Searing heat, treacherous sandstorms, two cancelled stages and some of the most demanding terrain ever seen in Africa showcased why the TDC is known as an “extreme” Rally Raid. Still, the team took it all in their stride to pull off the seemingly impossible in their maiden race to surge to victory. Competing against more specialised 450cc Enduro machines on the new GYTR-kitted Yamaha Ténéré 700 World Raid, the team aimed to use the rally as a test to develop the bike further ahead of more adventures, and what a trial it proved to be.
Even the experienced Botturi, who has raced in seven Dakar’s and has victories at the Merzouga Rally, Transanatolia Rally and Africa Eco Race to his name, admitted that the demanding terrain and severe conditions, with temperatures rising to over 35 degrees Celsius in the Tunisian Desert and winds up to 80km/h, were some of the toughest he has ever come across. The vast dunes, soft sand, physical rocky sections, mirage-inducing salt lakes, and fast, dusty trails would have proved a challenge for anyone, let alone a team and machine making their debut as the first to compete in a Rally Raid event with a production bike.
Incredibly, Botturi and his Ténéré never missed a beat despite all of this. The dangerous sandstorms meant that Stage 6 was cancelled, and the seventh stage was called off by the first waypoint due to a lack of visibility which meant the Safety Helicopter could not take off, but not before several bikes and riders were forced to retire as the punishing conditions took their toll. Therefore Botturi, ever-present in the top five in all the previous stages, headed into the final stage with an almost 14-minute lead over his nearest rival, with 300km of fast desert roads and dunes to navigate to secure an incredible victory.
Despite the mental and physical fatigue you would expect after such a tough rally, the 46-year-old pushed hard during Stage 8, racing alongside his closest rival for the majority of 300km, showcasing just how capable the Ténéré is to bring his bike home in fifth with a time of 4h 15’ 57’’, three minutes and 12 seconds behind the winner. More importantly, he was just two minutes and two seconds behind the man pushing him for victory, securing an epic win for the Italian, the team, and Yamaha by a margin of 11 minutes and 21 seconds, with a combined time of 24h 22’ 43’’.
For Tarres, the 2022 TDC has been a true test of his character in the successful Trials and Enduro rider’s first Rally Raid. Faced with some of the harshest conditions and environments in the world, while cursed with some terrible luck during the early stages that saw him taken out by a quad bike on Stage 3 and suffer a technical issue on Stage 4, the 28-year-old never took a backward step despite facing such an incredibly steep learning curve. His pace and riding skill was evident to all as he battled at the front for the majority of several stages and when luck was on his side, the sight of him “dancing” through the dunes on his Ténéré left many of his fellow riders in awe. Still, it was his determination and courage that stood out. Not even having to carry out repairs during sandstorms, spending 8 hours stuck in a dune under the scorching sun, or experiencing a big crash when another competitor hit him, could dampen his passion and enthusiasm. As the saying goes, “This is Rally Raid.”
Sadly, it was a case of what might have been. Due to not being able to complete Stage 4, the Spaniard was allowed to continue but received a 40-hour penalty which effectively ruled him out of the overall classification. Forced to sit out Stage 5 while the team repaired his bike and receiving another 60-hour penalty, he was left frustrated by the cancellation of the two stages, as it would have given him a chance to bounce back, and he was in P2 for the majority of the seventh stage before it was curtailed. Stage 8 gave him a chance to show what he could do, and he didn’t disappoint, hitting the final checkpoint at the finish in ninth with a time of 4h 32’ 23’’, nineteen minutes behind the leading rider. His overall classification after the penalties of thirtieth (132h 00’ 29’’) was not reflective of his pace or the effort he put in, but the future looks very bright for Tarres, and he is already looking forward to the next adventure.
After an incredible and emotional Tunisia Desert Challenge, the Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team, in partnership with Riders for Health, now turn their focus to the Africa Eco Race, which follows the route of the original Dakar rally and covers over 6,500kms, starting in Monaco and finishing at the legendary Lac Rose in Senegal between the 15th-30th of October.