KTM goes round again

It starts again. The legendary Dakar rally is about to begin. The toughest test for the bikes and their riders. In its 26th edition the rally returns to its classical route: taking off in the middle of France at Clermont-Ferrand and finishing at the Lac Rose in Dakar. The route covers 11,052 kilometers and is therefore the second longest Dakar of all times. KTM has worked hard during the last few months. The bikes are in top condition and after all these „small" rallys, the final tests in Tunesia and the uncountable hours of fitness practise the riders would finally like to hear the starting signal to „their" Dakar. The following text tells you about the KTM participants.

In the international Gauloises KTM team start Fabrizio Meoni and Giovanni Sala (both Italians) and the South African Alfie Cox.

The French Gauloises KTM team includes Cyril Despres, cross-country-rallies Champion 2003, Jean Brucy and the former Dakar Champion Richard Sainct. In the Repsol KTM team start the Spaniards Nani Roma, Isidre Esteve and Marc Coma.

For the first time there will be an American Red Bull KTM USA team including Paul Krause, Larry Roeseler and Scott Harden.

Only Fabrizio Meoni and Paul Krause will start on a KTM 950 Rally while the rest ride on a KTM 660 Rally.

There will be additional suspension among the teams. For the first time in a Dakar rally teams will fight for the championship as well. One team consists of three to five riders; only the results of the top three riders are counted.

From a KTM's point of view the ranking of single riders is already an extremely exciting matter. There are certainly several favourites: Is Cyril Despres after his second place in 2003 ready for the victory? It would certainly be the most precious gift for his 30th birthday on January 24th.

What about Meoni? Will he, hopefully avoiding any injuries, reach for the victory? Or what about Nani Roma? Will he reach Dakar and can he leave the others behind in doing so? Richard Sainct has won the Dakar three times already. Will he lie in wait behind the others only to rocket forward in the end? Or will Alfie Cox fulfill his dream, for which he works, practises and lives?

Or can the surprise winner be found among the US Americans? Only Paul Krause has experienced a Dakar race before. But Scot Harden claims Krause has sand in his venes. Where he comes from Larry Roeseler is said to be Mr. Desert. He says about himself that he is fighting for a place on the podium. However the Americans have their minds set to win the team rankings. For that purpose they have practised in the South Californian deserts for the previous 8 months.

Tomorrow all riders and teams have to pass through scrutineering. The prolouge on January 1st will take place within the Grande Halle d'Auvergne in the Central French massif. The European stages lead along Nearbonne and Castellon towards Algeciras in the south of Spain. For drivers and fans these stages are meant to get in the right mood for the rest of the race.

The real Dakar starts in Africa on January 3rd. From then on the route crosses into the vast expanses of the Sahara desert. On its classical route it will pass along some heavily symbolic places of the Dakar: the Roche Percée, a giant rock with the „hole", the legendary elephant rocks and the Enji-Pass. As always, the drivers will hardly stand a chance to enjoy the beauties along the way. They will have to master the challenges the desert presents them. The one who will master those best will stand up top on the podium at Lac Rose on January 18th. Furthermore, every single one of the 563 participants on motorcycles, in cars and trucks can call himself a winner when he or she reaches Dakar.

Just a few statistical facts about the 26th Telefónica Dakar: The 17 stages with their 5628 kilometers of specials cross through 7 countries: France, Spain, Marocco, Mauretania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal. The longest stage from Tan-Tan to Atar is 1055 kilometers and the shortest stage at the Lac Rose in Dakar is 113 kilometers.