KTM Preview Ahead of 2015 Dakar Rally
Since the 2001 edition of the Dakar Rally, only one manufacturer has been victorious in the motorcycle division – KTM. That year, the Italian Fabrizio Meoni piloted a KTM LC4 660R to the win at the Dakar Rally held in Paris. This was also KTM’s first win at Dakar, and set the Austrian manufacturer on a dominant path.
Meoni followed that 2001 win with another at the Arras-Madrid, and in 2003, the Frenchman Richard Sainct won the Marseille – Sharm el Sheikh edition. In 2004, Nani Roma took the win at the Clemont-Ferrand Dakar. Then began the Cyril Despres/Marc Coma era – the Frenchman Despres earning five wins, and Coma four, including the 2014 Dakar Rally held in South America. This gives KTM 13-consecutive wins at the Dakar Rally (no rally was held in 2008 due to security threats).
The “Ready to Race” manufacturer will seek a 14th title at the 2015 Dakar Rally, which begins Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015, and will once again take riders through Argentina, Boliva and Chile.
Despres signed with Yamaha ahead of the 2014 Dakar, and made the switch to four wheels for 2015. But as for Coma, he returns once again to defend the title for the Red Bull Factory KTM team aboard the venerable KTM 450 Rally.
Coma is hungry for another win at Dakar, which is rightfully coined the world’s toughest off-road race. He won last season’s race by nearly two hours, and over 2014 won his sixth FIM World Cross Country Rallies title as he competed in various endurance races in preparation for 2015 Dakar, which will be one of the most complicated editions on record with 5,775 miles in 13 stages and only one rest day.
Speaking of 2015 Dakar Rally challenges, Coma says “This next edition of the Dakar will be even harder than before. We all have to be prepared for long hours of intense fighting. After the World Championship events and on the various tests we have completed, the KTM 450 RALLY continues to give us excellent results and reliability and that allows us to face this next challenge with enthusiasm. We all now look forward to getting started.”
Coma’s support rider will once again be the Spanish Dakar veteran Jordi Viladoms aboard the #4 KTM 450 Rally, who finished second in 2014. Other factory riders include Portugal’s Ruben Faria (#11), who finished second in 2013 behind Despres, and the UK’s Sam Sutherland.
Sutherland first competed at Dakar in 2012, and signed with KTM at the start of the 2014 FIM Rally Championship. Sutherland, who finished second overall in the FIM Cross Country Rallies Championship, will compete on the #6 KTM 450 Rally.
Other KTM Riders in 2015 Dakar Rally (courtesy of KTM):
KTM supported riders include Matthias Walkner, the first Austrian to compete on a KTM since Heinz Kinigadner 15 years ago. Walkner is a former MX3 World Champion and rides under the tutelage of Coma and the more experienced members of the team. His task is to learn, gain experience and be at the finish line on January 17. Walkner is on the KTM 450 RALLY No. 27.
Another strong contender in the KTM-supported lineup is Australia’s Toby Price, riding bike number 26. Price is one of Australia’s most decorated offroad racers and is making his Dakar debut. A multiple winner in major national desert classics and the Australian Offroad championships, Price also contested his first international rally in Morocco in October, where he finished a solid eighth.
Jakub “Kuba” Przygonski of Orlen Team will again be a KTM-supported rider on bike No. 8. The Polish rider first contested the Dakar in 2009, and in 2014 he finished overall sixth as one of the few riders who rode a penalty-free race. He missed most of the FIM World Championship because of injury but returned to put in a solid ride in the final round in Morocco.
South African Riaan van Niekerk, Team Broadlink KTM, is contesting his third Dakar Rally. The multiple South African national champion will be looking to finish better than his twelfth place in 2014.
In 2015 there is a starting list of 168 in the motorcycle class and around 88 riders are on KTM machines. In addition to the riders in the official KTM factory teams, some 40 privateers have signed up for the full KTM Customer Service Package. The majority of the competitors are amateurs, many competing to fulfill a lifelong dream. Full list of competing riders in 2015.