When the 2011 Dakar Rally begins in Buenos Aires on Jan. 1, it ushers in a new era for Cyril Despres and Austrian motorcycle manufacturer alongside the three other factory-supported riders competing on the latest KTM 450 Rally enduro motorcycles.
The new KTM 450 Rally has been specifically developed for the Dakar Rally in response to a rule change by the organizers in 2009, which limited the engine size to 450cc.
Dakar Rally Organizers have also reduced GPS functions for guidance to the so-called "way point markers" making navigation skills and reading and mastering the road book of vital importance.
Some of the route through Argentina and Chile for this the third edition of the South American Dakar (and the 33rd annual) will be familiar to the KTM riders and some not.
Cyril Despres already knows the white dunes of Fiambala and Chile’s Atacama Desert from last year’s Dakar.
Despres of Andorra first competed in the Dakar in 2000 and finished 16th overall and second in his category. In 2001 he finished 12th and won his first stage victory.
In 2003, he won three specials and finished second. He also won the Rally World Championship. In 2005, he scored his first outright victory in the Dakar on a factory KTM.
Cyril Despres says: "That day will remain engraved in my memory forever," he said. "Winning the toughest race in the world and going up onto the podium surrounded by the Senegal crowd – Wow, what a great feeling," he recalls. Another Dakar trophy followed in 2007 and the third victory came in 2010.
This year Cyril reduced his race program to concentrate on contributing to the development of the new KTM 450 rally bike.
After winning the Rally of Morocco in what was the KTM 450 Rally bike’s first outing, Cyril described it as "a dream competition debut".