8,000 kilometer race tests man and machine.
In less than three weeks time Yamaha Factory Racing's Olivier Pain, Michael Metge and Alessandro Botturi will start the toughest rally in the world. Dakar 2015 will kick off in Buenos Aires on the fourth of January. The race consists of two weeks and 8,000 kilometres of extreme endurance, making good preparation and equipment vitally important.
Boosted by Olivier Pain’s third place on the 2014 Dakar and input from five time Dakar winner Cyril Despres, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Yamlube are entering a brand new machine for the 2015 edition – the Yamaha WR450F Rally. With its rear-inclined engine, the new bike has much in common with its YZ450F sibling. However, unlike the moto-x bike, Yamaha’s Dakar entry features electric start, a major rider aid for Dakar competitors in the dunes.
“One of the most striking features of the new bike is the WR’s unique single-cell fuel tank incorporating the rear sub frame”, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Yamlube Team Manager Jose Leloir commented. “The major consideration when building a Dakar bike is where to place the necessary 35 litres of fuel. For 2014 we had five separate fuel tanks all requiring pumps and all linked by fuel pipes. By using a single carbon fibre fuel cell we have simplified the system massively and in the processes made huge gains in both weight saving and reliability. In total we’ve reduced the bike’s weight by a considerable ten kilos and in the process made servicing the bike each evening a whole lot easier.”
In addition to having less weight to haul around, the team’s riders have also gained increased peace of mind. No longer to they have to juggle with five different fuel taps and, as an added bonus, they can now actually have a fuel gauge that lets them know exactly how much petrol they have left to get to the end each day’s stage.
“Obviously the single-cell solution wasn’t just a question of making it fit and plumbing it in, it also had major implications in terms of the bike’s setup”, Jose Leoir added, “Once we decided on how we wanted to carry the fuel the bike went through several stages of development to ensure that the WR handled how the riders wanted it to with the new weight distribution.” In the end the team settled on a modified standard Kayaba front fork, specific front end geometry, a modified rear suspension linkage, a full factory Kayaba rear shock absorber and a longer swinging arm. Jose Leloir, “We tested a large number of different configurations before the riders were entirely happy with how the bike handled and now they delighted to have a bike that is both stable over the fast going and manoeuvrable over the increasingly technical terrain the Dakar organisers are choosing to run the ‘bike only’ specials over.
The icing on the cake and what all motorcycle racers want, whatever the discipline, is more speed – a 10% gain over last year’s machine. Once again the single-cell fuel tank plays a role. Jose Leloir concluded, “Some of the bike’s increased performance comes from a new fuel injection system incorporating traction control that will reduce rider fatigue, improve fuel consumption and tyre wear. A substantial part of our top speed gain comes from improved aerodynamics. Put simply, with the single fuel cell, the bike is much slimmer and so cuts through the air with considerably less drag. A big part of the Dakar’s appeal is that anything can happen out there in the desert, but we are at least confident that for 2015 we have given our riders a machine with which they can fully express their talents.”