No one has won the Dakar Rally more times than Stéphane Peterhansel. Since his debut in 1988, ‘Monsieur Dakar’ has taken 13 victories in total, and six of those came in the motorcycle class at the famous endurance event in the 1990s with Yamaha.
Peterhansel’s love affair with off-road racing began as an eight-year-old boy, training on motocross circuits before he found his other talent – skateboarding. He was French Downhill champion aged 14 and was soon taking part in European championship rounds.
In 1980, Peterhansel decided to fully commit to motorcycle racing and his natural ability was first displayed with a number of French enduro race wins. He was the 1983 French Enduro champion in his first full season and won numerous supercross, enduro and other off-road events.
It was in 1987 that former Yamaha Motor France CEO Jean-Claude Olivier convinced Peterhansel to contest the 1988 Paris-Dakar on a YZE750 Ténéré. On the 13th stage, Peterhansel took a dominant maiden stage win at the Dakar, while that year he was also crowned Enduro World Champion.
For a second Dakar attempt, Peterhansel showed the world exactly what he was capable of. After winning the first stage, he added five further victories in Niger, Mali and finally in Senegal to finish fourth overall.