Dakar: Yamaha stage 9 report

2-Trac proving itself in Dakar debut Just over a week into the 2004 Dakar Rally and French rookie David Frétigné and his two-wheel-drive Yamaha WR450F 2-Trac have been grabbing the headlines at the classic event. Frétigné stunned the...

2-Trac proving itself in Dakar debut

Just over a week into the 2004 Dakar Rally and French rookie David Frétigné and his two-wheel-drive Yamaha WR450F 2-Trac have been grabbing the headlines at the classic event.

Frétigné stunned the bivouac by winning the opening two stages, and despite losing ground to his more powerful 660 and 950cc rivals as the rally hit the fast open deserts of Africa, after eight days Frétigné leads the 450cc Super Production class and is 15th overall.

As expected, the Dakar is proving to be a learning experience for both rider and his Yamaha Motor France team. The WR450F 2-Trac has already proven itself to be a winner in the hands of 33-year-old Frétigné at the Moroccan Shamrock Rally, but the 18-day, 11,052km Dakar is the toughest event of them all.

"Being at the Dakar is a dream come true for me, but even when I won the first two stages I still considered that I was here to learn and that is what we are doing," explained Frétigné, a three-time French Enduro champion.

"The bike is performing really well and we are getting lots of feedback. This is the first time we have used the bike in this spec and even with the extra weight it is extremely well balanced. In the short European stages the two-wheel-drive system gave excellent grip out of the slow corners and in the soft sand it is brilliant. Our bike has a shorter wheelbase than that of our rivals so, in theory, it should not be as stable. That's not proved to be the case though as the bike has been rock solid over the dunes. I have only been stuck once but even then I just leaned the bike over, touched the throttle and the front wheel pulled her out.

"Yesterday we did learn something new about the 2-Trac system though. When the front wheel spins in the sand it gives us a false reading on the tripmeter and, by the time I got to the refuelling checkpoint at 258km, my trip was over reading by 40 kilometres. We didn't spot this problem on the Shamrock Rally because there was much less sand and a lot more GPS points.

"Of course, there have been some problems, there always are at the Dakar. On the third special I had to stop and reroute a breather pipe which had become caught in the fairing and caused the bike to run rough. Then, the next day, I crashed and hurt my elbow. I've also lost time after getting lost, but these are all things that are to be expected in the Dakar. Everyday you will encounter difficulties that you must overcome. Overall, I am very pleased with our progress so far."

Christian Caillon, Frétigné's mechanic, added: "The bike can stand these Dakar stages without any problems. As with the engine, we have been checking and changing the oil in the 2-Trac system every day and it too has given us no problems. We took the precaution of changing the engine before David left for yesterday's fast marathon stage and while he is away we'll take the motor apart and see if there is any wear."

In the overall standings, Spaniard Nani Roma now has the overall lead ahead of Richard Sainct (at 8'16) and Jean Brucy (at 14'25). Frétigné is 15th overall (at 2h18'23) and the leading 450, almost 50 minutes ahead of Italian rider Matteo Graziani, the next best 450 in 19th place overall.

In the car event, which runs on the same route as the bikes, Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel leads by over an hour in his Mitsubishi. The Frenchman won the rally won a record breaking six events during the 1990s on the Yamaha Motor France-prepared Super Tenéré machines before switching to four wheels.

For further information on the Dakar rally and Yamaha's 2-Trac system, please visit www.yamaha-racing.com where you will find daily rally updates, copyright-free photography, David Frétigné's biography and information on the Yamaha WR450F 2-Trac

-yamaha-

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Stéphane Peterhansel , Jean Brucy , Richard Sainct , Nani Roma , David Fretigne