The Yamaha Motor Europe press release does not leave much room for interpretation and guesswork. It is very clear: we are leaving the World Rally Championship immediately, with the prospect of returning, but under different circumstances.
The exact statement of the president and CEO of European Yamaha, Eric de Seynes, is as follows:
“Yamaha has a long and famous history in the Dakar Rally, which begins in 1979 and its first race to continue uninterrupted until the modern era. It is also an event for which I have a personal passion, having run twice and worked for many years with Jean-Claude Olivier, who not only competed and won legs in the Dakar, but also oversaw Yamaha’s most successful season in this rally.
“However, while the Dakar Rally has largely managed to stay close to its roots, even when it moved from its spiritual home in Africa, the world in which it lives has changed significantly. Our off-road customers now have different expectations and are looking for other products, and we need to serve them if we want to stay connected with them.
“That’s why we decided to end our long two-wheeled history at the Dakar Rally and the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, while strengthening our commitment to racing on four wheels at the Dakar with the Yamaha YXZ1000R SSV.
“Nevertheless, Yamaha’s commitment to motorcycle Rally Raid is not over, but in our future entries there should be a closer connection with our customers and their ambitions, further developing the potential of the Ténéré 700 in a direction that will allow them to rediscover the more adventurous side of Rally racing. ”
This is a very clear position that describes the peak point with names: Ténéré 700. Apparently the pattern of single-cylinder 450 has ceased to express the market, with adventure motorcycles that jumped from the dunes of Dakar, but no longer have the slightest connection with this only in the imaginary world of marketing. Once upon a time the KTM Adventure, the BMW G / S, the Yamaha XT and Super Tenere or the Honda Africa Twin were born from the races they had won in northwest Africa, still dripping sand. Today;
Yamaha is apparently pushing to change FIM Cross-Country Rally rules to include new generations of in-store adventure motorcycle racing instead of special replica racing on expensive racing cars that the truth is they can not do and many other things for their rider – daily use, trips, rides?
This is how a, hopefully, temporary curtain falls on Yamaha’s presence in rally racing, with Adrien van Beveren and Andrew Short taking fourth and eighth place respectively in the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team’s factory WR450F Rally at the recent 2022 Dakar Rally in Saudi Arabia.
Yamaha is the only company to have raced in all the Dakar to date, even winning the 1979 virgin rally with Frenchman Cyril Neveu on the legendary Yamaha XT500. In the years that followed she won seven more victories in the Dakar, six of them with the one and only Stéphane Peterhansel and another with the Italian Edi Orioli (who two years ago had given Cagiva its only victory with the Elefant).
In the Dakar, Yamaha also brought innovation, when it first ran its unique WR450F 2-Trac (2×2) in the 400cc Super Production category with great success in 2004 and 2005 with the Frenchman David Frétigné.
After 44 Dakar, Yamaha closes the WR450F Rally, while maintaining its SSV (side-by-side, SxS) class with the original YXZ1000R, which finished second and sixth in the 2021 race. and 2022 respectively.
Yamaha’s press release closes by stating that now the interest and consequently the know-how acquired in Cross-Country Rally all these years will focus on the needs of its customers in the off-road sector, with the new Ténéré World Raid.
The first and most basic question we have closing, is the position of other manufacturers and primarily Honda. Because the relentless reality says that in Dakar (but also in the world championship in general), except for Honda and Yamaha, the rest of the participations concern almost exclusively KTM and its satellites (Husqvarna, GASGAS).
Since 2001, the only company other than KTM that has won in the Dakar is Honda, and this only recently, in 2020 and 2021. This year came the first victory of GASGAS, with a motorcycle that, as everyone knows, is a KTM painted red.
In other words, there is a very serious risk that the world championship will become a monopoly.