2014 Dakar Rally
With the 2014 Dakar Rally only three weeks away, Yamaha unveiled its YZ450F Rally that will fight for glory this January.
The bike shown above, which will be piloted by five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres, Michael Metge, Olivier Pain and Frans Verhoeven, will be on the starting line in Rosario, Argentina, Jan. 5.
On his first year aboard the Yamaha YZ450F Rally, former KTM rider Despres put the bike directly in the spotlight. He went on to win the 2013 Dakar Rally, and now has a total of five wins – 2005, 2007, 2010 and 2013. Despres’ record in the world’s toughest endurance race is only beaten by fellow Frenchman Stéphane Peterhansel, who has six Dakar victories, all taken with Yamaha.
Other Yamaha riders were successful in 2013 Dakar, also. Pain led overall from the fourth to the end of the seventh stage before handing over control to fellow Yamaha rider David Casteu going into the rest day. Casteu claimed a stage win on the fifth stage and Dutchman Verhoeven took the 12th stage.
Despres was key in the development of the 2014 YZ450F Rally, and from the time of signing with Yamaha at the beginning of the year, he combined his Dakar experience with Yamaha’s technical expertise to create an optimal platform.
In addition to running through Argentina and Chile, this year’s Rally will provide a new challenge for the riders as they leave Peru behind and instead tackle unforgiving territory in Bolivia. Added to this will be two marathon stages representing 2,702km (1,228km between San Rafael and Chilecito plus 1,474km between Salta and Calama), including a special stage of 1,590km (726 km and 864 km), Yamaha reports.
Cyril Despres (Yamaha Factory Racing YZ450F Rally) says: “Right now we are in the final phase of preparations before leaving for South America and its pretty busy around here! I have an intensive training routine that I have established with my coach and it takes up a large chunk of the day. Then there’s interviews to do, last minute details to sort out with the team, a million little details to attend to, not least of which is analyzing the 2014 route. Obviously we only get the road book the day before we race a stage so the info we have is limited.
“It is clear is that the 2014 edition is going to be a particularly tough one. Marathon stages means no outside mechanical assistance at the bivouac and so on those days you try and protect the bike as much as possible. Bike only routes means that the organizers can take you places where the cars can’t go, so you know the riding will be more technical and usually more physically demanding.
“The extra 1000km speak for themselves! And of course this year the bikes will go into Bolivia for the first time. On some of the other stages we have a pretty good idea of what to expect but for Bolivian stages we have absolutely no idea and even if we wanted to go and have a look we couldn’t because all reconnaissance is banned. What we do know is that they will be very demanding. For a start some of it’ll be raced at 4000m and at those altitudes the air’s pretty thin. Then Bolivia is both ‘marathon’ and ‘bike only’, so doubly complicated. But demanding is fine by me. What attracted me to rally-raid in the first place is the challenge and the harder it is the happier I am.”
Frans Verhoeven (Yamaha Netherlands Verhoeven YZ450F Rally) says: “I’m physically and mentally prepared and ready to compete with the best rally riders in the world. I am very happy with my Yamaha YZ450F Rally; it is an update of the Dakar 2013 bike with several detail improvements. It proved to be very fast and reliable last year.
“The new country where we are racing is Bolivia, but that’s only half a day and a night in a marathon bivouac, so we’ll get along much of the land itself. I am looking forward to tackling the longer stages, partly because in recent years the courses were getting shorter and more explosive and longer and more difficult stages are perfect for me.”
Olivier Pain (Yamaha Factory Racing YZ450F Rally) says: “Just before the Dakar is a little bit like the calm before the storm. There are always some last minute things to attend to and you want to maintain your fitness levels but you also want to rest as much as possible and spend time with your family.
“Back in November the ASO made quite clear that the 2014 Dakar is going to be a hard one. We know that in Argentina it is likely to be very hot along the foothills of Andes and that in Chile we’ll have plenty of dunes and fesh-fesh. Want we don’t really know is what we’ll get in Bolivia. All we know is that we’ll be at altitude, which will make recuperation difficult and we won’t have any outside mechanical assistance. In addition we have another marathon stage and several days of bike only routes, all of which suggests January in South America won’t be much of a holiday. But then if it was none of us would want to be going!”
Mickael Metge (Yamaha Factory Racing YZ450F) says: “This is my second Dakar so I can’t make many comparisons with previous editions. Last year I was getting really tired and we didn’t have any stages over 500km. Now we have two stages over 500km and two over 600km! I was already training pretty hard but now I virtually live in the gym!
“This year I’m supporting Cyril whereas last year I didn’t have that responsibility. We have spent a lot of time together since he joined and we get on really well, which is important because in my role communication and understanding what ‘my’ rider needs is vital. I have been soaking up his knowledge and experience like a sponge. His approach to the Dakar is almost scientific, I’m not sure there’s anyone racing a rally bike today that has his depth of understanding and I’ve learnt loads just sitting chatting on the way to training sessions. To be honest now I can’t wait to get going.”