There can be perhaps no better confirmation of KTM’s status as the world’s leading producer of offroad machines than a quick look at the starting list for Dakar 2007 — the ultimate rally and the ultimate adventure. Of the 250 motorcycles competing in 2007, 128 riders will be on the hallmark orange machines made in Austria.
Orange will therefore be the dominant colour for offroad machines on the starting line of the motor sports classic when it leaves Lisbon on January 6, 2007. Competitors will cross Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal in a gruelling adventure that puts man and machine against some of the toughest elements that nature can deliver. This is a race of endurance, bravery, determination and meticulous planning. It is perhaps also the ultimate test for the new KTM 690 Rally machine, a product that has been developed in cooperation with the company’s Rally Department. The new machine has already delivered good results in recent international rallies and will be ridden by all KTM Factory Team riders in the Dakar 2007.
KTM has dominated the start- and the finish lines of the Dakar classic in recent years to underline their superiority in the offroad sector. But as overall team manager Hans Trunkenpolz points out, it took patience and endurance to wait until orange emerged as the winning colour in the motorcycle division.
“We needed five years before we experienced our first Dakar victory," Trunkenpolz said. “We were close a number of times with second places but for various reasons it wasn’t until 2001 that we won and then it was a five-fold victory.“ From that point on the story of the Dakar race has gone hand-in-hand with the success of the Austrian company, which is now the second largest producer of motorcycles in Europe.
KTM’s three factory teams (Gauloises, Repsol and Red Bull) include eight factory riders supported by 43 team members, including a doctor and two physiotherapists. Two of the world’s leading rally riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres are both top favourites riding orange machines. Coma, in the Repsol team, won the 2006 rally after Despres, the winner in 2005 who rides for Gauloises, dislocated his collarbone and had to settle for second place. KTM riders therefore face a particular challenge in 2007 — to live up to the 9 of 10 top places in last year’s race.
This year it is safety first for every KTM factory rider who will all wear the new neck brace protection developed for KTM by South African doctor Chris Leatt and already tested in other international rallies by top KTM riders.
But when the riders start their motors on January 6, they are merely continuing the task that commenced months before as a massive exercise in logistics. KTM not only services its factory teams but also supplies customer package support for an army of other private riders on KTM machines. Accompanying the race for KTM will be five Rally Nissans, two T4 Racing Trucks and four T5 Assistance Trucks. They are in effect complete workshops on wheels ready to supply mechanical, safety and any personal assistance in circumstances. KTM transports between 36-38 tons of equipment for the race, including some two tons of selected spare parts and equipment air freighted to cover the contingency of the late arrival of a support vehicle, or if one is disabled during the event.
When riders cross the finish line of the 2007 Dakar they will have travelled 8,696 km through some of the most rugged terrain in the world. There is no better testing ground for the new KTM 690 Rally machine in the hands of the most talented riders on the planet, and the experience gained, as always, will directly translate into even better KTM offroad motorcycles in the future.
KTM Factory Team riders for Dakar 2007
Red Bull KTM