinia, Elba 500 and Tunisia in particular), we seek confirmation!

Every now and then "Marathon" kits appear for sale, but is not yet clear whether these arise from disassembled motorbikes or were spare parts for the bikes produced by Honda HRC.

Very few of these bikes are still around, many were unfortunately left in the sands of Africa! Anyone willing to share information, please contact: