Monday, May 27, 2024

Stephane Peterhansel on rally raid bike return: “I was a little lost at first but it’s coming back”

Stéphane Peterhansel spent the past week doing something he had not attempted in decades: racing a rally raid on a bike. The fourteen-time Dakar Rally champion returned to his roots at the Morocco Desert Challenge when he took part on a Yamaha Ténéré 700 as part of the Ténéré Spirit Experience.

“It has been a very long time since I had ridden a big motorcycle in the desert,” said Peterhansel during the rally. “It goes back to the Dakar in 1998.

“I was a little lost at first but it’s coming back. You feel free with the air around you, it’s very different from the car. You can smell the dust and the heat, I had forgotten all that.”

The opportunity arose during a lull in his schedule as Peterhansel is not running the full World Rally-Raid Championship, whose Sonora Rally took place on the same week as the MDC. His wife Andréa Peterhansel and Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team manager Marc Bourgeois serve as general managers for the TSE.

The TSE is a non-competitive category intended for Ténéré owners to experience rallies without racing against others, making it a viable option for Peterhansel to re-adjust to life on two wheels. As such, the TSE followed a different route from the main event as part of the Raid category.

“The raid is a nice formula, we don’t do too many kilometres and we don’t have the pressure of lap times,” he continued. “I even took the opportunity to stop and take some pictures, it’s a big first for me in the desert. Navigation is easy thanks to the Tripy system, it is very intuitive. The bike is great, we rode together with the other companions who are very nice.”

While Peterhansel was not classified in the order, the Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team‘s Pol Tarrès and Rodney Faggoter finished third and fourth overall in the bike category. The team serves as Yamaha’s last “factory” rally raid bike programme after the manufacturer shuttered their Dakar Rally division in 2022.

The MDC marked a reunion for “Mr. Dakar”, who won six Dakar Rallies for Yamaha on a bike (1991 through 1993, 1995, 1997 and 1998) before switching to cars. Since then, he has won eight more times. His last two Dakar Rallies with Audi have ended in retirement.

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