Despres-Enhanced Yamaha WR450F Rally Set for 2015 Dakar

Yamaha's Olivier Pain prepping for 2015 Dakar
Yamaha's Olivier Pain

Yamaha WR450F Rally in 2015 Dakar

With the 37th edition of the Dakar Rally set to begin in Argentina Jan. 4, 2015,  last minute preparations are underway on each team’s perspective machines.

Much prep is needed, also, considering the 2015 Dakar Rally will challenge more than ever. Riders will travel 5,775 miles in 13 stages, with nearly 3000 of those timed specials. The 2015 Dakar Rally is over 300 miles longer than the 2014 Edition, which was won by Red Bull KTM’s Marc Coma.

One team that is set is the Yamaha Factory Racing Team Yamalube, which will compete on a brand-new machine this season – the Yamaha WR450F. The WR is very similar to the YZ450F motocross motorcycle, including the use of the rear-inclined engine. But one thing the WR450F features over the mxer is the much-needed electric start – a huge aid for riders in Dakar.

The new WR450F was built with much input from five-time Dakar winner Cyril Despres. The Frenchman rode for Yamaha for two years, but switched to four wheels in 2015. Despres will now spearhead Peugot Sport’s return to rally racing after a 25-year hiatus.

This year’s team consists of three major players in the Dakar – Olivier Pain, who finished third in 2014 Dakar, Michael Metge and Alessandro Botturi.

“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 says.

“The major consideration when building a Dakar bike is where to place the necessary 35-liters of fuel. For 2014 we had five separate fuel tanks all requiring pumps and all linked by fuel pipes. By using a single carbon fiber 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, Yamaha reports.

“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”, Leoir adds.

“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.

“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 maneuverable over the increasingly technical terrain the Dakar organizers are choosing to run the ‘bike only’ specials over,” Leloir says.

These changes drastically improved the WR450F Rally – the bike garnered a 10-percent gain in speed over the previous edition. And the single-cell fuel tank assists in this.

“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 tire wear,” Leloir says.

“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.”

For a schedule, visit 2015 Dakar Rally Schedule.