Alexandre started riding motocross at three, but his destiny on four wheels would be inspired by his father, Daniel Giroud: “I was riding motocross bikes when I was young, but as I got older, I saw my dad riding quads. It looked fun, so I decided I wanted to try it.” Daniel, a passionate quad rider himself, played a pivotal role in shaping his son's career. Not only did he introduce Alexandre to quads, but he also imparted wisdom and guidance that would prove invaluable in his future endeavours.
Almost immediately, the younger Giroud showcased his quad racing potential as he went on to win a French Championship before deciding it was time to move on to the next challenge. “I told my father; I want to take on something bigger. He suggested starting with the FIM Bajas World Cup, which I entered in 2014.” Daniel's suggestion turned out to be the right move for Alexandre, who secured the Bajas World Cup title in 2015 during his second season.
So, what next for the talented youngster? Once again, his father’s own legacy at the Dakar greatly inspired his son. Daniel had etched his name in the record books by becoming the first person to ever complete the entire race on a quad in 1997, over a decade before the category was created, riding his Yamaha Blaster to the finish line by the legendary Lac Rose in Dakar, Senegal.
Knowing that he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps, Alexandre aimed to participate in the Dakar exactly 20 years after his father's historic achievement. However, securing a sponsor proved to be extremely challenging, forcing Alexandre and his family to put everything on the line financially to allow them to make the start of the 2017 Dakar: “I could not find a sponsor, so I went to the bank with my wife We got a loan to allow me to race. It was a big risk, but when I took my first victory at the Dakar in 2022, six years later, I could complete the final payment on the loan…so I think it paid off in the end!”
After securing the money to race, he completed his first Dakar in 2017 in 11th and followed that up with impressive fourth-placed finishes in 2018 and 2019. He was forced to retire from the race in 2020 but was determined to return strongly in 2021, a year that would mark his breakthrough but also see disaster strike.
He won four stages and was battling for the overall podium when a mistake forced him to retire on the penultimate stage, agonisingly close to the finish: “We were so close to the podium, but I hit a stone that caused an oil leak. A warning light came on, but I thought it was impossible, so I continued racing. I tried to ignore it, but I realise now that I should have stopped and fixed the problem, but I didn’t, and I broke down close to the end of the stage. On that day, I learnt so much about myself. Yes, I was fast, but I knew I had to work on my attitude.”
The importance of finishing a race was a lesson that Alexandre's father had always emphasised: “My father always told me, if you want to win, first you must finish, and if you want to finish, you need to keep it original. This is why although we make a few modifications to the Raptor to race at the Dakar, like adding a navigation tower and bigger fuel tanks, the engine is completely original because the engineers at Yamaha have more experience than me.”
Having come so close to recording a podium at the Dakar, Alexandre's father tragically passed away a few months later in April 2021. Taking his father's teachings to heart, Alexandre focused on improving his mental and physical preparedness for the next edition, as he knew that the rally was a unique test of a rider's abilities: “I always say Dakar is like being in a decathlon; you need to be a good rider, have good navigation skills, be physically fit, and much more for even the slightest chance to win. You don’t have to be the fastest or the best in one category, but you must be good at everything. Plus, of course, having the best team around you is the most important thing. I only win because of my team. I have the best mechanics and the best support. It does not matter how good you are individually, as it really is the ultimate test of man, machine, and team.
“After my father had died, I was even more focused on the Rally in 2022. I wanted to race as a tribute to him and everything he had done for me. I won two stages on the way to the overall victory, making me the first-ever French rider to win the Quad category at Dakar. Standing on the podium exactly 25 years after my father had first completed the Dakar on a quad was an incredible emotion. It was such a shame he never got to see me win, but he was with us in spirit, and he inspires me in everything I do. Everything came together, my team were awesome, and the Yamaha Raptor is an incredible machine. It is amazing to think you can take a standard quad, make a few small changes, and go on to win the toughest rally in the world.”
Buoyed by the confidence of his first Dakar victory, Alexandre went on to secure the 2022 FIM Rally-Raid World Cup for Quad Riders, winning every race he entered, but the Frenchman was keen to avoid resting on his laurels: “2022 was a great year, but also very long, and it would have been easy to relax, so I told my team that if we go to Dakar in 2023, we are not going to enjoy it; we go there to win.”
The 2023 Dakar was one of the toughest on record. There were two marathon stages, torrential rain, and some of the most challenging terrain ever encountered during the rally. However, Giroud still managed to dominate proceedings on his Raptor quad, taking four stage wins on his way to becoming the first person to claim back-to-back victories in the class since Alejandro Patronelli in 2011-2012: “Honestly, it was incredible to win it again, especially considering how tough the route was. To secure back-to-back victories is amazing, as anything can happen at Dakar. I think my father would have been proud.”
Alexandre is looking forward to continuing his father's legacy as he aims to become the first rider to win three consecutive Quad category titles at the Dakar Rally in 2024, and attributes Yamaha's dominance in the class, with the manufacturer winning every race in the category since its inception in 2009, to their experience and shared passion for motorsports: “Yamaha is like a family where everyone has the same passion, and it is this love for motorsport that makes them different from other manufacturers.”
Alexandre Giroud's story is one of overcoming adversity, staying true to one's roots, and the power of a father's love and guidance. His back-to-back victories at the Dakar Rally stand testament to his hard work, dedication, and the lessons imparted by his father. The French rider's future seems bright, and with his father's legacy serving as an ever-present inspiration, there is no doubt that Alexandre Giroud will continue to make history in the world of motorsports.