After being the pioneer of the new category “Trail” with the DT-1 and then established itself as a motocross leader with the Monocross suspension, Yamaha has begun the development of two more epochal models for the now thriving off-road market in the United States: TT500 enduro, exit in the 1975, and the dual-purpose XT500, exit in the 1976. Both of these big-singles at 4 Times met the needs of off-road fanatics who enjoyed riding on the wild open terrain and deserts of the American West Coast. Their highly resistant engines had a strong torque, and their sturdy and light frame was able to withstand the vibrations of such a power unit. They immediately became big sellers like recreational bikes, perfect for enjoying a lively weekend ride in America's wild open spaces. The bikes also became the dominant machine in various types of enduro races and won races across the country.
Meanwhile, in Europe the XT500 became an unexpectedly great success for a different use than the American one: her elegant design earned her a growing presence on the road. The combination of its torquey engine and a lightweight, thin chassis made it a handyman capable of using both daily errands and tours, making it a popular choice.
But it wasn't the only reason for his success. Thanks to the passion of a French in particular, that would become the “Mr Yamaha” company, The XT500 would also be the spearhead for the development of another new pioneering Yamaha category.
Olivier has always been passionate about the Paris-Dakar Rally.
His name was Jean-Claude Olivier. At the time, was an employee of yamaha Motor Sonauto French importer of products, but would later become the president of Yamaha Motor France S.A. and would help the pioneer of what was called the category “Adventure, New10”.
The eyes of Olivier shone as he looked at the 500 cc big-single and thought of the vast and unknown expanses of the African continent, Saying: “Is It's time for the bike to be a vehicle for adventure”. He started by competing in the 1977 at the Rallye Cate d'Ivoire (Abidjan-Nice Rally) who has traveled about 10.000 km from the Republic of Ivory Coast, abidjan capital, in Nice in the south of France. In this event he experienced the difficulties and joys of the adventure rally. (The next organizer of the Paris-Dakar Rally also took part in this rally, Thierry Sabine). Then, in 1979, Olivier was joined by three other drivers to take part in the first Paris-Dakar Rally (also known as the Oasis Rally) What “Sonauto Yamaha Team”, riding the XT500. At the time, other car and motorcycle manufacturers showed little interest in this new competition, but Olivier was different. He described his decision to participate as a natural choice based on the XT500 product concept.
Cyril Neveu at the Paris-Dakar premiere
In this first participation in the Paris-Dakar, cars and motorcycles had no separate categories and 2 wheels and wheels 4 wheels have raced for absolute victory. The pilots Cyril Neveu and Gilles Comte have surpassed the many Range Rovers, Renault and other off-road vehicles, Respectively, with an arrival at 1 or 2 seats on the Yamaha XT500. In the second Paris-Dakar the following year, Neveu won once again and the XT500 drivers took the top four places in the race. In addition, of 25 motorcycles that finished the Rally that year, 11 were XT500, more than any other brand.
Like this, The elegant design of the XT500 destined for California has also won the hearts of many enthusiasts in France and other European countries, arousing in them the desire to “Adventure”.
For the third year in a row, the following year, in 1981, the Paris-Dakar has become a competition approved by the FIA and FIM, and both automotive and motorcycle factory teams quickly started competing. Among the most ambitious participants were the BMW teams, and the XT500 riders now found themselves eating the dust of BMW motorcycles powered by a “flat motor” (horizontal piston engine). The following year, Yamaha upgraded the XT500 to the XT550. It was equipped with the exclusive YDIS device (Yamaha Dual Intake System) the Yamaha, but as the average speeds of Paris-Dakar grew faster, it was a struggle to keep the bike competitive.
This prompted Olivier and Sonauto to ask Yamaha Motor in Japan to further develop XT production models for new levels of off-road performance and equipment specifically designed for full-fledged rally competitions. Inspired by the passion and determination of France, Yamaha headquarters development team got to work. The result of their efforts was the XT600 Ténéré. The bike boasted an engine 600 cc that kept the YDIS, a large tank to be 30 liters, The first ever front disc brake on an off-road Yamaha model, a Monocross bell suspension, an aluminum fork and more. The XT600 Ténéré was developed in conjunction with the enduro TT600 model for the North American market and had a very high level of reliability. When it was first presented at the Paris Motor Show in the autumn of 1982, the XT600 Ténéré unleashed a new movement that would spread all over the world.
After its official release, Ténéré became not only the natural choice of many Paris-Dakar pilots, but also the choice of many generic motorcyclists who admired the adventure that paris-Dakar symbolized. The Ténéré was the machine that best embodied their dreams and that would start a worldwide boom of cars in style after those that competed in the Paris-Dakar.
XT 600 Ténéré
As a careful observer of the events of those times, current president of Yamaha Motor France, Eric de Seynes, New100, Remember: “When we had the Ténéré 600, it's been a fantastic success on the market. Really, it was great; from a sales perspective, it was a great success”. In the ten years since its release, 61.000 XT600 Ténéré have been sold in Europe and more than 20.000 only in France. Later,, The model will evolve 1991 XTZ660 Ténéré, with a 660cc five-valve single-cylinder engine, and will adopt the double beacon in the 1994.
While continuing to embody the dreams of so many pilots, the famous Ténéré would come to symbolize the “spirit of adventure” Yamaha brand. The Adventure category, started with the arrival of the XT500, reached a new level of popularity with the launch of the Ténéré, and the category would grow to become a new kind of motorcycle culture. With the establishment of the Adventure category, Yamaha had allowed many riders to participate in the Paris-Dakar, but as far as the results of the races, Yamaha had not won since the second edition of the 1980.
Eventually, it was Jean-Claude Olivier's determination to win the Paris-Dakar again that convinced Yamaha's production model development department to act. The XT600 Ténéré prepared for the Paris-Dakar del 1985 it bore the same name as the production model, but it was actually the first bike that the production model development department of Yamaha headquarters had built specifically for the Paris-Dakar. The fuel tank was a three-part project, with a main tank and secondary tanks to the left and right, total capacity 51 liters. With some changes made by Sonauto, Olivier took him to an impressive second place. In addition to this, 3rd and 4th place also went to the pilots of the XT600 Ténéré. However, with the Paris-Dakar becoming faster every year, victory continues to go to Yamaha's rival and his horizontal twin-cylinder.
This prompted Olivier to attempt to increase the maximum speed of the car for the Rally of the 1986 using the engine 4 cylinders of the FZ750 sport bike for the car, creating the FZ750 Ténéré. But with the disadvantage of its greater weight, the best he could do was finish in 12th place. Nevertheless, his unwavering determination to win the Rally inspired Yamaha's racing car development department to act.
The following year, in 1987, Yamaha's racing car development department in Japan finally began working on a factory machine for the Rally of the 1988. It was the machine “0W93, New1000” or “YZE750 Ténéré” powered by an engine liquid-cooled 750cc five-valve single cylinder. Olivier also brought the 22-year-old French champion of enduro Stéphane Peterhansel in the factory team. Peterhansel reflected on the events of the time: “This race was my dream. Winning this race wasn't my dream, it was just a dream. And I was really lucky, because one day [in the middle of 1987], Jean-Claude Olivier called me and asked if I was interested in doing the Dakar, and I answered for sure! This is my dream! I want to do this race!
Riding the single-cylinder 5 liquid-cooled valves YZE750 Ténéré (0W93, New1000), Franco Picco came second in the 1988.
Peterhansel was present at the pre-race tests where the last adjustments of the 0W93 were made before eight machines were supplied to the Sonauto team, Belgarda team Yamaha's Spanish team for participation in the Paris-Dakar del 1988. In the race, though, Peterhansel went off-piste at one point and lost valuable ground, making him 18th overall. Meanwhile, Olivier fell and broke his arm bones a week before the finish line, but he ran up to 7th place. Later, Peterhansel would comment on the enormous willpower and determination that Olivier had shown: “I remember when I did my first Dakar. Olivier] he was a runner; it was 88. I started with a good race, but in the middle of the race I made a big mistake and I never managed to get a good result.
And I remember Jean-Claude Olivier fell and broke the bones of his arm and tried to finish. But it wasn't possible for me. I said that with a broken arm it is not possible. But in the end, finished the race. It wasn't easy, but then I said, Mr. Olivier is really a strong man, not only with his speed in the saddle, but also [Mentally] why finish the Dakar that way with a broken arm, it wasn't possible for me. And’ been during my first Dakar, so I was really impressed by his [Ability]; he was really strong, you've never [Surrendered] and it was always [pushing its physical limits]”.
Among the 0W93 runners in the Paris-Dakar race of the 1988, was Franco Picco of the Belgarda team to have the best race. Until the last stages of the Rally, got in trouble with Edi Orioli on Honda NXR750, but he couldn't take his rival and finished 2nd. In the Rally of the following year, Peak ran well on the improved 0W94, New10014, but once again he had to settle for second place by a margin of 54 minutes. Although they were not able to prevent the Honda factory team from winning again, the know-how acquired by the 0W93 machine that Picco had ridden would be traced back to the development of the next Ténéré production model.
For the new engine, the desire to maintain the good performance feeling of the original Ténéré single-cylinder, while allowing for higher power and speed levels, an in-line twin-cylinder from 750cc to 10 valves with a 360-degree crank. The engine design was also characterized by a downhill suction socket, from a built-in dual-mast barbell and dry-paper lubrication. Of course, as the father of the “Ténéré World”, Jean-Claude Olivier took part in the prototype tests.
Then, in the autumn of 1988, The new XTZ750 Super Ténéré was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. Taking the new XTZ750 Super Ténéré production model as a base model, efforts accelerated towards the entrance to the factory at the Paris-Dakar Rally. In 1990, The 802.5cc YZE750T Super Ténéré YZE750T factory machine took Carlos Mas to second place. Then, in 1991, eight drivers of Sonauto and the Italian teams participated in the Rally in a more advanced version.
That year he finally led to success; The drivers of the YZE750T Super Ténéré took every place on the podium and brought Yamaha its first victory in ten years. It was the moment when the dedication and determination of Jean-Claude Olivier and the Yamaha development team to win the Rally again finally paid off.
The winner of that year's race, Peterhansel remembers that moment: “I remember on the podium, [Olivier] took my hand on the podium and began to cry a little. It was really exciting and it was probably the best feeling of my career [with six wins at the Dakar]. Since joining Yamaha, he put his trust in me and told me to take my time, gave me a lot of support and said he was sure I would win the Dakar. After four years, I won my first Dakar, so for him, [had hit the target]. It was a relationship a little bit’ similar to that of a son and a father”.
In 1994, the rules of the tender have changed and participation has been limited to production models. This forced Yamaha to suspend its stake in the factory, but it didn't affect Olivier's passion for the event. For private drivers who wanted to participate in the Rally, Yamaha Motor France released its own production models built specifically for the Dakar. They sold the 15 units needed, each of the XTZ850R twin-cylinder and the XT660R single-cylinder, a total of 30 Unit. At the time, The XTZ850R was sold for about 140.000 Franks (at the time about 25.000 Usd). These machines continued to help private individuals realize their dream of competing in the Paris-Dakar.
The following year, Peterhansel returned to the Paris-Dakar Rally as a factory driver in a car based on the XTZ850R and won his fourth victory in the Rally of the 1995. In 1996, Edi Orioli won the Rally with Yamaha, and in 1997 and 1998, Peterhansel won consecutively on the XTZ850TRX with a 270-degree crank that provided excellent traction in the desert sands. So by doing, Peterhansel scored an unprecedented record of six victories in the Paris-Dakar motorcycle division. These results also helped to ensure that Yamaha won 9 of 19 Paris-Dakar rally that took place until 1998, most motorcycle manufacturers, before finishing his participation in the Rally.
Ed: the word “Ténéré” in the Tuareg languages of North Africa means “Desert” or “Solitude”. Yamaha's challenge in Paris-Dakar, tackled together with passionate adventurers determined to conquer this barren “desert of the deserts”, was worthy of the pioneering off-road manufacturer from the beginning. No person symbolizes this challenge better than the late Jean-Claude Olivier, the man who in those years was the unifying and driving force of the dakar challenge. Today, his many successes and his indomitable Spirit of Challenge are not just a model for Yamaha Motor France, but also for every member of the global Yamaha family to be proudly admired.