Dakar: KTM preview

The 27th Dakar -- KTM about to make history That has never happened in the history of the Dakar before: One motorbike brand could be taking over the lead for the fifth time in a row - KTM. Up until now, Richard Sainct, Fabrizio Meoni and Nani...

The 27th Dakar -- KTM about to make history

That has never happened in the history of the Dakar before: One motorbike brand could be taking over the lead for the fifth time in a row - KTM. Up until now, Richard Sainct, Fabrizio Meoni and Nani Roma were able to win the most difficult rally in the world on KTM. The bikes from Mattighofen are now in the position to pass BMW and Yamaha, which have also won four times. Due to the best drivers riding on KTM, the chances are looking great! However, one of the best drivers is missing: the three-time Dakar winner Richard Sainct. In autumn, Richard was killed in an accident during the Pharaoh's-Rally in Egypt. Though, he is always on the other drivers minds and his spirit rides with them. "Every single one of us misses him", says Claudia Patuzzi, manager of the Team KTM Gauloises. "Not a single day passes without thinking of Richard. Losing him has made us develop a great deal of team spirit. All of us are motivated to win the Dakar. This Dakar is dedicated to Richard!"

Moreover, the organizers of the rally have decided to not approve the starting number one this year. Since last year's winner Nani Roma is riding in a car this year, Richard as second-best, would have been entitled to this number. Because of him passing away, Cyril Despres would have been the third to be authorized to ride as number one. But Cyril does not want to. "It would have been Richard's right", claims the young French driver, who starts the race as one of the favorites.

After his second and third place in the last two years, Cyril Despres wants to finally win it. However, his has strong competitors. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Meoni is dreaming of his third Dakar win. He actually ended his career in January in order to spend more time with his family. Nevertheless, the "matador" is back. And if Meoni races he does not simply race for fun. But maybe Alfie Cox is able to be up front. Or will there be an unexpected win? For instance, Isidre Esteve Pujol from the Spanish team KTM Repsol-Red Bull has set him self the following goal: I do have real chances to win. I am well prepared, my bike is super. Last year I helped Nani to get through. I think now it is my turn."

This is how the KTM factory pilot teams are put together: The Frenchmen Cyril Despres and Jean Brucy, the Italian driver Fabrizio Meoni and the South-African Alfie Cox will run for the Team KTM Gauloises. For the Team KTM Repsol-Red Bull, the Spanish drivers Marc Coma, Isidre Esteve Pujol and Jordi Duran as well as the Italien old hand Giovanni Sala will be riding. For the second time, the Team KTM Red Bull USA takes part in the race with the following drivers: Scott Harden, Kellon Walch and Chris Blais. Brand new is the Team KTM Motorex Australia, which Andy Caldecott and David Schwarz are riding for. Carlo de Gavardo has set up the one-man-Team KTM de Gavardo.

All factory pilots are riding on one cylinder bikes. A change in the regulations which is no problem for KTM. Team manager Hans Trunkenpolz claims: "It is no surprise to us that the two cylinder bikes are no longer accepted within the regulations. In fact, there would have been time until 2006, but we already decided voluntarily to take back the twins at the beginning of 2004. In return, we expect the organizers to keep the open class. Therfore, we speak up and wanted to set a sign with the renunciation of the two cylinder bikes. Next to the class of the 450, which we participate in as well, there should still be an open class with more then 450 ccm. That is what we, KTM, stand up for."

For the last three days, the technical scrutinizing has been taking place in Barcelona. The motorbikes are checked to find out if they correspond to the regulations, whether their emergency equipment is complete, whether the GPS functions properly. Drivers have to proof that they have all their papers with them: registration, driver's license, insurance card, ticket for the passage on the ship, and so on. The KTM team proofed to be well prepared: "Our motorbikes are all fine.", said Hans Trunkenpolz. "We prepared our selves for the Dakar very effectively and thoroughly. All teams passed the final test together. The bikes meet the drivers expectations."

For the fourth time the Dakar starts in Spain and for the first time in Barcelona. A belated present for Nani Roma. The Catalan won the Dakar in January on a KTM as the first Spanish driver. Meanwhile, Roma has switched to a Mitsubishi.

The 27th sequence of the rally is about 3000 km shorter than in the previous year. The course was planned the way that not only the power of the bikes should decide over win and defeat but also driving skills as well as navigation and orientation knowledge, claimed the organizers. The 16 stages comprehend 5431 km of special scrutiny going through Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal. The longest stage will be the one on New Year's Day starting in Barcelona going to Granada with a total of 920 km. The longest ranking stage with 660 km will go from Zouerat to Tichit. The shortest stage and shortest special stage is the prologue special tomorrow: 6 out of 50 km will be judged.

-ktm-

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Series DAKAR