The 33rd Dakar Rally draws ever closer and the 2011 edition of the historic and daunting event will begin in Buenos Aires on new year’s day with Yamaha hopeful of further good results in the motorcycling category thanks to the excellent support of Yamaha Motor France and their potent Team Yamaha Racing France Ipone.
For the third year in a row the Dakar will remain in South America. The two week contest covering more than 9000km starting from the Argentine capital crossing the Andes into Chile, the longest country in the world, through the Atacama desert and traversing a wide range of topography and climates. Over 180 bikes and 30 quads fill an entry list that sees more than 430 participants from 51 different countries set to attempt the distance. The competitors have already sailed from Le Harve to Argentina and will undergo technical control on the last two days of the year.
In Team Yamaha Racing France Ipone colours will be recent Rally of Morocco runner-up Helder Rodrigues, Spaniard Jordi Viladoms, France’s Olivier Pain and David Barrot filling an important supporting role. Hopes are high for Portugal’s Rodrigues who was 4th overall in the rally in 2010 and in currently in decent form on the adapted Yamaha WR450F. 31 year old Rodrigues – 2010 European Enduro Champion no less - was 5th in the ’09 Dakar and breached the top four ten months ago so is now optimistic of reaching the final podium in one of the toughest rallies in the world. To add to his pedigree the rider has not finished off the podium in the four major international events he has contested in 2010. The motorcycle class boasts a full entry with 200 competitors and will use new regulations for the first time limiting all bike sizes to 450cc. This will suit the WR that won the previous 450cc section of the Bikes division in 2004, 2005 and 2007. Viladoms is also buoyant for January 1st and the 30 year old has a best result of 7th at Dakar as well as being a stage winner. “We have a great bike for the Dakar,” he recently posted on his Twitter account. “We made a two day test in Morocco recently for the engine and suspension and every time we rode the bike felt better; the team are really motivated!”
Pain is one of France’s top Enduro riders and finished 9th at last year’s Dakar meaning that the French team have three top ten racers in their ranks and enter the meeting as one of the strongest crews on the starting list.
Yamaha have a fantastic record in the rally with nine overall victories stretching back from 1979 and six successes thanks to Dakar ‘legend’ Stephan Peterhansel. Frenchman David Frétigné’s first effort in 2004 saw the introduction of the famous ‘2-Trac’ mono WR450F and he won three stages against the might of the twin cylinders. Yamaha now stand an excellent chance of further distinction on this highest of levels for Rally. 4.1 million spectators took to the countryside to watch the 2010 edition and with the Dakar now embedded in South America the following is increasing.
“We have worked with and developed the WR450F in rallies since 2004,” explained Alexandre Kowalski, Marketing Director of Yamaha Motor France. “We have a lot of faith in the light chassis and the reliability of the four-stroke 450cc WR motor which deals aptly with the long and difficult races.”
Yamaha also will also have a strong presence in the Quad category with the Argentine Patronelli brothers, Marcos and Alejandro, having dominated the competition in 2010 on their Yamaha Raptors. This time the formidable family partnership will count on increased technical back-up from Yamaha Motor Argentina and are clear on their goals. “The support from Yamaha during the rally means we can be more relaxed and organised for the race in 2011,” said last year’s winner and recent Rally of Pharaons victor Marcos, “we can use the stops for more rest and recuperation and these are two fundamental aspects for the Dakar. The Raptor is a powerful and reliable vehicle so we are optimistic.”
Concerning the route itself perhaps the hardest part will be the second half in which the intensity of the schedule and distances increase after the rest day on January 8th. In fact the longest Special takes place on the 9th with a mammoth 631km to be covered in the fastest way possible. The latter section of the rally also means the drop down through Chile and the dune and desert landscape more familiar with the veterans of the African Dakar. The Atacama is said to be one of the driest deserts in the world but generally the layout will involve a wide variety of terrain with the routing touching the borders of several countries including Bolivia and Peru; a truly encompassing voyage.