Yamaha’s YXZ1000R Dakar project is only in its third year, with 2023 seeing the introduction of the new turbocharged version of the 998cc triple-cylinder side-by-side vehicle. Incredibly, with it being the vehicle and the driver’s debut in the race, 23-year-old Ferreira, who had already secured two podiums in this year’s Dakar Rally, powered to the T3 Lightweight Prototype Class victory during Stage 8 in Saudi Arabia.
The feat is even more impressive because Stage 8 was the second part of an impromptu marathon segment that was only announced during the seventh stage due to torrential rain and flooding around Riyadh. This meant the crews had to spend the night in the desert away from their teams after completing Saturday’s stage, with only a two-hour window for assistance.
The stage was over 800km long and started with a 95km liaison from the marathon bivouac at Al Duwadimi to the start of the 346km timed special, which mainly consisted of muddy trails and soft sand, with some dunes and rocky sections thrown in for good measure, along with puddles caused from the previous day’s rain. After completing the special, there was another 388km liaison back to the bivouac in Riyadh, where the crews were reunited with their teams ahead of Monday’s rest day.
The Japanese manufacturer has a rich history of racing at the Dakar Rally, with Cyril Neveu winning the first-ever edition of the race in 1979 on his XT500 in the motorcycle class. In total, Yamaha has nine overall victories, 140 stage wins to its name on two wheels, and has achieved complete domination in the Quad category with 14 consecutive titles since its inception in 2009.
Having withdrawn from the motorcycle class after the 2022 edition, Ferreira kept up Yamaha’s winning tradition at Dakar by writing his name in the record books after a historic victory in his X-raid developed Yamaha YXZ1000R Turbo Prototype.
The Portuguese driver, racing in his first Dakar alongside his more experienced compatriot Palmeiro, had signalled his potential by finishing second on Stage 4 and third on Stage 7. The young talent is driving with the freedom of having nothing to lose after he was unable to complete the third stage due to being caught out by the flooding that has affected the 2023 Dakar, which, unfortunately, means he will not be counted as an official Dakar finisher at the end of the rally.
Making his cross-country debut in 2019, the 2022 FIA European Cup for Cross-Country Bajas T1 Champion is determined to make up for that disappointment and is demonstrating to the world just how good he is. Starting from third, he took the lead on Sunday from the 90km waypoint and never looked back. With 51km left, he had amassed a lead of one minute and 47 seconds, although there was still some drama to come. In a tense finish, he held his nerve to take a superb maiden stage victory by 17 seconds in the end, surely the first of many more to come, with a time of four hours, 11 minutes, and 26 seconds.
The Chilean pairing of Dakar Legend and three-time winner of the quad category, Ignacio Casale, and his co-driver Alvaro Leon continued their fightback in the general classification. They were in second for the majority of the stage before a puncture. Still, they fought back to record consecutive fifth-place finishes after another strong drive, meaning there were two YXZ1000R Turbo Prototypes in the top five for the second day in a row. This means they are tenth overall, having closed the gap to the cars in front by over an hour, with six stages still to go.
Ricardo Porém (PRT) and Augusto Sanz (ARG) bounced back brilliantly from a minor crash on Stage 7 that saw them lose time to finish Sunday in 14th. Dakar Legend Camelia Liparoti (ITA), competing in her 14th consecutive Dakar, and co-driver Xavier Blanco were hit by a competitor in the Truck class during the special but recovered superbly to complete the stage in 23rd.
2022 Women’s Trophy winners Annett Fischer (DEU) and Annie Seel (SWE) had another solid drive without any issues to end the stage in 25th as the leading all-female crew in the T3 class, just ahead of teammates Ahmed Alkuwari Fahad (QAT) and Manuel Lucchese (ITA) in 28th.
Monday is the official rest day of the 45th edition of the Dakar Rally before the action resumes on Tuesday with Stage 9m which features 328km of liaisons and a 358km special as the bivouac travels from Riyadh to Haradh.