Clean sweep of Dakar podium for KTM
Despres, Casteu and Blais ride to glory in world's toughest rally.

KTM Factory riders made a clean sweep of the podium at the conclusion of the Dakar 2007 Rally Sunday when Cyril Despres (Gauloisses KTM) came home safe and sure in the final stage to finish overall leader by 34.19 minutes. The rally, which started on January 6 in Lisbon has taken riders 8696 gruelling km to the finish line at Lac Rose near Dakar to live up to its reputation as the world's toughest rally for both man and machine.

The 32-year old Frenchman finished ahead of fellow Gauloisses KTM team-mate David Casteu with American rider Chris Blais (Red Bull KTM), 52 minutes behind the leader, finishing third.

"I am really happy with the victory," Despres said. " I approached it day by day and I tried not to look forward too far. I have never doubted that I could win the Dakar again. I knew I could do it. I know my skills and I had faith in myself, my team and my bike. "

Despres won the event in 2005. His latest victory was a tribute to his superiority on his KTM machine but also a touch ironic. His arch rival and friend Spaniard Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) had a commanding lead going into the final stages and seemed certain to secure his second consecutive Dakar victory when navigation problems and a crash dashed his hopes on Friday. The door was then opened for Despres to ride home steadily to seize the 2007 title. Ironically the situation was the complete reverse of what happened in the closing stages of the Dakar 2006. Then Despres looked a sure winner in the final stages only to crash out and retire with a broken collarbone, leaving the glory to Coma. The Spaniard, hospitalized and badly shaken after his crash Friday, was already back in the paddock with fellow KTM riders on Saturday afternoon.

KTM 690 Rally proves its worth

The three podium places for KTM continue the company's winning streak in the world's toughest rally, which they won for the first time in 2001 and have continued to dominate ever since. Above all the 2007 victory confirms the dominance and reliability of the new KTM 690 Rally race bike, the first time it has been used in the Dakar. Further developed and refined over the last year with significant input from factory riders, the 690 was also extensively tested in other world class rallies during the 2006 season by Marc Coma.

New neck brace helps protect riders

True to its reputation as the world's toughest rally, the Dakar this year claimed its share of non-finishers. Coma had prophetically remarked in an interview on Thursday that despite a commanding lead he didn't consider himself the winner until Sunday. His dream went up in a cloud of dust the following day. Four of the other eight KTM factory riders also did not finish. Thankfully, although they were taken out of contention through a series of crashes over the eight stages, all of them escaped serious injury. This was a testament to the effectiveness of the new KTM Neck Brace protection system that all KTM factory riders wore for the Dakar 2007.

Hans Trunkenpolz, Overall Team Manager expressed his satisfaction with both the result and his entire team.

"As always the Dakar is very, very tough," he commented. "Apart from the great effort from Despres, Casteu and Blais I am really satisfied with the performance of the entire team and with the new 690 Rally race bike. I would like to extend my thanks to every single team member for their dedication and their hard work."

-credit: ktm