Yamaha Racing have officially pulled the factory race team out of the Dakar and World Rally-Raid Championship – over 40 continuous years rally competition comes to an end in favour of adventure bikes.

The rumours were true, Yamaha have pulled the plug on their official rally team out of competition following their best Dakar performance in recent years and in the face of arguably the greatest heritage in the sport.

Yamaha say they will no longer race the WR450F Rally bikes but will continue to invest in the SSV category supporting racers with its Yamaha YXZ1000R prototype.

They add their two-wheeled focus “will shift to meeting evolving customer requirements in the off-road sector” more towards Adventure bikes like the new Ténéré World Raid.

Heritage? What heritage?

If you want to learn the history of the Dakar Rally then you could do well to look at Yamaha’s record of participation at the biggest off-road event on the planet. Frenchman Cyril Neveu took a Yamaha XT500 to the very first win in 1979. Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel scored a record six victories for Yamaha in the 1990s with Italian Edi Orioli adding another victory in 1997.

Recent seasons have seen the Yamaha team struggling with results and reliability although in 2018, while the event was in its decade of racing in South America, Adrien Van Beveren came mighty close to winning.  

2021 saw things back on track and crucially the team upped their game and results. With some of the old-guard team personnel moved on and Andrea Peterhansel as Sports Team Manager, the results came with Rally Raid World Championship wins for Ross Branch plus a hugely successful Dakar where Van Beveren challenged for the win, eventually finishing fourth with Andrew Short eighth at Dakar ‘22.

“A closer connection to our customers”

Hang on, didn’t Yamaha used to have a stronger connection to its customer before they pulled out of world championship competition, like EnduroGP for example? What’s next? MXGP?

Seems like the manufacturer has a serious case of pop will eat itself – if you don’t invest in the sport to showcase the bikes, then you sell less don’t you? Isn’t that why every manufacturer goes racing?

We guess it is easier to ride the Adventure bike wave and literally dumb down off-road sport by not producing pure off-road motorcycles to compete at the highest level…


Eric de Seynes, the President and CEO of Yamaha Motor Europe pours over the rich history and unbroken run at the Dakar and says, “It’s also an event that I personally have a real passion for, having twice contested the event.”

But Seynes says the world in which the Dakar exists has changed since the rally moved out of its spiritual home in Africa; “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.

“However Yamaha’s commitment to Rally Raid events with motorcycles 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.”


Photo Credit: Rally Zone