Yamaha is the only manufacturer that has participated in every iteration of the famed Dakar Rally since its inception in 1979. Cyril Neveu won that year’s rally aboard a Yamaha XT500 and followed it up with a second win in the following year. Yamaha enjoyed success in the early 1990s as well, with Stéphane Peterhansel winning a record six times. However, the next couple of decades were nowhere near as successful for the Japanese manufacturer. For that reason, it has decided to end its association with the 450cc class in the Dakar Rally and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship.
The iconic manufacturer’s last victory at the Dakar was in 1998, a whole 24 years ago. Newer entrants like KTM and Honda have dominated the rally over the previous few years, and the Japanese giant’s decision to exit is understandable considering its lack of success. As Jalopnik points out, even Yamaha’s last podium finish was way back in 2014 when Olivier Pain finished third. It came close in 2022, with French rider Adrien van Beveren finishing 4th. The report also mentions that of the 168 motorcycles in the 2022 Dakar Rally, only nine of them were Yamahas.
Yamaha has mentioned in a press statement that it will be leaving the 450cc Motorcycle Class at the Dakar Rally but will continue to have a presence in the SSV (side-by-side) with its Yamaha YXZ1000R prototype. Yamaha finished in a respectable 2nd and 6th position in the last two years, respectively.
Eric de Seynes, President, Chief Executive Officer, Yamaha Motor Europe, commented on the decision saying, “Yamaha has a long and storied history with the Dakar Rally, starting in 1979 at the first-ever edition and running unbroken into the modern era. It’s also an event that I personally have a real passion for, having twice contested the event and for many years worked closely with Jean-Claude Olivier, who not only raced and won stages at the Dakar but also oversaw Yamaha’s most successful pioneer period in the rally.
“However, while the Dakar Rally has mainly succeeded in remaining close to its roots, even when it moved out of its spiritual home of Africa, the world in which it exists has changed considerably. Our off-road customers now have different expectations and they look for different products, and we must cater for these if we are to stay connected. It is for this reason we have decided to end our long history on two wheels at the Dakar Rally and in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, while simultaneously strengthening our commitment to racing the Dakar on four wheels with the Yamaha YXZ1000R SSV.
“Yamaha’s commitment to Rally Raid events with motocycles is not over, but our future engagement must have a closer connection to our customers and their aspirations, developing further the Ténéré 700 potential towards a direction which will enable them to rediscover the more adventurous side of Rallies.”