World Rally-Raid Championship

Stephane Peterhansel returns to bike roots at Swank Rally di Sardegna

3 Mins read
Credit: Adventure Riding

With his four-wheeled rally machine out of commission for the foreseeable future, Stéphane Peterhansel decided to return to his roots once again by entering last week’s Swank Rally di Sardegna. Racing a Yamaha WRF450F, he battled with Benjamin Melot and Alessandro Botturi throughout the five-leg event; although coming up short, he still proved he hasn’t missed a step on a bike with a third-place finish.

Peterhansel led early when he beat Vincenzo Savoca Corona for the first stage win by just two seconds. He continued his advantage before Melot tied it up with an identical time through three legs. Melot had raced alongside Peterhansel at the Dakar Rally in January, albeit on a bike (and solo), and the veteran stayed sharp as he pulled away in the final two stages to beat Botturi by a mere seven seconds. Botturi in turn edged out Peterhansel by seventeen seconds.

Beyond riding the same marque, Peterhansel and Botturi also both knew their way from Europe to Senegal on two wheels. Peterhansel won the Paris–Dakar Rally six times on a motorcycle followed by three more in a car before the race moved elsewhere, while Botturi is a two-time bike winner of the Africa Eco Race that took up the Dakar’s original route. Botturi, one of Yamaha’s factory riders, also finished second in the 2024 AER.

In January, Peterhansel finished thirtieth in his thirty-fifth career Dakar, scoring his record-tying fiftieth stage win but falling out of contention due to mechanical problems. He and Mattias Ekström spent the rest of the race accompanying team-mate Carlos Sainz to his fourth Dakar victory. Although their Team Audi Sport was supposed to race for the W2RC in their final season, the team ended up shutting down after Dakar due to parts shortages, leaving Peterhansel with plenty of free time for himself.

While his career has been up in the air as he approaches his sixties, he has been keeping busy. In 2023, Peterhansel made his return to bikes when he entered the Morocco Desert Challenge in a non-competition category as part of the Tenere Spirit Experience, a factory-backed programme for Ténéré 700 owners led by his wife Andréa Peterhansel. Andréa also entered the Swank Rally and finished nineteenth.

The 2024 Swank Rally celebrated the forty-year anniversary of the Sardegna Rally Race, a former round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship (predecessor to the current World Rally-Raid Championship). It started in Porto Torres before concluding on the beach of Marina di Sorso. The rally is intended for all regardless of background or regulation, meaning certain bikes entered are not eligible for traditional FIM competition. While Peterhansel’s WRF450F is allowed in the W2RC, he went up against enduro and adventure bikes with significantly more power than mandated in rally raids; many of his fellow Yamaha riders like Botturi used bikes that neared 700cc in engine displacement from the Ténéré line.

Other faces included Alessandro Zanichelli, who raced the Dakar on a Yamaha 600 in the 1980s, and 2025 Dakar hopeful Romain Bouzigon.

Organised by Italian company Adventure Riding, a Swank Rally is also held in Tunisia in late February.

Overall results

14Benjamin MelotKTM Rally ReplicaEsprit KTMR21:11:34Leader
23Alessandro BotturiYamaha Ténéré 700 World Raid GYTRTénéré Yamaha Rally TeamR31:11:41+ 00:07
31Stéphane PeterhanselYamaha WR450FTeam PeterhanselR21:11:58+ 00:24
434Alexander VeithKTM 690 EnduroVeith HolzR21:20:55+ 9:21
540Jarno D’OrsognaYamaha Ténéré 700Yamaha RacingR31:25:05+ 13:31
66Andrea PerfettiHonda CRF450 RallyMoto.itR21:25:08+ 13:34
79Antoine BourgeoisHusqvarna FE 450Antoine BourgeoisR21:33:15+ 21:41
822Gianluca CristoforiHusqvarna FE 450Gianluca CristoforiR21:33:47+ 22:13
927Emanuele TerribileBeta 390 RREmanuele TerribileR21:34:43+ 23:09
1036Povilas JoniškisKTM 450 EXC-FCrsh Tst DummiesR21:39:24+ 27:50
1111Edward ClepsHusqvarna FE 350Edward ClepsR21:42:47+ 31:13
1223Vincenzo Savoca CoronaKTM 450 EXC-FDRAMR21:47:01+ 35:27
1332Mauro BaldiniHonda CRF450 RallyMetzelerR21:48:25+ 36:51
1438Luca MorfinoKTM 890 Adventure RMBER21:49:29+ 37:55
1518Ambrogio GrilloKove 450 RallyMC TorinoR21:56:00+ 44:26
1625Matteo NobiliSuzuki DR350Compagnia del TasselloR11:59:31+ 47:57
1712Antonio SantopoloKTM 530 EXCAntonio SantopoloR22:08:28+ 56:54
1815Cyril CassouKTM 450 EXC-FOwaka AdventureR22:23:50+ 1:12:16
192Andréa PeterhanselYamaha WR450FTeam PeterhanselR22:30:17+ 1:18:43
2031Emanuele GarofaloKTM 350 EXC-FEmanuele GarofaloR22:32:19+ 1:20:45
2130David GazzoliHusqvarna FE 250TeamballoR22:40:11+ 1:28:37
2220Sonia BarbotYamaha Ténéré 700Donaig EvenR32:46:02+ 1:34:28
2341Paolo MorabitoHonda CRF450 RallyPaolo MorabitoR22:47:23+ 1:35:49
2429Alessandro MendozaHusqvarna 450 Rally FactoryAteliers UtopiaR22:49:38+ 1:38:04
2514Alexandre BaraisKTM 450 EXC-F Six DaysOwaka AdventureR22:49:55+ 1:3821
2635Mateo GenerelliYamaha Ténéré 700GTRacingR32:50:37+ 1:9:03
2710Riccardo SchiavottoHusqvarna FE 350Deus USAR22:57:23+ 1:45:49
2819Donaig EvenYamaha Ténéré 700Donaig EvenR33:07:58+ 1:56:24
297Paolo PanellaHonda XR610Paolo PanellaR13:40:58+ 2:29:24
3016Cristian TrippaHusqvarna 510DRAMR23:45:49+ 2:34:15
3133Romain BouzigonKTM 450 Rally ReplicaEsprit KTMR23:52:00+ 2:40:26
325Alessandro ZanichelliYamaha Ténéré 700Alessandro ZanichelliR33:54:52+ 2:43:18
3321Andrea PeroniHonda XR250RAndrea PeroniR14:00:20+ 2:48:46
3428Kelly ArenaKTM 300 EXCKelly ArenaR24:17:50+ 3:06:16
3526Marcello ColliHonda XR400RCompagnia del TasselloR14:19:13+ 3:07:39
3637Arnold van der HeijdeBMW R65GSArnold van der HeijdeR14:19:39+ 3:08:05
378Thiany YansaneHusqvarna FE 450Thiany YansaneR24:25:37+ 3:14:03
3824Guillaume MichardYamaha Ténéré 700Guillaume MichardR35:52:24+ 4:40:50
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Justin is not an off-road racer, but he writes about it for The Checkered Flag.
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