Monsieur Dakar’s Super Smoker: Yamaha “YZ535” Supermoto

Yamaha YZ535 Supermoto

Stéphane Peterhansel is the most successful racer in Dakar Rally history, having won the world’s most demanding race a record 13 times — six on motorcycles, seven in cars. Born in 1965, “Monsieur Dakar” first excelled in skateboarding, becoming the French Downhill champion before switching his focus to motorcycles. At age 18, he won the French Enduro championship as well as a number of other supercross, enduro, and off-road victories.

Yamaha YZ535 Supermoto

In 1988, he was crowned World Enduro Champion and also raced in his first Paris-Dakar Rally, piloting a Yamaha YZE750 Ténéré. He would go on to win the event aboard a Yamaha in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997, and 1998 before switching to four wheels.

“The Frenchman knows what he needs to do at every stage and at every hurdle with puzzling accuracy. Over the years, his extraordinary discipline has consistently placed him head and shoulders above his competitors and, more often than not, onto the podium.” —Red Bull

Yamaha YZ535 Supermoto

Like many professional off-road racers, Peterhansel cross-trained and competed in a variety of disciplines: enduro, supercross, motocross, supermoto, and more.

Yamaha YZ535 Supermoto

In 1989, for competition use, Team Sonauto Yamaha built him the “YZ535” supermotard you see here, constructed in the team’s race workshop. This was not a concept but a “real prototype” designed for Peterhansel to race in various supermoto competitions.

The donor was an air-cooled Yamaha YZ490, which the team outfitted with a French-made JPX liquid-cooled big bore kit. Not only did convert the bike to water-cooling, it increased displacement to 535cc. The bike reportedly put down north of 56 horsepower.

The YZ535 also received twin 17-inch wheels, a rear disc brake, a larger front brake, reworked front suspension, and an Öhlins rear shock absorber.

Peterhansel would go on to win the 1989 France vs United States competition at the legendary Autodrome de Montlhéry  outside Paris on this wicked open-class two-stroke supermoto weapon.

Yamaha YZ535 Supermoto

The footage is grainy, but you can watch the actual race and catch glimpses of the YZ535 here:

Hat tip to Jared Morris (Bullet Bob Moto) for cluing us into this machine, which served as inspiration for his own Yamaha IT200 Supermoto build.

The YZ535 would remain in Yamaha Motor France’s collection until 2018, when it was sold to a lucky buyer. If you know who owns it now, let us know!


Bruno Des Gayets |


  1. NICE Ride ,, Wish I had a chance !!

    • Fantastic bike !!! A YZ turned “Supermotard”
      At first glance of article title of 535, I wondered if they used a Bit ago engine for the build, why I clicked the link to find out just what the hell happened here ? Stranger things have happened and now I am looking into that !
      A VIRAGO 535 ENGINE, in a dirt bike chassis ? Hmmmmmmmm !!! V-TWIN flat tracker/Enduro, anyone ???
      Or how bout a Virago 1100 supermotard

  2. Perfect article, a yamaha that’s not molested has an engine tweek and had a dyno.56hp is very respective for the half liter class because they are torque monsters naturally.

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