Dakar success: 1979 & 1980 (Cyril Neveu)
“The Yamaha XT500 won the very first Dakar Rally. And it didn’t just win the two-wheeled class, it crossed the finish line first, beating every other vehicle outright! When you look at the first rally in 1979 it is amazing just how standard the bikes were: they had bigger fuel tanks and that was about it, which is why there isn’t an XT Dakar replica – the road bike was the race bike. It was this close link between the road and race machines that got me into collecting Dakar reps, in the car world race reps are really far removed from the road cars and highly prized and therefore expensive. You can buy a Dakar rep bike for £1500 and that’s great value for money.
“The XT dominated the first few Dakars because it is as tough as old boots. The early races were real feats of endurance, both for the rider and machine. The Yamaha air-cooled single is so simple and rugged and the chassis is also very solid, they just didn’t break and that secured them victory. The rider had no navigation aids such as GPS in those days, you just had a map and compass, so a light and solid plodder such as the XT was the perfect Dakar vehicle.
“I like to look for originality and the fact this XT500 has an OE exhaust makes it very special, the only issue is the front hub should be black and not silver. XTS are starting to become hard to find as they were workhorses and no one treasured them, so you are looking at £4000 for a nice one nowadays. They are a great bikes, but an absolute bitch to kickstart when hot!”