Dakar

Shinya Fujiwara planning Dakar Rally debut in 2026

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Credit: Shinya Fujiwara

Shinya Fujiwara knows how to navigate obstacle courses on a motorcycle, but will now see if he can transfer those skills to the Saudi desert. At a press conference in Nagoya on Monday, he announced his goals of entering the Dakar Rally in 2026.

As he has no prior rally raid experience, he will run the Rallye du Maroc in October and the Africa Eco Race in January 2025 to get accustomed to the discipline. The former, held in Morocco, is the final round of the World Rally-Raid Championship while the AER follows the Dakar’s original route from Europe to Senegal. The Rallye du Maroc is on the Road to Dakar, a programme in which the best finisher who has never competed in the Dakar earns free registration.

“It has always been my dream to participate in the Dakar Rally. As the song by Mr. Children goes, ‘I feel great when I climb progressively higher walls,'” said Fujiwara. The song he quotes is “Owarinaki Tabi” (“Endless Journey”), one of the most popular works from the Japanese rock band. “By taking on a big challenge, I want to show the pride of being a Japanese person to the world.”

Nicknamed “Bussashi-sensei”, Fujiwara won the 2014 All-Japan Trial Championship in the International A category. He also competes in hard enduro events, winning the All Japan Hard Enduro Championship‘s selection tournament in 2021 and 2022, and contesting the legendary Red Bull Erzbergrodeo; he finished eighty-second overall at the latest edition in 2023. Fujiwara will return to the Erzbergrodeo in June before beginning his rally training.

Born on 6 January 1990 in Hyōgo Prefecture, he began riding when he was seven years old.

Matsuo Seisakusho, which produces car parts, will support his progamme on a three-year sponsorship deal.

Should he succeed in making the race, Fujiwara will join a contingent of Japanese motorcycle competitors that includes Shinji Kazama and Yoshio Ikemachi. Kazama, the first Japanese person to race the Dakar in 1982, plans to run it again in 2026 in an SSV. Ikemachi holds the highest best finish among his compatriots of tenth in 2000; he returned to the Dakar in January after a thirteen-year absence, placing forty-forth in the Rally2 class.

Fujiwara’s rally raid début at the Rallye du Maroc will take place on 5–11 October. The Africa Eco Race begins on 28 December and runs through 12 January 2025.

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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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