Yamaha has a long and distinguished history in the gruelling Dakar rally. From Cyril Neveu's win at the first ever rally in 1979 to StÃ©phane Peterhansel's 6-win domination and Edi Orioli's two wins in the nineties, blue bikes have always played...
Yamaha has a long and distinguished history in the gruelling Dakar rally. From Cyril Neveu's win at the first ever rally in 1979 to Stéphane Peterhansel's 6-win domination and Edi Orioli's two wins in the nineties, blue bikes have always played an important part in the Dakar. Even when Yamaha Motor France retired after Peterhansel's last victory in 1998 it would only be a matter of time before Yamaha returned to the desert.
The debut of Yamaha Motor France rider David Frétigné in 2004 was a lot more than just a comeback. Frétigné rode the revolutionary WR450F 2-Trac to three stage victories, claimed first in his category and finished seventh overall. With a better understanding of the race and improved navigational skills Frétigné underlined his ambitions in 2005. He won another three stages, repeated his class win and ranked fifth overall. The Frenchman finished only 33 minutes behind the overall winner on a bike with much smaller displacement than that of his competitors and even after a humanitarian stop to assist the unfortunate Fabrizio Meoni after his crash.
For 2006 Frétigné and his team have their eyes on a new goal. After two years of discovering and learning, now the time has come to confirm and capitalise on their potential. A small but very experienced group will assist David Frétigné during the rally: one 6x6 truck driven by Alain Maréchal, technicians Christian Caillon and Nicolas Bravard and team manager José Leloir.
Jean-Claude Olivier (JCO), Yamaha Motor France's general manager and a former Dakar participant explains: "David is a great rider, he has a race mentality, wisdom and determination. Even when he was doing enduro he already had the Dakar in the back of his mind. When he approached us to get involved in the adventure, I told him exactly the same words I said to Stéphane Peterhansel: Even for the best it takes three years to discover, to learn, to gather experience and finally to succeed. I hope he can follow in Stéphane's footsteps!"
The 2006 rally sees even more of a return to the roots of the race. Navigation will be more important than ever, while reduced fuel capacity and compulsory stops should level the playing field and improve safety.
Frétigné feels confident about the challenge: "The Dakar is hard but it's also very exciting. I learned a lot in the past two years, not only when I rode but also while watching, listening, seeing what other experienced rally riders do and talking to guys like JCO. He showed me how to discover and love the desert, he taught me about navigation and the hidden dangers of the rally. Finally, I'm lucky to have a great team around me who have prepared a super reliable bike with the WR450R. I like the feeling that I can contribute to the great heritage that Yamaha has in the Dakar, it makes me very proud. For this year my approach is to be more competitive than before; now I have the skills and the experience!"
However the Dakar effort of Yamaha Motor France goes far beyond Frétigné's campaign. YMF also provides support to many other participants. A 6X6 truck and technical staff will be at the arrival of each stage (except marathon stages) to provide customers with spare parts and precious technical advice. The rising number of Yamaha riders proves the success of the popular Africa kit for the WR450F and Yamaha Motor France's assistance formula. From five bikes in 2004, 22 in 2005 to more than 55 in 2006, the number of Yamaha bikes has multiplied by eleven in three years. It looks like the desert will be blue once again!