Emanuele Vignali is the R&D Project Leader for the Yamaha Ténéré 700 World Raid Rally
bike and chief technician in the official rally team, working closely with riders Pol Tarres and Alessandro Botturi.
But what goes into creating a competitive rally bike for the toughest two-wheeled race in
the world, and what’s it like to be part of the team? To find out ahead of this year’s Africa
Eco Race, we caught up with Emanuele in Milan, as preparation for the rally ramps up.
Before getting some incredible insight from the man behind the amazing Ténéré 700 World Raid Rally machine, don’t forget you can enter our prize draw in partnership with Yamaha Motor Europe to witness the start of the Africa Eco Race in Monaco, or experience the finish in Dakar for just €10 each!
What modifications have you made from a standard Ténéré 700 World Raid to the rally race bike?
EV: There are a few modifications we have to make from the standard bike, to make it
competitive for racing.
It depends on which rally you are doing, but with our bike for the Africa Eco Race, the main
changes are related to the navigation, the suspension, the chassis, and the tweak the engine
performance. These are the biggest changes.
Because of the terrain, the suspension takes a real beating, so In terms of the suspension it
is stiffer in the front, with uprated triple clamps and steering damper to manage the bumps,
and a high performance rear shock.
The key thing for us also is to minimise weight, especially with these kind of big adventure
bikes at over 200kg, and for rallying we need more fuel capacity than the standard bike. The
standard bike has a 22 litre fuel tank, but we need to upgrade that to 23/24 litres, as well as
an additional 13 litre fuel tank at the rear. The weight can really add up, and that can of
course affect performance.
So, we take measures like change the wheels for aluminium ones, and use other lightweight
components where we can, and strip off any unnecessary items that the road bike has.
How long did the project take from start to finish?
EV: We started more than two years ago, and we did some races together to get some
experience and information to develop the parts and improve the bike, and it is now ready
to fully compete at the next Africa Eco Race.
What goes into developing a race bike – What are the key considerations when having a
road bike as the base platform?
EV: The biggest challenge, especially with the bikes of Pol Tarres and Alessandro Botturi
[Yamaha Factory Racing riders], was to meet their requests for the machines. It’s one part
of the project to build the bike, then the second part is to adapt the bike to suit each rider,
because they have different needs to suit their individual riding styles.
We did that, and thankfully, both riders are super nice guys and we have a very good
relationship, so they didn’t have any big requests on changing the bike, but it’s still
challenging to create a machine that will be competitive for both riders for a rally like the
Africa Eco Race.
How do you prepare a bike for a rally like the Africa Eco Race?
EV: For the official race bikes, we build them from zero, from the ground up. We take every
nut, bolt and component and then we assemble the bike to ensure it’s in the best possible
shape for competition.
For customers, they can buy a Ténéré 700 World Raid from their local dealer, and buy the
race kit to go with it, which would create a race bike which matches around 90% of the
official factory machines of Pol and Botturi, which is amazing!
[For the first time ever, Yamaha have developed a range of GYTR (Genuine
Yamaha Technology Racing) performance parts in collaboration with the Yamaha
Rally team, creating three tuning kits to turn the Ténéré 700 World Raid into a
true competition motorcycle.]
What’s your favourite thing about the rally bike?
EV: That’s a nice question! I really like the clutch cover, which was a challenging part to
develop. It’s split into two parts to have the possibility to check, maintain and replace the
clutch very easily compared to the standard bike, which is a key point for these off-road
bikes during competition.
The most recent part was the rear fuel tanks, which are really good. The riders like them a
lot because of how they balance the weight of the bike, as well as the shape, which we all
If you had an unlimited budget, what’s the one modification you would change?
EV: I can honestly say, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m very proud of this bike. In time,
modifications will be needed for sure. But right now, I wouldn’t change anything.
After each stage of the Africa Eco Race, what checks and changes need to be made to the
EV: The first and most important thing is to talk and get feedback from the riders. The
reason is because they have just ridden the bike, and they have fresh feelings about how it’s
performing or if there are any noises which don’t sound correct, and may need investigating
before the next stage. We can also make changes to the set up if we need to. This doesn’t
necessarily mean changing parts, but changing suspension settings and so on.
Then, with the mechanics, we look over the bikes and begin with the standard maintenance
like changing the oil and air filter, these kinds of things. No big maintenance is needed with
these bikes which is a great thing, and the production engine is very strong and the
reliability is there.
During a rally, how many consumables do you get through, like tyres, brake pads and so on?
EV: We have a list of items which we change after each day as a precaution, even if they
look like they are ok, we still change them. Brake pads, oil and filter, and air filter every day.
We even change both wheels every day, not just the tyres, because the terrain is so harsh,
the rocks destroy them!
The clutch we check every day but we don’t replace unless it needs it, they’re quite strong.
What’s it like to be a mechanic in the Yamaha Factory Racing rally team?
EV: It’s like an endurance for the body, honestly. Me and the mechanics drive the truck
around 500km per day, then work on the bikes during the night. We get incredibly tired, so
it’s an important part of my job to make sure our check list is updated, and we work through
everything, because it’s easy to fail due to exhaustion.
Staying awake for 40 hours is not unusual, because we work during the night to make sure
the bikes are ready for the next day, but it’s 50 degrees Celsius in the day, so impossible to
What is your goal for the Africa Eco Race?
EV: Firstly, it’s always to have both bikes and riders to reach Lac Rose in Dakar with no
issues, and if we can finish in front, then great! Secondly, it’s to have a lot of positive
emotions and to enjoy it.
You can enter our prize draw in partnership with Yamaha Motor Europe to witness the start of the Africa Eco Race in Monaco, or experience the finish in Dakar for just €10 each!