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ADV NewsYamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

The T7 becomes the first twin-cylinder adventure bike to finish the grueling race.

Published on 11.01.2022

History has been made in the sands of Senegal as trials superstar Pol Tarres crossed the finish line of the Africa Eco Race aboard a Ténéré 700 World Raid Team bike to finish in fifth position overall, and first in the 700cc and over class, making the Yamaha the first twin-cylinder adventure bike to complete the grueling 16-day, 12-stage rally, typically dominated by 450cc race bikes. 

The Africa Eco Race, which is routed through the territories the original Paris-Dakar rally crossed, got its start in 2009 a year after the Dakar left the African continent for South America over safety concerns.  Following a kickoff in Monaco, this year’s Eco Race covered more than 6,000 kilometers of varied tracks though Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal to end at Rose Lac near Dakar, the capital of Senegal. 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

Also very impressive is the fact this was 29-year-old Tarres’s second attempt at completing a rally — and also his first event after a serious shoulder injury requiring surgery took him out of the RedBull Romaniacs hard enduro in late July. 


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Pol’s first raid was the 2022 Tunisia Desert Challenge, where Yamaha initially trotted out its Ténéré 700 World Raid Team, managed by Dakar veteran and race bike builder Manuel Luccchese. Yamaha and the T7 likewise made history at that event, when Pol’s teammate, rally raid legend Alessandro Botturi, dominated the event to take first place overall. During that rally, Pol suffered several technical issues with time penalties that relegated him to 30th position. 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

So we know Pol was gunning for redemption at the Africa Eco Race, riding the World Raid T7, which is equipped with Genuine Yamaha Technology Racing (GYTR) parts including a larger fuel tank and KYB suspension. 

After a hiatus last year due to Covid red tape between countries, the 2022 AER ceremoniously kicked off in Monte Carlo, Monaco, before riders traveled 400 km down the coast and boarded a 40-hour ferry to Morocco, where the real action began.

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid
Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

Once on African soil, teammates Tarres and Botturi set off on a 118 km transit leg to the first timed special stage, which consisted of 94 km of sandy and rocky tracks where visibility was an issue, especially since the guys set off in the top three, so had no tracks to follow. Forty-seven year old Butturi, who won the last two Africa Eco Races aboard factory-prepped Yamaha WR450F Rally bikes, finished the stage on the T7 in forth place while Tarres bagged seventh position.

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

To give an idea of the vast distances in this rally, after completing that first timed section the riders needed to travel nearly 400 additional kilometers to the night’s bivouac to get whatever rest they could before the next day’s 448 km stage. There can be no doubt that undertaking the transit sections on a roomy twin-cylinder adventure bike is far better for the mind and body than the sparse accommodations offered by a 450cc single-cylinder race bike. 

Stage 2 offered the first taste of sand dunes and turned out to be a good day for Butturi who won the section and moved up to third position overall. Tarres meanwhile made a navigational mistake and lost an hour to his teammate, landing in 11th place at the end of the stage. “It is hard to accept these things, but this can happen in a rally,” Tarres said of the error. “It is just the second day, I am still learning, and we have ten more stages to fight back and make up the time.” 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

And fight back the Spaniard did. Still in Morocco, Tarres finished a tricky Stage 3 in fourth position, while his teammate Botturi endured a technical issue, which took two hours to repair, seeing him finish ninth. The next day Botturi roared through the field to catch up with Pol about 350 km into a grueling 455 km special section, and the two rode together until the end of the stage, where Botturi’s push put him on the podium in third position overall, while Pol maintained his seventh place position. 

Things were really heating up by now, and not just in the competition. The dry, hot desert temperatures were now reaching 45° c (113° f) during the stages, draining the life out of both riders and crews. Stage 5, the longest of the event, started with a 450.82 km special section followed by 240.95 km of transit, yet both Botturi and Tarres prevailed, securing 4th and 5th positions respectively. 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

After a rest day and the cancellation of the Stage 6 special section (ultimately due to unsafe conditions for the medical rescue helicopter), the guys were ready for the first leg in Mauritania where Tarres and Botturi opted to ride together in order to conquer the challenging conditions, finishing in sixth and seventh respectively, only one minute apart.

“Today was an important day for us,” said Tarres. “There were a lot of very soft dunes, so it was a real test for our Ténéré 700 World Raid bikes against our lighter rivals, and it passed with flying colors.”

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

Unfortunately for Botturi, a snapped chain in Stage 8 forced him to return to the bivouac on a rescue truck. Once the penalty was applied he was relegated to 31st position. For Tarres, however, the endless soft sand and extreme heat of Stage 8, which he says “felt like it would never end,” found him still in sixth place when it did. 

Stage 9 was a fine one for Tarres, who fought an incredibly close battle against his rivals on their much lighter, more agile 450cc race bikes. The  dramatic finish amongst three riders moved Tarres up to third place for the stage, the first rally podium finish of his career. “To get my first ever rally podium is an incredible feeling, it feels like a dream!” he posted on Instagram. “You cannot imagine the challenge of battling against 450 bikes on my Ténéré…but we did it!” 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

It was not, however, a good day for his teammate, who suffered more technical difficulties and wasn’t able to complete the stage. 

The next day the duo was back in action for a long, extremely hot Stage 10, where 90% of the 456 km special section consisted of soft sand and tricky Mauritanian dunes. At the end Tarres was fourth in the general classification, while Botturi clawed his way back up to P7.

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid
Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

Stage 11 of the African Eco Race is effectively the last push since the finish at Rose Lac in Senegal is all for show. While this final timed stage was supposed to have two special sections, one last dune fest in Mauritania and a final stage in Senegal, the latter stage had to be canceled due to torrential rains. Even though this made the last day shorter, those storms had ramped up humidity in the area, making the final ride a tough one. 

And here is where a tired but joyful Tarres secured his 5th place overall position, while Botturi, after some hard turns, ended up 24th. They were however, number 1 and 2 in the 700+ category, making history as the first  first twin cylinder adventure bikes to finish the Africa Eco Race. Oh, and number 3 in that class? A stock Yamaha T7 ridden by Wolfgang Piccardo. 

Yamaha Makes History At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

“I truly believe Yamaha has written a new chapter in the history of rally racing as the first manufacturer to bring production adventure bikes into racing. It just goes to show the great potential of the Ténéré 700 World Raid by the fact that it has been competing immediately for the top positions,” says Lucchese. 

Tarres says he worked incredibly hard to finish as well as he did, and attributes much of his success to the bike he was riding, a machine he has made history with before, at the Erzbergrodeo, and also by breaking a world record by riding his personal T7 to 20,203 feet. 

Pol Tarres makes history At Africa Eco Race On Tenere 700 World Raid

But maybe the coolest thing about all the recent T7 record breaking and history making hoopla is that it’s a reminder that anyone can buy one of these adventure bikes and have an amazing time challenging themselves.     Even a Ténéré 700 World Raid bike and its GYTR parts are available to consumers. 

As for the skill involved? Maybe you’re not flying across the infamous Mauritanian dunes, beating off a flock of 450s, but you’re having the time of your life, nonetheless. 

Africa Eco Race Top 10 Overall

PosPilotTeamBrandTime
1SVITKO StefanNORWIT RACINGKTM44:11:56
2GERINI MaurizioSOLARYS RACINGHusqvarna45:12:34
3FLICK XavierFILIERE SPORTS  PERFORMANCEHusqvarna46:37:13
4ULLEVALSETER Pal AndersTEAM ULLEVALSETERKTM48:22:52
5TARRES PolYAMAHA TENERE WORLD RAIDYamaha50:16:42
6WALLACE RobbieDESERT ROSE RACINGKTM50:20:40
7SAVELKOULS StephanMEMO TOURSKTM56:27:09
8BENKO MartinNORWIT RACINGKTM56:39:20
9FLOREA IonutDESERT WOLFHusqvarna59:37:50
10BOCOUM MamadouMAD BIKES SENEGALKTM60:08:01 

Author: Jamie Elvidge

Jamie has been a motorcycle journalist for more than 30 years, testing the entire range of bikes for the major print magazines and specializing in adventure-travel related stories. To date she’s written and supplied photography for articles describing what it’s like to ride in all 50 states and 43 foreign countries, receiving two Lowell Thomas Society of American Travel Writer’s Awards along the way. Her most-challenging adventure yet has been riding in the 2018 GS Trophy in Mongolia as Team AusAmerica’s embedded journalist.

Author: Jamie Elvidge
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