Making the most of their day off in La Paz and enjoying some much-needed rest and recuperation, Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team duo of Adrien Van Beveren and Hélder Rodrigues, along with Yamaha France supported Xavier de Soultrait, are now geared up and ready for the second week of competition at the 2017 Dakar Rally. With Adrien and Xavier provisionally third and sixth overall respectively and Hélder just outside the top 10, all three riders will continue their battle to bring Yamaha even closer to the top during their second week of racing in South America.
Reaching La Paz yesterday afternoon, team members had the chance to assess their progress so far and analyse their strategies for the second week that officially starts tomorrow. Important for more than one reason, the rest day in the capital of Bolivia also gave team mechanics the opportunity to thoroughly check the team’s WR450F Rally machines and prepare them for another 4,000km of arduous racing.
Enjoying a very positive first week of competition, Yamaha is about to enter the second part of this year’s Dakar Rally with two of its riders inside the top six and with a third close to the provisional top 10 in the overall standings. Along with the trio of Van Beveren, Rodrigues and de Soultrait twelve more Yamaha riders will enter week two tomorrow and continue their battle to the finish line in Buenos Aires.
Confirming the brand’s status as a dominant force in the Quad category, Yamaha riders continue to occupy the first four spots in the class’ provisional standings. France’s Simon Vitse is currently leading the overall standings, with Russia’s Sergey Karyakin and Frenchman Axel Dutrie rounding out the provisional top three in the Quad class.
With the Dakar Rally officially resuming Monday morning, competitors will have to contest six more equally gruelling stages until they reach the finish in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 14. The second week of racing at this year’s Dakar Rally begins with the first part of the two-day-long marathon stage.
With competitors tomorrow heading to Uyuni team mechanics and crew will go directly to Salta, where they will meet up with the Yamaha Racing trio at the end of the marathon stage on Tuesday afternoon. In tomorrow’s bivouac in Uyuni riders won’t be allowed to receive any external help as they prepare their bikes for the second part of the marathon stage on Tuesday.
Last night I had a full 10 hours of sleep so I’m feeling fresh and ready for the next stages. The first week of this rally has been really positive for me. It took some time for me to find a good race pace and then on stage two I saw an animal crossing the road and that kind of made me stay off the gas for the rest of the day. But during the last three stages I’ve kept building on my speed while also making sure I stay away from mistakes. Along with improving my navigation during the last few days I’m gradually feeling a lot more confident on the bike. The plan for week two is simple – I want to keep this same momentum and remain concentrated until the end. The most important thing is that I now found a pretty competitive race pace and I know what to do to keep that. This is surely a harder Dakar than last year and there’s also a new waypoint system that demands 100% of our attention. The key is to remain focused on navigation and that’s exactly what I’m planning to do this coming week.
This has so far been one of the toughest Dakars I’ve done and there’s still a long way until its finish. The truth is I struggled to get a competitive pace during the opening stages but I’m slowly getting there. I’ve been expecting the most difficult stages so that I could take advantage of my experience. The way I see it, I haven’t been given the chance to make the difference but I’m sure my time will come during the following week. My plan is to gradually get back the time lost during the opening stages in order to put myself back in contention for the top. My WR450F Rally has been running great so far. We’ve been through extremely warm stages, through torrential rain and high altitude but the bike never missed a beat. Tomorrow starts the first part of the marathon stage and I think that will probably be a good chance for me to push to improve my place in the overall standings.
We’ve had a very good first week at this Dakar and I’m really happy with my speed. I was fastest outright during the short opening special stage and then went on to claim two more top three results on stages two and four. I’ve also made a few mistakes getting lost a couple of times during this first week and it’s exactly that kind of mistakes that I want to avoid this coming week. I feel that I’ve gotten a lot more into the groove of this race so I’m feeling a lot more confident to push. I was able to attack the few following stages so that I can gradually place myself as close as possible to the top. The feeling is great on my bike so far and we’re now aiming high. With six more stages to be contested everything can happen, really.
It’s been a tough week but we’re already looking forward to the following one. All the members of our team from the riders to our mechanics and support crew got some needed rest during the rest day so now we’re all set for another week of competition. Adrien is doing an excellent job so far. He has remained focused since the start and he is slowly building up on his speed. The biggest difference with this Dakar is navigation. It’s always been a crucial factor but this year if a rider gets lost they risk losing twice the time they’d normally do in order to get back on the right track. We had a briefing with our riders this morning and once again we highlighted the importance of staying focused on navigation and avoiding mistakes. In my opinion that’s the key this year. Our goal now is to get all three of our riders at the end of tomorrow’s two-day-long marathon stage in good shape, so we can then continue our battle to bring Yamaha on top.
Dakar Rally 2017 – Overall Classification [After Stage 6]
1. Sam Sunderland (GBR), KTM, 15:22:05
2. Pablo Quintanilla (CHL), Husqvarna, 15:34:05, +12:00
3. Adrien Van Beveren (FRA), Yamaha, 15:38:12, +16:07
4. Gerard Farres (ESP), KTM, 15:34:02, +20:57
5. Matthias Walkner (AUT), KTM, 15:51:06, +29:01
6. Xavier de Soultrait (FRA), 15: 58:11, +36:06
13. Hélder Rodrigues (POR), Yamaha, 16:45:43, +01:23:38