Yamaha had competed at the Dakar Rally for over four decades from the race’s inception in 1979 to 2022. Although the manufacturer shuttered its Dakar motorcycle programme after the 2022 edition, Yamaha Moto Europe has maintained its presence in the sport via the Ténéré World Raid Team, a stable of riders competing on the Ténéré 700. For 2023, Yamaha will introduce the Ténéré Spirit Experience to allow owners of said bike to take part in four rally raids throughout the year with factory assistance. Up to twenty riders can participate.
Named after a desert in the Sahara that the Dakar Rally formerly ran through, the Ténéré 700 was introduced in 2019 as an adventure bike. The World Raid and Rally models were released three years later, the latter of which features dual fuel tanks capable of 500 kilometres.
The Ténéré Spirit Experience is overseen by former Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team manager Marc Bourgeois and his company MBSM, who will provide gear like special wheels, navigation equipment, and even an additional fuel can if necessary. MBSM has also opened training centres in France and Morocco tailored for Ténéré riders, though some countries also have more generic Yamaha off-road schools like the Yamaha Off-Road Experience in Wales.
Andréa Peterhansel, the wife of Dakar legend Stéphane Peterhansel, will also be involved as a spokesperson. Ténéré World Raid Team racers Alessandro Botturi and Pol Tarrès will take part in the four races and serve as team-mates for Experience riders.
The Experience’s first round will be the Morocco Desert Challenge on 21–30 April, which Botturi won in 2022. Experience riders will compete in a “Raid category” that is intended to give participants the rally experience in a non-competitive environment; race sporting director Jean-Claude Kaket has also designed a separate route from the main event for them to follow. The Hellas Rally in Greece on 21–28 May will be the second leg, followed by the Transanatolia in Turkey on 2–9 September and the Tunisia Desert Challenge on 20–29 October.
The concept evolved from the Ténéré Spirit overseen by Yamaha’s Italian branch. Created in 2022, the Ténéré Spirit consisted of three races and came with a category eligible for the Italian Motorally Championship. The South Australia Outback Motorcycle Adventures also organised a Ténéré-exclusive rally that year.
Despite ending the Dakar bike arm, four-wheeled Yamahas have continued to compete in the Rally in the T3 and and Quad categories. At the 2023 race, Yamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototypes prepared by X-raid Team won T3 at Stages #8 and #10 with João Ferreira and Ricardo Porém, respectively, with the latter seeing Yamahas sweep the podium. Every Quad rider competed on a Yamaha Raptor with Alexandre Giroud claiming the overall; one Raptor piloted by Carlos Verza competed in the bike-filled Malle Moto for riders without assistance and reached the finish.