Red Bull Desert Wings: Hélder Rodrigues
Hélder – Estrelinha (little star) – Rodrigues was born in Lisbon, Portugal on February 28, 1979. He is best known for his participation in the Dakar Rally series, although he already had a pretty impressive career before taking on the desert rally raid.
After making his way up through regional and national events, Hélder won his first Portuguese National Enduro Championship in 1999 riding a Yamaha 250. In the same year he finished second in the European Enduro 250cc class, as well as winning an ISDE gold medal. Seven further national Enduro titles would follow, and Hélder failed to finish outside of the top 10 at the World Enduro Championships.
In 2006, he sought a new challenge, and decided to race in that year’s Dakar Rally as part of Team Bianchi Prata, finishing in ninth place. He would then finish fifth overall in the bike category of both the 2007 and 2009 rallies – each time achieving the best results for a private rider. He returned to the Dakar in 2010, finishing fourth and equalling Carlos Sousa’s record for the best finish at the famous rally by a Portuguese rider.
Hélder pulled out all the stops for the 2011 Dakar Rally and managed to claim the bronze medal – his first Dakar podium. He then came back in style in 2012 to once again take third place. In 2014, Hélder rode consistently throughout the rally and claimed three stage podium finishes to take 5th place overall, just behind former World Champion Cyril Despres.
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt about Hélder Rodrigues, it’s that he never gives up. So watch this space, it’s only a matter of time until he takes a Dakar title.