At a press conference organised in Paris, Cyril Despres announced that he has signed for the Yamaha Racing France team, in whose ranks he joins Olivier Pain and Michael Metge. It will now be behind the handlebars of a blue motorbike that he will try to equal Stéphane Peterhansel’s record in the category. On his route, Despres should also find a strengthened Honda team, now boasting Joan Barreda and Paulo Gonçalves.
So now the suspense is over. Since the announcement of his departure from the KTM team, with whom he won the Dakar five times, Cyril Despres had secret kept the new colours he would be wearing and new bike he would be riding. Blue is the colour: that of Japanese firm Yamaha, who have formalised recruiting the master of the discipline and presented his all-terrain rally schedule for the coming year. For his 13th Dakar, Despres has joined the constructor that left its mark on the rally’s history from its very beginnings with the 500 XT ridden by Cyril Neveu, then with the saga played out by his mentor for the day, Stéphane Peterhansel, winner of six editions behind the handlebars of a Yamaha in the 1990’s. As from January, the team’s prestigious recruit will indeed be attempting to equal the record for rally victories established by Peter: “I’m very motivated by the prospect of wearing the blue of the Yamaha team. I used to dream about it when I was a young boy. Obviously, we’ve started this partnership with a shared goal, which is to continue with success and meet the challenges of my predecessors with a victory on the Dakar 2014. As a mechanic, I’ve also learned how to develop a bike and I know that in this way it will also be an enriching challenge to try and win with a new constructor”. In this hunt for records, Despres will be accompanied in the Yamaha Team by a first-rate squad including Olivier Pain and Mickael Metge. The quest starts tomorrow for the title holder, who will be participating in his first race behind the handlebars of a Yamaha on the Rally of Sardinia. Afterwards, in September, the entire team will be present on the Desafio Inca for a final test before the Dakar.
In the meanwhile, the transfer market has also been lively among Yamaha’s competitors, because the Honda HRC team, which made its debut as an official team on the last edition of the Dakar, has announced the arrival of two leading reinforcements for Portuguese rider Helder Rodrigues. The nearest rival to the Despres/Coma duo in 2011 and 2012, who rode his first Dakar with Honda this year (finishing 7th), will be joined by the rising star of the discipline, Joan Barreda, who has already won 5 stages in 3 participations on the rally. The Honda team, which also includes Sam Sunderland and Javier Pizzolito, will boast another trump card in the form of Paulo Gonçalves, who joins them from Husqvarna. The team’s second Portuguese rider promises to provide the squad with an interesting amount of depth, because he has been within seconds of Marc Coma on the first two legs of the all-terrain rally world championships in Abu Dhabi and Qatar. The next appearance of the HRC riders is scheduled for the Dakar Series Desafio Ruta 40 in Argentina in June, where Helder Rodrigues and Javier Pizzolito will be able to test themselves against the KTMs ridden by Marc Coma, Chaleco Lopez and Kurt Caselli; an episode not to be missed…