Over the last week, in the heat of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team and Yamalube Yamaha Official Junior Rally Team worked methodically to complete the last details of the 2016 Dakar Rally preparations. Concentration and accuracy were the hallmarks for Yamaha in the last stretch to the Dakar prologue kickoff. With the brand-new WR450F Rally already proving successful in the hands of the riders this year, Yamaha will line up eagerly tomorrow for the world’s toughest race, confident they will be able to repeat what was achieved over the pre-Dakar season.
Alexandre Kowalski (FRA), Yamalube Yamaha Rally Teams Director
“Yamaha and Dakar have a strong relationship, as the brand has invested a lot in the rally since the first steps of the event. For the 2016 Dakar, Yamaha plans to take it to the next level by implementing significant changes in its rally program. First of all, a new top rider has joined the team: Hélder Rodrigues. The Portuguese rider started his career with Yamaha and achieved his greatest success under our brand colours. We are really happy and motivated to compete alongside Hélder, as he is one of the most accomplished Dakar riders: he rides fast, masters the road-book, and can manage his own mechanics. He returns to Yamaha on the 2016 WR450F Rally with a new perspective; both Yamaha and Rodrigues are ready to write a new page of Dakar history. Also, as luck would have it, Alessandro Botturi, the winner of the 2015 Merzouga Rally, will support this top rider. With a strong physical condition and great navigation abilities, the Italian is Rodrigues’ ‘backing rider’.
“The main change for Yamaha is the creation of a junior team. Xavier De Soultrait and Adrien Van Beveren are Yamalube Yamaha Junior Rally Team riders and represent the future of the brand on the Dakar Rally. It is a big step forward in Yamaha’s rally programme, planned for long-term performance. De Soultrait, racing in Dakar for the third time, has great opportunities ahead of him and we expect him to go one step further. Van Beveren is our very talented rookie, who is very fast in sand conditions and hungry to learn from the Rally world. Both junior riders have great potential and we expect them to create some strong performances among the front riders.”
José Leloir (FRA), Yamalube Yamaha Rally Teams Sport Manager
“We made many changes on the bike for 2016, based on what we learned on last year’s Dakar. We built a completely new and promising WR450F Rally from scratch, which is lighter, more compact, and with a better weight balance. The bike performs outstandingly with a high level of controllability. It has been 100 per cent approved by the Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team and Yamalube Yamaha Junior Rally Team riders, who gave their input throughout the bike’s development. The management, mechanics, and riders are confident in this year’s adventure and can’t wait for the rally to start.
“This week, we made some last adjustments on the WR450F Rally. The mechanics worked on the suspension settings, different technical verifications, and the last finishing touches on the brand-new bike. We also had to prepare all the vehicles for scrutineering in Buenos Aires. We are all ready to tackle the prologue on Saturday, January 2nd.”
Hélder Rodrigues (POR), Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider
“The five days of preparation in Buenos Aires were great! The team was well organised and efficient. We did some work on the bike and had to fix some details; finally everything came together well. I am happy with the work produced this year and especially the last few months; the bike improved a lot. We evolved more and more to what I really wanted and I am going to start the Dakar with a solid machine. That means a lot to me; I feel serene. At the same time, I am in such a hurry for the rally to start. With Yamaha, we want to take it to the next level in 2016. My goal is to make a good dash after the prologue. I want to be among the leaders from the start.
“Another characteristic of Yamaha’s team is the good relationship between all the people involved in the Dakar project. This is, in my opinion, equally as important as the bike preparations. All the mechanics and riders are really nice to me and we get along just fine. There is a form of symbiosis with the junior riders and an efficient working rhythm. It will make it easier for the daily life on the Dakar.”
Alessandro Botturi (ITA), Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team rider
“I know Hélder Rodrigues from the off-road races and we are friends. I am proud to support him and glad to participate in my fifth Dakar alongside such a complete rider from whom I have already learned so much. We exchanged a lot of our experiences and feelings during the whole rally season and collaborated well. I think together we can make great things happen and bring Yamaha to the top. The brand-new WR450F Rally we developed is a solid machine and one of our main assets that will drive us to success in the Dakar Rally.
“I had a good rally-raid season, which promises well for Dakar. I came back more confident after my victory in Merzouga Rally (Morocco), and the races in Tunisia Rally and TransAnatolia in Turkey were really instructive for me. After the difficulties I met last year during the rally, I want to start anew and I worked hard for the 2016 Dakar adventure. I followed a strict physical training schedule to be in a good shape and am fully able to prove my worth. There’s no pressure for this Dakar, but I have the will to continuously do better.”
Xavier De Soultrait (FRA), Yamalube Yamaha Junior Rally Team rider
“I feel very good for this Dakar. It has been a year of intense preparations and I have never been so ready. I did not encounter major difficulties and I have no regrets on the work we produced with the Yamaha team. I am glad I am given the opportunity to be part of Yamaha’s junior team; it means a lot to me, especially on those few pre-start days. I had a whole team to help me; a mechanic dedicated to bike preparation, meaning less stress and fatigue for me. The addition of some little details and improvements made the preparations more comfortable and helped me to feel more confident. I can start the race focusing on my riding.
“I am very excited for the stages in Bolivia and have good memories of Uyuni from last year. I’m not afraid of the marathon stages since I have the experience of two Dakar Rallies under my belt. I know it requires self-government and accuracy and I will do my best.”
Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamalube Yamaha Junior Rally Team rider
“I’m approaching my first Dakar with calmness and motivation. I feel confident and want to avoid as much pressure as possible. I have no specific objective for my results; my performance will be based on getting through each stage until the finish line. I worked hard during my first rally-raid season, acquiring the basic skills and getting used to the navigation processes. I realised that being a rally-raid rider is totally another job; so I will have to go step by step to become a complete Dakar rider. I want to avoid mistakes, to keep learning and improve my navigation skills. It is important for me to stay positive and keep focused on the big picture: the Dakar is a long-term project.
“What struck me the most on this new adventure is the rally atmosphere; it is like a big family, just as what I feel like in Yamaha’s rally team. I am lucky to have my fellow riders supporting and guiding me. It would have been more complicated without them. Alessandro Botturi taught me how to read a road-book while Hélder Rodrigues always has good advice to share. We respect each other and are really pushing all together.”
You can follow Yamaha’s progress in the Dakar Rally HERE .