Opening stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally

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Launching into 2021 focused on success, for the first time in history the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team will enter the Dakar Rally with five riders. Forming a formidable line-up of experienced, determined racers, all eyes will be on Adrien Van Beveren, Franco Caimi, Andrew Short, Ross Branch and Jamie McCanney as all five take on one of the world’s toughest off-road rally races in the new year.

With just four days to go until the opening stage of the 2021 Dakar Rally, all members of the team are fully prepared for the upcoming challenge. Well aware of the demanding days that lay ahead, each rider heads to the start line with high hopes and with the experience needed to secure a strong result in the desert.

Leading the team is the experienced Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren. Fully focused on his dream of winning the Dakar Rally, after spending the early part of 2020 recovering from surgery, he more recently spent much of the autumn and early winter in Dubai, re-acquainting himself with the same desert conditions he will face this January. Currently feeling strong and riding as well as he’s ever done following a positive outing at the Hail Rally, Van Beveren is set to take on the Dakar Rally in arguably his best ever form.

Franco Caimi was a consistent threat for top five stage results throughout the 2020 Dakar Rally, with the 32-year-old ultimately placing eighth overall to match his career-best result from the 2017 edition. Since then, Franco returned home to his native Argentina and following a brief recovery period and time to reflect, he switched his attention to the 2021 edition. Now, with months of focused training under his belt, Caimi is confident in establishing himself as a title contender.

Since joining the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team in March 2020, Andrew Short has spent much of the year riding in the Nevada desert, becoming fully acquainted with his Yamaha WR450F Rally machine. Following months of training, he made his racing debut with the team at the Andalucia Rally in Spain where a positive result saw Short confidently adjust to his new team surroundings and further develop his bike set-up. Looking ahead, Andrew has drawn upon his experiences from previous Dakars to form a solid race strategy heading into the 2021 event as he looks forward to taking on the Dakar rally challenge.

Much like his teammates Franco and Andrew, Ross Branch has spent much of 2020 training, clocking up countless miles on his Yamaha WR450F Rally in his Botswana homeland. Working on further improving his roadbook skills, and now armed with the full support of the Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team, Ross is excited to race at the 43rd edition of the Dakar. With Branch looking to harness his raw speed to ensure consistently high stage results, the 34-year-old is aiming for a top 10 overall result.

The team’s youngest rider is 26-year-old Jamie McCanney, who is well prepared for what will be his second Dakar Rally. Still very new to the discipline, the Manxman made his Dakar debut a little over a year ago, making positive steps as the event progressed. Towards the end of the two-week race, Jamie enjoyed some rapid progress, delivering his best on stage 11 with sixth overall – a result that helped push him up the leaderboard to 15th in the final classification. With valuable experience earned, and with more time spent working on the set-up of his Yamaha WR450F Rally, McCanney is confident of improving upon his debut result.

The 2021 Dakar Rally gets underway in the port city of Jeddah on 3rd January and will cover more than 7500km before finishing in the same location on 15th January.

Adrien Van Beveren

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

Since my crash at Dakar in 2020 it took two surgeries before I could work on my full recovery. I had six months off the bike, but I now feel really good. I’m not deterred by my crash last year and I still dream of winning the Dakar. This has been my motivation to work hard and prepare myself for 2021. My training has gone really well and I have been in Dubai riding in the dunes for a while now, so I feel like I am back to my best. I managed to race the Hail Rally recently, which was a positive part of my training. With the race taking place on the same terrain as the Dakar it also included tricky navigation, so it was perfect for me to race there. My bike is good and I feel good, so I am really confident now and I can’t wait to go racing again.

Franco Caimi

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

I’ve been at home training in Argentina and my preparations have been going really well. I feel great on the bike and physically and mentally I’m ready to go racing. I’m confident for a good result in 2021. For sure I will be pushing for the win which would be amazing for me and the team and it’s what I have been working for. I’ve studied the schedule and the stages, and the new route looks really good with a lot of mixed terrain, so I’m positive for a good result at the Dakar.

Andrew Short

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

It’s been a strange year with only one race since the last Dakar, so it’s not been normal that’s for sure. I raced the Andalucia Rally which was only a small race, but it was important as it was the first one for me on the Yamaha. It was good for me to ride the bike in a race environment but also work with the whole team and spend time with the whole crew. I’ve been training a lot in the Nevada desert, continuing to learn the bike and lately I’ve been working on getting back into the racing mindset. The Dakar is a race like no other and for 2021 I’ll be taking it day by day. You learn a lot every year and for me it will be important to know when to push and when not to. I can’t wait to start racing and hopefully by the end of 13 days in the desert we can come away with a solid result.

Ross Branch

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

My training and preparation for Dakar has gone amazingly well and I’m really excited for January 3 to get things started. I’ve spent a lot of time at home in Botswana on my Yamaha and focussed on my roadbook training. I’m really happy with everything and it’s not long until we can go racing. It’s a strong field for 2021 and I think there are 20 riders that could win. I’ll be focussing on minimising mistakes and being consistent on every stage. I’m really thankful for the team giving me this opportunity to give the Dakar my best shot and I hope to repay them with a solid result inside the top 10.

Jamie McCanney

Monster Energy Yamaha Rally Team

I’m really looking forward to the Dakar Rally. It’s a shame that we only got to race once since the last Dakar and I’ve not been able to ride sand dunes like I’ll experience in January. I’ve been preparing myself in different ways though, working hard on my roadbook skills especially. I’ve been doing as much as I can, riding a lot and I’m really happy with my bike. Throughout the year the team has been working hard and we’re much better prepared than last time, so I’m happy with where we are at ahead of racing again. My expectations are to take it day by day, step by step, but ultimately I want to enjoy my riding and improve upon my 15th place finish last year.

Alexandre Kowalski

Yamaha Europe Off-Road Racing Manager

For sure 2020 has been a challenging year but we are really looking forward to the Dakar Rally. It’s an exciting time for the team as it will be the first time in history that five official Yamaha riders will race in this event. With Adrien, Franco, Jamie, Ross, and Andrew, we have a very strong team. We were fortunate to race the Andalucia Rally in October with all riders present and that was really good practice and preparation for us. The team spirit is really strong and they have all been training hard. Because of travel restrictions they have had to make their final preparations alone, but they are all hard workers and know what they need to do. The bike for 2021 has a few minor changes, so in their final preparations the riders can fully-focus on their riding and roadbook training. For Dakar, there are new regulations, with the new safety air bag and especially with the number of rear tyres that each rider can use. Each rider can only use six in total so there is some race management that the riders need to think about and prepare for. There is a strong line-up of riders and our team is ready for the challenge. We’re excited to start racing.

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