Watch: Aprilia Tuareg 660 Dominates Competition In Race To Dakar

Following the tracks of the original Paris-Dakar Rally and Thierry Sabine, the Africa Eco Race has come to be known as “The Real Race to Dakar” in recent years. It’s a 14-day, 12-stage rally raid covering over 6,000 km of rugged terrain. To put it simply, it’s not for the faint of heart (and engine), and winning it has been reserved for top riders on purpose-built 450 rally bikes. Completing the race on a production-based adventure touring bike is one thing, but actually competing for the win on this type of machinery is a challenge of a different magnitude.

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

Seems like Aprilia Tuareg Racing didn’t get the memo, as Jacopo Cerutti and his twin-cylinder Tuareg 660 adventure bike led the pack from start to finish even though this was the team’s first major African desert rally raid. Impressively, the all-Italian man-machine duo not only won the 650cc and over class but the whole race, with Yamaha’s Alessandro Botturi constantly on the attack. Even the rally-raid rookie, Francesco Montanari, on his Tuareg, finished twice on the special trials podium and ended the race with a top-ten finish. 

watch Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

That’s what Aprilia’s recent documentary is about. It’s a chronicle of the brand’s impressive performance during their first participation in an African rally raid with the Tuareg 660. This beautifully-shot short film gives an insider’s perspective from the team and riders on what it took to pull off this impressive feat. Despite having a major disadvantage in weight, size and suspension compared to the other 450 rally replica competitors, they were able to realize the incredible dream of crossing the finish line in Dakar and taking the top step on the podium overall.

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race documentary

Aprilia Tuareg Racing’s Back to Africa Project 

When Aprilia announced its Back to Africa project with the Tuareg 660, it wasn’t a surprise. Tuareg, after all, refers to the nomadic pastoralists inhabiting the western and central Sahara. The namesake of the desert dwellers was bred to tackle the dunes, and it was the perfect embodiment of the brand’s vision of conquering the off-roads. 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

Enter, Aprilia Tuareg Racing — an ambitious project that aimed to resume the off-road story of the Italian motor company. With the help of the Guareschi Brothers’ GCorse, Aprilia turned this production ADV into an off-road enduro that went on to win the 2024 AER. So, how did they do that?

The Aprilia Tuareg 660 is already an excellent motorcycle, often finding itself on the top of the ADV billboards. It’s still not ideal for competing in a major rally raid though. So, Tuareg Racing set itself to upgrading the motorcycle. After over 6,000 km of testing and through races like the Italian Motorally, the final iteration of the Tuareg started taking shape. 

6,000 km to Victory

The Tuareg motorcycles only speak half of the story; the other half is spoken by the Tuareg Racing riders: Jacopo Cerutti and Francesco Montanari. Having already won the Italian Motorally title and taken the podium in the Transanatolia Rally, in Turkey, the two were riding the wave of victory. But this was the team’s first African rally raid, and it wasn’t going to be easy. 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

Their biggest adversary was the desert and its challenging conditions. As shown in the documentary, the initial hours of a stage are fun, but soon enough, mental and physical fatigue sets in. Beyond that point, it’s all about trying to think straight, navigate the winding roadbook, and keep the rubber side pointing toward the sand. 

That’s not all. While the racers emphasize the spirit of camaraderie, racing is a competition. And competing closely with Cerutti were the Yamaha Tenere 700 racers, Alessandro Botturi and Pol Tarres. Botturi had already won the AER in 2019 and 2020 on a 450 rally bike, and the bleeding blue team was constantly on the attack to reclaim their title. 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race
Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

Fortunately, Cerutti had already built up an advantage over other racers by taking victory in the special trials of the initial days. This advantage, excellent strategy, and Tuareg’s reliability allowed him to gain victory in the Africa Eco Race 2024. Meanwhile, Montanari won two stage podiums and an eighth place overall. Not a bad start for the team’s debut in AER, eh?

The Queen of Africa 

While this may be the team’s first African rally raid, it’s not the first one for Aprilia. The company saw its first African desert raid in 1989 with the Tuareg. The company even returned to the Dakar rally in 2010 with the RXV Rally 450, continuing its effort until 2012. With its Back to Africa project, the Italian manufacturer is returning to its rally racing roots, but who knew a production bike would be their first choice? 

Aprilia Tuareg 660 wins Africa Eco Race

Aprilia calls the Tuareg the Queen of Africa (or the desert). How long can it uphold this title? Who knows? When it comes to rally raids, we’re in for an exciting competition in the coming years as more production adventure bikes get into the mix. With the likes of Aprilia, KTM, and Yamaha, you can bet your ADV that these races will be even more fun to follow.

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