In 2023, James Hillier became the first Isle of Man TT winner to race the Dakar Rally. Although he took 2024 off, he hopes to be back for the 2025 edition.
“I do wish I was there. The plan is to go back next year,” said Hillier at the Autosport Show in NEC Birmingham. “Plans are kind of coming together with that now. The plan is to go back with a team and put a package together so there’s possibilities there. If anyone’s watching that is intending to do Dakar next year, maybe get in touch because the more of us that team together can bring the overall cost down and we’ll see. There’s loads going on that side of stuff, but main focus is North West TT.”
The 2013 Lightweight champion at Isle of Man, Hillier entered the 2023 Dakar Rally after earning his qualification with a fifteenth overall at the 2021 Andalucía Rally followed by an eighth in Rally2 at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge. He competed in the Original by Motul class (Malle Moto) for solo riders without assistance from a crew.
In Stage #5, he crashed and dislocated his collarbone, but he was still able to continue the race albeit at a slower pace than he would have liked. Hillier finished fifty-third overall among Rally2 riders and thirteenth in Malle Moto, with his best daily outing being a thirty-second in Stage #2.
“I wouldn’t say it was more than a tough two weeks,” he began while discussing the GasGas 450 Rally with which he raced, “but I went through quite a lot and spent many hours sat riding this thing and learned a lot, smiled a lot, cried, bled, just everything. It means a lot to me, this bike. Rally bikes, they do look different, but they just tell a bit more of a story, especially this as it’s done Dakar.”
After Dakar, Hillier returned to his main trade and competed in series like the British Superbike Championship. At Isle of Man, he finished sixth and fifth in the Supersport races, fifth and seventh in Superstock, fourth in Superbike, and sixth in the Senior TT.
For 2024, his primary focus will once again be in road racing as he enters the Isle of Man and North West 200 for WTF Racing. Hillier won the latter’s Superstock race in 2019. He described his “priority at the moment is for TT and chip away at Dakar plans.”