The Africa Eco Race, which takes place between 30 December 2023 and 14 January 2024, is one of the toughest two-wheeled races on the planet. But what makes it so? To find out, we caught up with seasoned competitor, Stefano Chiussi.
As part of our Yamaha Motor For Riders project with Yamaha Motor Europe, we are offering you the chance to experience the start of the epic Africa Eco Race in Monaco, or witness the finish of the 6,000km+ race in the legendary Dakar with all expenses paid trips, including flights, accommodation and meals!
You can enter both prize draws here for just €10 each.
What is the Africa Eco Race, and how long has it been going?
SC: Africa Eco Race is the race that replicates the original Paris Dakar. It started back in 2009, and it uses the original tracks from the Paris Dakar which was cancelled the year before in 2008.
So, the original group of top competitors like Jean-Louis Schlesser and many others didn’t want to follow the organisers with the new rules to a new location in South America, because they believed the race had to stay in Africa and arrive in Dakar, Senegal.
They organised this new race, which for legal reasons could not continue with the name Paris Dakar, and it changed to the Africa Eco Race. But it’s essentially the same race as the original Paris Dakar.
Where does it start and finish, and what is the total distance of the race?
SC: Originally, the Paris Dakar started from Paris, as the name suggests, but it evolved to have race starts from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, but the key point is that almost every edition arrived in Dakar, except for one instance where it arrived in South Africa.
The Africa Eco Race starts in Monte Carlo, Monaco, and from there, the race moves through France, all through Morocco, the Sahara Desert and then we reach Lac Rose in Senegal, which is close to Dakar city.
The total length of the race is 6,500 kilometres, but the most interesting part I would say is that ninety percent of the race is off road, which is incredibly, incredibly challenging!
There are other competitions that claim to be the hardest rallies in the world, but they spend a lot more time on the asphalt. Competitors in the Africa Eco Race ride up to 700km or 800km per day off road.
What motorcycles are used in the Africa Eco Race?
SC: Unlike in the Dakar Rally where you must race a 450cc single cylinder engine and the motorcycles used are bred for racing, there are no restrictions to engine configuration at the Africa Eco Race – single cylinders, twin cylinders, any CC, it is allowed.
Yamaha is racing with a factory team on the Ténéré 700 World Raid, with exceptional riders Pol Tarres and Alessandro Botturi. The machines are modified to suit rally racing, but the majority of the motorcycles are based on motorcycles anyone can buy from their dealerships.
There are three main classes, 450cc, 450cc and over, and 700cc and over, then there are categories like Veteran, Rookie, Female and so on.
Why is Eco in the name?
SC: The race actually began as the Africa Race, then it became the Africa Eco Race because the organisers put a lot of attention on the environmental side. Not because we race with electric or hybrid vehicles, but rather have a set of procedures and principles that really keep the bivouacs and paddocks very clean, so no rubbish is left behind in the desert of during the race, which is fantastic.
All things like oil, fuel and tyres that we use or are left over isn’t simply thrown away, but these items are given to the local people along the race route which is precious to them, but we can no longer use in competition.
When you consider there are around 500-700 competitors in total, and that number is growing, we are able to provide a lot of these useful items to the local communities. This is amazing.
Two Wheels for Life and Yamaha are running a prize draw to win the ultimate Africa Eco Race experience. What can the winner expect to experience at the event – from the start in Monaco to track side in Dakar?
SC: Africa Eco Race was born with that true amateur spirit without a huge corporation behind it. It is open to everybody, and this is the wonderful thing. Whoever is coming to Monaco can sit side-by-side with riders like Alessandro Botturi and Pol Tarres, and chat with them or jump on the bike for a picture! Things you cannot do in many other racing paddocks around the world.
Also, being in Monte Carlo is amazing. It has prestigious racing history, and you’re surrounded by luxury yachts and super cars, and you can just soak up the atmosphere! It’s like a party, and it’s an amazing fan experience.
And Dakar is Dakar. Whoever loves motorcycle racing and off road racing has this place in their mind. It’s like a Mecca for racing, the holy grail for any competitor or fan, and once in your life you have to reach this place.
Just arriving there, you already perceive its history and its heritage. When I arrived for the first time, I cried. I will never forget it. So whoever gets to go to Dakar will be incredibly lucky.
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!