The Dakar Rally is one of the toughest motorsport events held every year. Yamaha has opted out of the Dakar motorcycle class after competing in the sporting event since its inception in 1979. The blue-hued Japanese motorcycle manufacturer has won nine Dakar motorcycle titles over the years, but after an incredible Unfortunately, Yamaha quit the sport. Now the Japanese two-wheeler giant is looking to focus its efforts in another way. While the Yamaha Factory Team will leave the Motorcycles category, Yamaha will focus on the Side-By-Side category of the Dakar.
Yamaha’s history in Dakar
Among many rally raids around the world, the Dakar is the most popular of the lot. The first Dakar rally took place in 1979. That year, Cyril Neveu won the motorcycle category on a Yamaha XT500. A feat he repeated the following year. After a decade of unsuccessful outings in the sport that saw BMW and Honda largely dominate, Yamaha has returned to the top.
With Mr Dakar, Stéphane Peterhansel, Yamaha was unstoppable. Peterhansel won the motorcycle class in 1991, 92, 93, 95, 97 and 98 on the Yamaha YZE 750T and YZE 850T. That was before the Frenchman switched to four wheels, becoming the only competitor to win multiple titles in more than one category. Additionally, Edi Orioli also won the Dakar for Yamaha in 1996. Yamaha was definitely the force to be reckoned with in the 90s. They racked up a total of nine bike class wins to their name.
Yamaha’s dominance is coming to an end
After dominating the sport for the entire decade, Yamaha’s luck began to run out around the turn of the millennium. After two defeats against BMW, it was KTM who started to take control, with Honda taking up the challenge from the Austrian marquee.
Yamaha’s last victory dates back to 1998, 24 years ago. The last time a Yamaha rider in the motorcycle category was on the podium was Olivier Pain in 2014 who finished third. Yamaha hasn’t been able to match the performance of its glory days for years. The fact that the last time Yamaha won the Dakar was when the event was still held in Africa only goes to show how long ago that was. Since then, the event has moved to South America and is now hosted in Saudi Arabia. For the 2022 edition of the raid, Yamaha could not do better than fourth, piloted by French rider Adrien van Beveren.
Yamaha has had some success in the FIM series of off-road rallies outside the Dakar, with Helder Rodrigues crowned riders’ champion with the brand in 2011. In 2021, Van Beveren finished second in points behind KTM’s Matthias Walkner, while his teammate Ross Branch won the Rally Kazakhstan.
Yamaha leaves the Dakar rally
After more than two decades of failing to win, the event is undoubtedly having an impact on the team. Working as hard as everyone else and having nothing to show for it, the sacrifices made by the team, drivers, mechanics and financial investments are all left unjustified.
Yamaha Motor Europe President Eric de Seynes has confirmed that the team in blue will end its long history of participation in the Dakar Rally and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
Seynes goes on to say, “while the Dakar Rally has mostly managed to stay close to its roots, even when it has left its spiritual home in Africa, the world in which it exists has changed significantly. Our off-road customers now have different expectations and they are looking for different products, and we have to meet them if we want to stay connected..”
The silver lining at the exit of the blue brigade
The Yamaha WR450F is a big dirt bike, not the one flying out of dealerships right now. The off-road clientele today desires adventure riders like the Tenere 700. The huge investments in the development of the WR450F offer no incentive for the company. The Dakar Rally is now also working on the use of sustainable racing methods, and is also taking a keen interest in sustainable fuels, hydrogen and the electrification of the vehicles that participate. As regulations begin to evolve, they will require additional investment.
This is the reason why Yamaha will come out as the factory motorcycle team of the Dakar and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. However, the brand will continue to compete in the side-by-side category with its YXZ1000R SSV. While CanAm dominated the category in the 2022 edition of the Dakar. Yamaha looking to bolster its SSV efforts is the silver lining of the SSV team. We certainly hope Yamaha can achieve a similar level of success in the class as it did in the 90s on two wheels.
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