If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
“We feel very confident going into this Dakar”, announced Alexandre Kowalski, the boss of the Yamaha team, which last year narrowly missed overall victory with Adrian Van Beveren. “We have a new generation of riders who are learning and developing.” Now they just need to finally take the triumph that has evaded the brand with the tuning forks since Stéphane Peterhansel claimed his final Dakar win on two wheels, all the way back in 1998.
Although Yamaha has remained committed to the Dakar, it has not always invested enough to be at the forefront. “This year, we are ready”, continued Kowalski. “Adrien has bounced back since his injury in January, regaining his confidence as he prepared physically over the year. Xavier [de Soultrait], who also got hurt last January, has worked very hard too. He has ridden a lot and polished his navigational skills. Franco Caimi is another young promising rider. Unfortunately, he broke his femur in Morocco last October, so he won’t be at his best even though he did everything he could to recover. He’ll be racing in his third Dakar as a back-up, without pressure, to gain experience. We are also banking on our Australian biker, Rodney Faggoter, a strapping lad who will be riding as a water carrier and is also an awesome mechanic. Our team has a great atmosphere. Cohesion is important in races like this one.”
The Yamaha riders have an even more cutting-edge WR450F Rally at their disposal this year. “We’ve had a very balanced motorbike since last year”, stresses Kowalski. “We’ve kept tweaking things, especially on the aerodynamic front, to make it more comfortable. We also went to the Inca Rally to discover the sand and dunes of Peru.”
No matter how well a rider prepares, a Dakar is never in the bag until it is over. Adrien Van Beveren knows a thing or two about it. “We’ll have to stay focused”, points out the Yamaha boss. “We’ll also have to be fast from the beginning because the race will get serious soon. The Dakar will be short and long at the same time, with tough stages. Adrian loves sand and so does our bike. But we need to stay humble. In the Dakar, every day can change everything.”