When this 16-day test of man and machine begins in Buenos Aires on January 1, 2011 it heralds a new era for the Austrian manufacturer with four factory-supported riders competing on the latest KTM 450 Rally machine.
KTM is also attempting to capture the highly prized title for the tenth consecutive time. The bikes and riders representing the brand from Austria have won the race each time it was held since they first lifted the trophy in 2001. The 2008 rally was cancelled on the eve of the race after terrorist threats from North Africa, after which organizers decided to move the annual event to South America.
When riders depart from the Argentinean capital on New Year's Day they start 16 days of pure adventure that calls upon all their racing and tactical skills and demands 100 percent physical and mental fitness. Designed to t est both riders and machinery to the limits of endurance, the race makes a large loop through Argentina and Chile taking in a huge variety of terrain, including crossing the Andes and days in the Atacama Desert, recognized as the driest place on the planet.
Spearheading the KTM attack in 2011
Spearheading the KTM attack are two riders that are recognized as the world's finest exponents of the sport - French-born Cyril Despres and Spaniard Marc Coma, who have won three and two Dakar trophies respectively for KTM. In 2011 they lead two separate teams and their co-riders are Ruben Faria of Portugal and Juan Pedrero Garcia of Spain. All four riders will be onboard the brand new KTM 450 Rally bike, which has been designed by KTM's R&D Department in close cooperation with the KTM Racing Department with valuable input from the two key factory riders. The KTM 450 Rally has been specifically developed for the Dakar in response to a rule change by the organizers in 2009, which limited the engine size down to 450 cc. The new bike, unveiled to the general public at Milan's EICMA Motorcycle Show in November, first saw action in the Rally of Morocco in October 2010 when Cyril Despres won the title.
What the riders must achieve
Riders can cover 800-900 km (500-560 miles) per day, although some stages are shorter. The majority of the competitors are amateurs, many competing to fulfill a lifelong dream. KTM is not only at the Dakar to support its own factory riders but also to give practical support to a large contingent of privateers. The company makes hire bikes available and customer packages that include comprehensive servicing and spare parts plus valuable expert input that ensures that the experience of what might be a once in a lifetime expe rience for some riders can be a lasting memory and the adventure of a lifetime. For this and other major rallies, KTM is present with a full range of services and the KTM Service Truck
What the KTM riders can expect
Some of the route through Argentina and Chile for this the third edition of the South American Dakar (and the 33rd annual) will be familiar to the KTM riders and some not. They already know the white dunes of Fiambala and Chile's Atacama Desert. They know what its like to experience the thrilling Andean descent to Iquique but this year they get to know five new provinces in Argentina. They will go very close to Bolivia and reach the northern-most tip of Chile on the border of Peru. Organizers have also reduced GPS functions for guidance to the so-called "way point markers" making navigation skills and reading and mastering the road book of vital importance. This year organizers have designed the route so that the more difficult stages are in the second half of the rally so the level of suspense will increase along with the progress of the race. They have promised that competitors and teams are in for an extreme endurance challenge and as both Coma and Despres know from personal and often bitter experience, the rally is never over until it's over. Anything can happen and frequently does.
The KTM Factory Riders for 2011:
Cyril Despres of Andorra first competed in the Dakar in 2000 and finished 16th overall and second in his category. In 2001 he finished 12th and won his first stage victory. In 2003, he won three specials and finished second. He also won the Rally World Championship. In 2005, he scored his first outright victory in the Dakar on a factory KTM. "That day will remain engraved in my memory forever," he said. "Wi nning the toughest race in the world and going up onto the podium surrounded by the Senegal crowd - Wow, what a great feeling," he recalls. Another Dakar trophy followed in 2007 and the third victory came in 2010. This year Cyril reduced his race program to concentrate on contributing to the development of the new KTM 450 rally bike. After winning the Rally of Morocco in what was the KTM 450 Rally bike's first outing, Cyril described it as "a dream competition debut".
Marc Coma, a native of Barcelona Spain was introduced to the sport at an early age through his father, who contested Spanish MX championship and his uncle, a dedicated fan. He went on to race motocross at regional, provincial and national level before moving to Enduro. He won the Junior Spanish Championship in 1995 on a KTM 250 cc and raced international-level Enduro before committing to professional rally competition. Coma first contested the Dakar Rally in 2 002 when he rode a CSV motorcycle but had to retire with mechanical problems while in the top 20 of the field. He joined KTM as part of the Repsol team for the Dakar in 2003. He finished in third in four stages and established himself as a serious contender. The Spaniard then won the Dakar Rally in 2006 in Africa and in 2009 repeated the success in South America. In 2010 Coma won the Rally World Championship for the fourth time following on from his titles in 2005, 2006 and 2007.
The new team members
Cyril Despres has chosen Portugal's Ruben Faria as his team co-rider for Team Red Bull KTM. Born in 1974, Ruben first raced in 1982 in the Portuguese Championship after which he won a number of national MX and Enduro titles as well as, among others, being twice Portuguese Baja champion. He has won three stages in the Dakar, which he says is his favorite race. He wants to fin ish in the top five in 2011.
Marc Coma has Spaniard Juan Pedrero García with him in Team MRW Red Bull. He first raced at age 14. He spent much of his early racing career in Enduro and first competed on a KTM motorcycle in 2008. In 2010 he finished 10th in the Dakar. Pedrero has also placed second in the Baja Aragón
The stages for the 2011 Dakar
Day One Buenos Aires - Victoria - 377 km untimed, on the road to the first night in the bivouac
Stage 1 Victoria - Cordoba - 566 km road; 192 special for the technically proficient, narrow tracks, finishing in the mountains
Stage 2 Cordoba - San Miguel de Tucuman - 440 km road; 300 km special- Heading north and into the forest, plenty of jumps on the old track.
Stage 3 San Miguel de Tucuman - San Salvador de Jujuy - 231 km road; 521 km special: Desert canyons into earth tracks then thick forests
Stage 4 San Salvador de Jujuy - Calama - 554 km road; special 207; across the Andes via the Paso de Jama pass (at 4800 m) and into Chile and the Atacama Desert
Stage 5 Calama - Iquique - 36 km road; 423 km special: mixed terrain, rocky track and the dunes down to Iquique at an average gradient of 32%
Stage 6 Iquique - Arica - 265 km road, 456 km special: North to the Peruvian border over plenty of dunes and the dreaded fesh-fesh (known in Chile as Guadal"
Stage 7 Arica -Antofagasta - 208 km road, 631 km in two stages of special down to the Pacific Ocean. Endurance style riding of 40 km and dunes that will test the riders' skill and fitness over the longest stage
Stage 8 Antofagasta - Copiapo - 268 km road, 508 special: Tricky navigation in the Chilean desert finishing with a long sandy section at the end of the day
Stage 9 Copiapo - Copiapo - 35 km link, 235 km special: a loop through the desert that can trick even the most experienced that kicks off with a group start in rows of 10 and later rows of 20.
Stage 10 Copiapo - Chilecito - 686 km road, special 176 km: back Across the Andes and into the hot white dunes of Fiambala.
Stage 11 - Chilecito - San Juan - 164 km road, special 722 km; fabulous canyons in the foothills of the Andes against a sandy backdrop.
Stage 12 - San Juan -Cordoba - 123 km link, special 555 km. A final battle for the title on the long penultimate day starting with 100km of sand track
Stage 13 - Cordoba - Buenos Aires - 645 km link, 181 km special. Riders still need all of their concentration to settle the result with the short special finishing at the Baradero racing track.
Dakar 2011 - the numbers
Number of Dakar Rallies so far: 33
Number of Dakar Rallies in South America 2 - 2008 and 2009 - 2010 is the third
Dates for start and finish of the 2011 Dakar Rally: January 1-16
Total route: 9000km of roads, tracks and dunes, including nearly 5000 km of competitive mileage.
Distance that riders can travel in a single day: 800-900 km
Highest point of altitude: 4800 m
Average rainfall in the Atacama Desert: 0 mm
Longest stage: Stage 7 Arica -Antofagasta
Number of KTM bikes starting in 2011: 63 - more than any other brand
Engine capacity of KTM Rally machine 450 cc
Number of KTM Dakar victories: 9
Number of Dakar victories for KTM's Cyril Despres: 3
Number of Dakar victories for KTM's Marc Coma: 2
First Paris Dakar: 1979
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