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The Dakar Rally, a highlight of the annual motorsports calendar has been safe in the hands of KTM since 2001 when Italian rider Fabrizio Meoni won on the Austrian brand’s LC4 660R machine. Now, ahead of the 2013 event in South America it will be up to last year’s winner and KTM factory rider Cyril Despres of France to challenge for his fifth Dakar prize and KTM’s twelfth consecutive title riding the KTM 450 Rally bike.
Together Despres and his KTM teammate Marc Coma of Spain have dominated the rally since 2005, winning the title in alternate years. But just before Christmas came the disappointing news that Coma has had to withdraw from the 2013 edition because he has not fully recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in the Rally of Morocco. It was a blow to the KTM Factory Team but team manager Alex Doringer underlined that because the Dakar is one of the world’s toughest offroad competitions it was the correct decision. Even though Coma was working with physiotherapists and his doctors right up to the last minute, he still has some lack of movement in his shoulder and misses the high level of fitness needed for such a grueling event.
While Despres is in good form and is again the outstanding rider in the field, the challenge of winning the twelfth title for KTM will not be easy as rival teams go all out to break the KTM deadlock on the bike category.
In 2012, Despres and Coma were only minutes apart in actual riding times after 15 days and more than 8,000 km of the world’s most challenging terrain. While it will now be up to Despres to again challenge for the title, American Kurt Caselli has been named to ride Coma’s 450 Rally bike in 2013.
KTM had registered a reserve rider with the organizers in case one of the factory team was unable to compete and Caselli has welcomed the opportunity to step in. Winner of multiple AMA offroad titles and the current US Hare and Hound Champion, Caselli says it was always a career goal to compete in the Dakar. “To be able to race the greatest offroad race in the world aboard the best bike in the world is truly a blessing,” he said. “This is not only a milestone in my career but also in my life.” Meanwhile team manager Doringer underlined that Caselli would be riding in his first Dakar for experience and adventure and there would be no pressure on him to achieve a top position.
Despres is quick to point out that it is the race itself that is his biggest rival. “I am always cautious,” he says. “I always say that my biggest rival on the Dakar isn’t the other competitors but the desert itself. That is the thing on the Dakar that no one can master!” The French rider, considered at the peak of his career goes into the 2013 edition after victories in 2012 in the Desafio Littoral and the Morocco Rally.
Also riding in KTM colors once again and on the KTM 450 Rally factory bike will be the two regular support riders or “water carriers”, Ruben Faria of Portugal and Juan Pedrero of Spain. This year KTM is also fielding a Factory “B” Team made up of South African duo Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk, who are joined by Poland’s rising star rally personality Jakub ‘Kuba’ Przygonski.
The rally was moved to South America when the 2008 edition was canceled after terrorist threats in North Africa emerged the night before competitors were to set out from Portugal. Now for the first time the South American Dakar will take a north-south perspective over the 14 stages, starting in Lima, Peru and traveling south to finish in Santiago, Chile, taking in four stages in Argentina on the way. Riders set out on January 5 and finish on January 19 with one rest day scheduled on January 13. They will first tackle the coastal desert of southern Peru and according to organizers will be under constant pressure for the eight stages up until the rest day. Stage nine will be the longest of 2013, some 852 km.
While KTM will be challenging for its twelfth title, the company continues to support the many amateur riders who enter the race, many who wish to satisfy a lifelong desire for this big adventure. KTM supports some 40 riders with its comprehensive Customer Service Package as they attempt to complete what is one of their biggest physical and mental challenges. Recently Despres offered tips for rally first timers (http://win.gs/UyECgK), where he advised them to know their machines and understand the physical and mental demands of this epic event.
The Dakar Rally in South America has proved to be a big success in the countries it visits. The 2013 edition is set to deliver the thrills and excitement to riders and fans that will continue to cement it as one of the highlights of the motorsports calendar. KTM goes into the race with the hope of claiming its twelfth title but regardless of the outcome, the Austrian brand will continue to use the Dakar Rally to showcase both its premium rally bike and the skill of the KTM factory riders.
The KTM Dakar story so far:
2001: Fabrizio Meoni, Italy
2003: Richard Sainct, France
2004: Nani Roma, Spain
2005: Cyril Despres
2006: Marc Coma
2008: Rally cancelled
Dakar 2013: The first half stages Jan. 5 – Stage 1: Lima (Peru) – Pisco – total distance 263 km: 250 km liaison and 13 km special (shortest stage in the 2013 edition) Jan 6 – Stage 2: Pisco – Pisco (loop) total distance 327 km: 85 km liaison; 242 km special Jan 7 – Stage 3: Pisco – Nazca – total distance 343 km: 100 km liaison; 243 km special Jan 8 – Stage 4: Nazca – Arequipa – total distance 718 km: 429 km liaison; 289 special Jan 9 – Stage 5: Arequipa – Arica – total distance 411 km: 275 km liaison; 136 km special Jan 10– Stage 6: Arica – Calama – Total distance 767 km: 313 km liaison; 454 km special Jan 11 – Stage 7: Calama – Salta (rally enters Argentina) – total distance 806 km: 586 km liaison; 220 km special Jan 12 – Stage 8: Salta – Tucuman – total distance 738 km: 247 liaison; 491 km special
Jan 13: REST DAY in Tucuman, Argentina
Dakar 2013: The second half stages Jan 14 – Stage 9: Tucuman – Cordoba – total distance 852 km: 259 km liaison; 593 km special (longest stage of the 2013 edition) Jan 15 – Stage 10: Cordoba – La Rioja – total distance 636 km: 279 km liaison; 357 km special Jan 16 – Stage 11: La Rioja – Fiambala – total distance 483 km: 262 km liaison; 221 km special Jan 17 – Stage 12: Fiambala – Copiaco (rally enters Chile) – total distance 715 km: 396 km liaison; 319 km special Jan 18 – Stage 13: Copiaco – La Serena – total distance 735 km: 294 km liaison; 441 km special Jan 19 – Stage 14: La Serena – Santiago– total distance 630 km: 502 liaison; 128 km special. Jan 20 –Closing ceremony Santiago
Dakar 2013 – the numbers Dates for start and finish of the 2013 Dakar Rally: January 5-20 Total route: 8432 km (5,239.4 miles) Total timed specials: 4146 km (2,576 miles) Longest distance in a single day: 852 km (Stage 9) Shortest distance in a single day: 250 km (Stage 1) Highest point of altitude: 4800 m Average rainfall in the Atacama Desert (Chile): 0 mm Number of competitors (bikes): 196 Number of KTM starters: 66 Engine capacity of KTM Rally machine: 450 cc Number of KTM Dakar victories: 11 Number of Dakar victories for KTM’s Marc Coma: 3 Number of Dakar victories for KTM’s Cyril Despres: 4