After thirteen stages of racing and more than 9000km covering two countries and a sizeable chunk of South America the 33rd Dakar rally has finished with Yamaha present on two of the final podiums. As the teams and riders celebrated the end of another gruelling event Yamaha Racing France Ipone’s Helder Rodrigues was thrilled to take a personal best result of 3rd overall in the motorcycle category while Yamaha machinery filled all three slots on the rostrum of the Quad competition.
Portugal’s Rodrigues classified 2nd in the last stage of the two week trek that traversed the Andes and cut through the Atacama Desert. When technical misfortune struck closest rival Francisco Lopez Contardo the WR450F rider was able to improve on his 2010 ranking of 4th overall and open the champagne. Rodrigues claimed victory on Stage 6 and battled against adversity in the forms of a problem with delayed assistance, fuel shortages and navigation difficulty. The 31 year old was consistently quick and claimed top five finishes in seven of the stages.
“I had imagined a different Dakar while leaving Buenos Aires two weeks ago,” said Rodrigues who has taken 5th, 5th, 4th and now 3rd in the last four Dakars. “I wanted this place on the podium. While starting the last stage I was somewhat resigned to the fact that I would have try for the top three another time but when I arrived to the special and someone told me ‘Chaleco’ had a problem then I felt excited. He must be disappointed but this can happen at the Dakar. In any case I reached my objective. I will be able to stick something else apart from a ‘4’ on the bike and this means a lot because it represents a real achievement at the Dakar. I want to thank my team and the Team Yamaha Racing France Ipone for their work but also my partners and my fans.”
Yamaha saw three other WR450Fs in the top twenty of the class with America’s Jonah Street making it to the Argentine capital in 12th and with the distinction of claiming Stage 9. Rodrigues’ team-mate, Jordi Viladoms, placed 14th and another Spaniard, Jose Pellicer, sealed 19th spot. The third member of the Yamaha Racing France Ipone squad, Olivier Pain, was setting times close to the leaders when he unfortunately crashed in the formative phases of the race and broke his wrist.
The name ‘Patronelli’ was again confirmed as a Quad winner at Dakar with Alejandro eclipsing his brother Marcos’ success twelve months ago. The latter had to withdraw early in this year’s rally but Alejandro weathered a tough second half of the contest with an injured hand to bring his YFM700R home with an advantage of one hour over Sebastian Halpern and with Lukasz Laskawiec in third. Yamahas won eleven of thirteen stages with Patronelli, Halpern, Josef Machacek, Tomas Maffei and Laskawiec all reaching the top of the time sheets. Patronelli led nine stages and all the way to the line from the eighth leg. “It was hard, very hard,” said the triumphant Argentine. “If you analysed what happened then it is unbelievable. I had lost some morale and Marcos had fallen so I had to climb back up the slope, rediscover hope and then lost again it when I broke my hand and accelerating became almost impossible. I had to complete 400 kilometres that day and then 7 or 8 more stages. I said right then that ‘if the hand could manage the next 400ks then it must last the next 5000’ and here I am as champion with a hand and half! I am number one at the Dakar! I cannot believe it.”
From the twenty-eight quads that reached the conclusion of the first stage only twelve where classified upon reaching Argentina’s capital city. Among that group was Camelia Liparoti who diligently guided her YZM700R through the wide range of terrain, dust, rocks, dunes and mountains to achieve her goal of surviving the world’s toughest race. She was one of eight Yamaha pilots in the final collective. “My main memory will be of a hard rally,” she said. “With a lot of stones and not enough dunes! We had a lot of mud in the last few days but I kept a high speed on the last stage because I did not want to lose my ninth place!”
“The Dakar has been a very strong and personal experience,” she added. “Now we are here at the finish the Yamaha quad still seems like new and a part of me feels like I could do it again.”