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Obituary: Jean-Claude Olivier

Jean-Claude Olivier, the former veteran chief executive of Yamaha Motor France whose name will forever be associated with creation of the hugely successful Yamaha Ténéré and Super-Ténéré adventure sport range, has been tragically killed in a road traffic accident.

Olivier first joined French Yamaha importer Sonauto in 1964, repping bikes into dealers. He went onto become marketing director and then head of Sonauto Yamaha and finally chief executive of Yamaha Motor France in a career spanning 45 years.

With a passion for road and off-road motorcycle racing, Olivier was both well-known as a team promoter and an active participant. Most notably, he was a talented Paris-Dakar Rally competitor during its African heyday in the 1980s. He achieved six finishes in nine attempts, with an impressive runner-up spot in 1985. One of the great characters of the event, he once famously attacked the Sahara on a four-cylinder FZ900 special.

He also exploited Yamaha’s success in the desert by developing its four-valve XT550 trail bike into the Dakar-replica XT600 Ténéré. The second production edition of this model in 1986, sporting the colours of team sponsor Gauloises, sold more than 12,000 units in France that year.

Jean-Claude Olivier was driving to work on the morning of 12 January when his car was hit head-on by a heavy goods vehicle. The truck driver had reportedly fallen asleep at the wheel. His sad demise will be mourned throughout the European motorcycle industry.

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