Ténéré World Raid Team Power on Through Adversity at the TDC
The Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team showed incredible fortitude during Stages 4 and 5 of the Tunisian Desert Challenge. Despite difficult terrain and serious sandstorms that saw Stage 6 cancelled, Alessandro Botturi continues to lead from the front, with a fifth and a third-placed finish, respectively, seeing him open a 9-minute gap at the top. His teammate Pol Tarres’ bad luck continued, as he could not finish Stage 4 due to a technical issue, but after sitting out the fifth stage, he will return to action in Stage 7.
The Tunisia Desert Challenge is living up to its “extreme” Rally Raid moniker. The 350km Stage 4 and 300km Stage 5 involved some of the toughest sections encountered by the team in Rally Raid, and with temperatures soaring in the desert to 35 degrees Celsius, the conditions are genuinely harsh. Enormous soft dunes and tricky technical rocky sections took their toll, and after the tragic passing of a rider during the third stage, some sections were reduced in distance. Stage 4 saw the rally travel from Matous to Ksar Ghilane, with the fifth stage starting and finishing at the Ksar Ghilane bivouac. On top of the rugged terrain and extreme heat, massive sandstorms hit the Tunisian Desert on Tuesday and Wednesday, making some sections almost unrideable and leading to the cancellation of Stage 6 from Ksar Ghilane to Douz.
Botturi carries on undeterred, though, the Italian showing just how capable he and his Ténéré 700 World Raid are by finishing in the top five in every stage so far. His ability to stay calm, assess situations using all of his experience and bring his bike home show his true class. In his many years of racing, the 46-year-old admits that the last few days have been some of the most demanding he has been involved in, which makes his consistency even more admirable.
He finished Stage 4 in fifth with a time of 3h 10′ 41″, eight minutes and 15 seconds behind the winner, and was on the podium again for Stage 5 in third, after 4h 49′ 46″ of riding despite a small crash towards the end. He now leads the overall standings with a combined time of 20h 06′ 46″, nine minutes and seven seconds ahead of the next-best rider.
For Tarres, making his Rally Raid debut in the TDC has been a baptism of fire. The talented Spaniard has shown everyone how his sensational trials and enduro skills make him a rally natural, but he has not been able to get a break. It is not just his technical ability that has been highlighted at the rally, as the mental fortitude he has displayed has also been incredible. After being taken out by a quad bike on Stage 3 and having to ride 300km without any navigational tools and still finishing in a respectable seventh place, he was determined to make up time during Monday’s stage, but it was not meant to be.
A technical issue with the clutch on his Ténéré while riding in the dunes during Stage 4 meant he could not continue. After trying his best to fix the problem but to no avail, he had to spend eight hours stranded in the desert waiting for a pickup, yet when he made it back, all he could think about was getting back on his machine and going again. Sitting out Stage 5 while the team worked on his bike, the 28-year-old was looking forward to Wednesday’s Stage 6, but its cancellation meant he will have to wait until Thursday to get back into the action. As he did not finish Stage 4, Tarres can continue to ride in the TDC, but his times will not count towards the overall classification.
Stage 7 sees the TDC restart after taking a day off on Wednesday due to the cancelled stage, with a 56km Liaison to the start line in Douz, before 360km of soft sand and dusty trails from the city to the iconic filming location of the Star Wars movies. Everyone in the Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team offers their sincere condolences to the family, friends and team of French rider Matthieu de Saint-Exupéry, who sadly passed away on Sunday’s Stage 3.
Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team
“Stage 4 and 5 have been really tough. Both stages had sections of dunes that were as hard as any I have encountered. On top of that, the navigation was difficult, but I rode well on both days, and once again, my Ténéré was brilliant. Its extra power made it easier to get myself out of trouble, and it is impressive how the bike is handling these extreme conditions. Physically it was demanding; this rally is an excellent test for both the bike and for me ahead of further challenges. As I have said previously, we did not come here looking to win, just to develop the bike and have fun, so leading the overall classification is nice but not core to our rally. I feel sorry for Pol, as he has shown great determination, spirit, and exceptional pace during this rally and has just had some terrible luck and wasn’t able to complete stage 4. It is only his first rally, and he has impressed me with his riding and attitude, so I think he will bounce back even stronger than before!”
Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team
“Stage four was tough! I was riding hard and enjoying the dunes once again, but sadly a technical issue meant I could not finish the stage. This is Rally Raid, and this kind of thing can happen. I am obviously not happy to have had to sit out Stage 5, but I am grateful for the sweeper truck that came to pick me up. The team worked hard on the bike on Tuesday to be ready for Stage 6, but unfortunately, that was cancelled. I now have just two stages left, so I hope to show what I can do and what this bike is capable of by finishing the rally as strongly as possible.”
Yamaha Ténéré World Raid Team
“It has been a tough couple of days. In some ways, Pol has experienced a season of bad luck in one rally, but he is learning, and all of this will help him as a rider in the future. It is an extreme rally and is very tough, but this makes it an incredible adventure to remember and what Pol went through in these last few days, is something that will change him as a person. The most important thing is that he is okay and looking forward to getting back on the bike for Stage 7. Considering what he has been through, his attitude is incredible, and I would like to thank all of the team for the effort they have put in during this rally; we have a great bunch of guys who are like a family, and this is important in Rally Raid. As everyone knows, we are here to test the bike and team ahead of other adventures, and Alessandro is not riding flat out to win, but the bike is just so good in these harsh conditions; the fact that he is leading the rally is incredible. He has a lot of experience and that is showing in his ability to bring the bike back to the bivouac every night, no matter how difficult the stage.”