Fresh start for Cyril Despres in Dakar 2014

Our exclusive interview with the five-time Dakar Rally champion finds him ready for the fight.
By Tim Sturtridge The seconds are now ticking away on the countdown towards the 2014 Dakar Rally, how are things with you and your new Yamaha team?

Cyril Despres: "We have had to act fast since starting out on this new challenge with Yamaha. It only really got going in May so we have had no time to waste in getting in shape for the Dakar. After the first test we made a few adjustments to make the bike more comfortable, such as altering the position of the seat and the handlebars. Since then there’s been more details added, for example we have increased the volume of the fuel tank. I wanted to be able to carry an extra three litres in the tank, this may not sound much but in my experience it can make a big difference."

New bike, same style for Cyril Despres
New bike, same style for Cyril Despres © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

RB: It sounds as if you have put your stamp on the Yamaha 450 YZF Rally and made it your bike?

CD: "I took the decision to use Yamaha’s bike from the 2013 Dakar because it had proven to be competitive. With the short space of time we had to work in it seemed reckless to kick off a project to build a completely new machine. We have made some small adjustments to improve performance but nothing major has changed. Nothing too ‘sexy’ has been added to the bike but I believe the materials are there to allow me to do my job at the Dakar."

Nothing too ‘sexy’ has been added to the bike.

RB: How is your working relationship with your new Yamaha team?

CD: "There’s been a good flow of ideas and great discussions in the garage to help us improve. We have guys at Yamaha that worked with Stéphane (Peterhansel) during his successful years on a bike at the Dakar. This kind of experience is invaluable and we are all pulling together to get this bike in the best shape it can be. I’m very precise when it comes to setting up the bike, there’s no ‘more or less’ about it.

Cyril plans to make a splash with Yamaha
Cyril plans to make a splash with Yamaha © Marcelo Maragni/Red Bull Content Pool

RB: Has there been much discussion about tactics for the upcoming race?

CD: "My strategy will not change because I have joined a new team. My way of racing has been designed by myself to suit myself. It may not work for other riders but it has worked for me so I don’t feel any need to change my style just because I have changed my bike. It’s clear to me that the team around me at Yamaha have a lot of trust in me. They just want me to be as comfortable as I can so there’s certainly been no pressure from them to alter the racing style."

My strategy will not change because I have joined a new team.

RB: What are your personal goals for the 2014 Dakar Rally?

CD: "I know we have everything we need to win this Dakar. I think it’s going to be a tough Dakar, my toughest Dakar for quite some years. I think an advantage I have this time is my determination to show that it’s not just the best bike that wins the Dakar, it’s also the best rider. I don’t know if I will finish this race with my 6th Dakar title and a third consecutive win but I want to show the difference that an experienced Dakar rider can make to a team. Of course it’s vital to have a good mechanics and staff behind you but I want to show Yamaha what I can personally bring the team."

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