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Dementor
269257_790-Adventure-Media-Launch-Morocc

KTM Ultimate Race 2019: The decisive adventure

KTM has announced the twelve riders who will be given a fully supported KTM 790 ADVENTURE R in order to compete in a unique event within the 2019 Merzouga Rally – The KTM Ultimate Race.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Sebas Romero

Following special qualification events held within the six KTM ADVENTURE RALLIES across the world in 2018 and 2019, participants had to prove excellent machine control, navigational skill and competent mechanical ability across multiple days. The top two positions from each event have now been decided and are READY TO RACE. Each rider gets to compete in an exclusive class at the Dakar series race in Morocco with a fully supported ride that includes flights, accommodation, meals, entry fees, as well as a full race service.

KTM is now proud to announce the hardest and most fearless 12 riders of the KTM ADVENTURE community from around the world who have qualified for this epic final battle, which takes place from March 31 to April 5.

The Ultimate Race is a special class at the Merzouga Rally, very similar to the main event and partly ridden on the same routes. Like the pros, the participants will face a marathon stage where no outside assistance is allowed. The participants are entirely left to themselves, which means taking care of the maintenance of their bikes and staying the night in a bivouac.

Each competitor will have access to a specially prepared KTM 790 ADVENTURE R which will be equipped with a host of KTM PowerParts, such as the Akrapovič Slip-on Line silencer, the Ergo seat and protection parts which are essential for riding under these conditions, along with a roadbook to help navigate through the desert. The Ultimate Race participants will be treated like KTM factory riders, supported on site with a truck and a team of mechanics to help out with parts and tools or with fixing the bike after a tough race day.

Along with this unique and exclusive prize, competitors will be given a fantastic opportunity to be coached by some of the world’s finest and fastest offroad riders. Chris Birch, Marc Coma and Quinn Cody will each take on four participants and under their close guidance and tutelage will actively support these riders in every aspect of how to manage this challenge.

As for the prize? The winner of the Ultimate Race can keep their KTM 790 ADVENTURE R race bike along with receiving an all-expenses paid package for two people to see the 2020 Dakar Rally.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Sebas Romero

KTM Ultimate Race 2020…
For those who are attending this year’s KTM ADVENTURE RALLIES on a twin-cylinder KTM ADVENTURE bike, KTM is excited to announce the renewed possibility to compete for a place at the KTM Ultimate Race in 2020 – registration can be done directly at the online booking of a KTM ADVENTURE RALLY event.

Photos: Sebas Romero
Video: Fabbegghy Studio/Eros Girotti


Dementor
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New Adventures start now

Posted in Bikes, Riding

The wait is finally over as the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R have arrived and the hardest decision is choosing which version and route to take …

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE & KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Sebas Romero

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE and R version are serious offroad motorcycles at their core; developed with the intent of adventure riding but to also be accessible for riders of all sizes, experience and ability. Powered by a specifically-developed version of the LC8c 799cc parallel twin, these are fully-equipped machines for extreme-minded adventurers who want to charge off and tackle a wide range of terrain with offroad race bike competency, whilst enjoying the comfort of long-distance travel ergonomics, sporty street handling and the convenience of sophisticated electronics.

These completely new adventure bikes allow riders to push their own limits, ride harder, take the paths least explored and create exceptional memories that are only possible by powered two-wheelers. And not just thanks to a 450 km fuel range, these machines will encourage explorers to not only ride over the horizon but be driven with the desire to carry on to and past the next one.

Soaking up KTM’s experience in this segment and developed alongside its seemingly unstoppable Dakar-winning KTM 450 RALLY, these bikes will set new benchmarks in adventure motorcycling while complementing the existing KTM Travel range.

Both machines share many characteristics and performance that excel fundamental adventure motorcycling requirements, but key differences to components and electronic functions give each bike its intended focus and rider appeal.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE & KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Marco Campelli

KTM 790 ADVENTURE
The KTM 790 ADVENTURE is the most offroad capable travel bike. Fully capable of taking on the roughest dirt trails, it remains a high-performing street motorcycle, with the power to take on the distance in the most thrilling way.

Running on conventional offroad wheel sizes, the use of Avon TrailRider tires and street focused WP suspension rewards with performance on the long straight runs and – more importantly – when the tarmac twists. Aiding conviction for shorter riders is a low seat (h adjustable 830/850 mm) and with the option to lower it as far as 800 mm using an official KTM PowerParts seat and suspension options.

As well as the split rider and passenger seat, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE is set further apart from its R sibling with a longer screen and front fender design for increased wind protection. Larger mirrors also underline its need for more visibility on the street. Visually, it is instantly recognizable by a black frame and available in orange or white bodywork options.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE © Marco Campelli

KTM 790 ADVENTURE R
The most travel capable offroad bike. The rally never has to end with the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R; The most performance-focused travel bike in its segment is able to travel longer distances than any other offroad bike.

Immediately distinguished by its white bodywork and orange frame, the R is set apart from its stablemate and all other adventure machines by the high-performance WP suspension it boasts.

Positioned more towards challenging offroad use, the fully adjustable XPLOR 48 mm upside-down fork and PDS shock absorber are the results of an intensive development program that has given the R true EXC enduro-level suspension in a real and capable adventure bike package, that can also be ridden superbly on the street.

The addition of the rally ride mode (optional on the KTM 790 ADVENTURE) allows riders to choose their throttle behavior – including a new rally response – and control the amount of traction control interference fast and easy between 9 different levels; perfect for when riding in changing terrains. The anti-wheelie mode is also deactivated in this mode.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R © Sebas Romero

These bikes represent an exciting new chapter of the two-wheeled travel segment and are backed up by a comprehensive range of official KTM PowerParts to further intensify the ride. Designed and developed to be worn with intent, multiple KTM PowerWear options are also available to match the attitude and ambition of these bikes – giving riders apparel fit for all adventures.

Photos: Marco Campelli | Sebas Romero


Dementor
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The team behind the (Dakar) team or five short stories of love and passion – Part 2

The Dakar Rally is a massive operation, therefore it requires more working hands and ingenious minds than any other cross-country rally of the season. This year, the team backing up the Red Bull KTM Factory Riders included 33 members, achieving a historical result under the command of new team leader, Jordi Viladoms. We talked to five of those who joined the orange family only for Dakar.

They came to Lima to take care of riders, team, trucks, motorhomes, and KTM customers. How did they join KTM´s Dakar operation, and what are their roles? How was it once upon a time in Africa, what has changed, what has remained exactly the same, and what’s love got to do with it?

Everything!

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Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Andreas Fisher, physiotherapist
When asked how he ended up in the trouble called the Dakar, Andy scratches his head: “It’s a really long story.” However, it’s an interesting one, so we’ll make it short. Andy’s Dakar sort of started playing American football in the second German league. He was 22 when he met Ilona, who was dating his teammate as well as working for KTM. When, later, Ilona became Pit Beirer’s wife, Andy would become his physio. “It was in 2002 and motocross rider, Pit Beirer had a contract with KTM. One day, out of the blue, Ilona asked me if I could check his ankle. I treated him and it worked out fine. This is how I started to work for KTM. I was very fortunate to get the job. I come from sports myself, so for me it was a perfect fit. Firstly, I began to work more seriously with Pit, and later with other motocross riders, preparing them for races.”

In 2012 he was offered to join the rally team and Andy exchanged the track for the desert. Yet his first Dakar was something he could have never imagined. “The first days, it was 49 degrees during the day, and 30 at night. I was sweating in my tent, couldn’t fall asleep, and thinking how I´ll survive this hell. Well, obviously I am still alive and this is my eighth Dakar,” he laughs.

His first “clients” were Marc Coma, Joan Pedrero, Kuba Przygonsky and Kurt Caselli. “I am really sorry for Kurt, he always had a smile on his face for everybody. He was so respectful and grateful, a beautiful soul,” recalls Andy, and adds: “Thanks to the Dakar, I’ve met so many great people, and have seen so many wonderful places. After all these Dakars I’ve done, the beauty of rally for me lies mainly in working for the KTM team. Here no one works alone, we all help each other. My greatest satisfaction is to see that the riders are responding well to my treatment and fighting for victory.” Being one of the most popular team members for obvious reasons (who doesn’t like a massage?), his popularity is well deserved. Andy doesn’t just take care of the physical side of things – his backpack is full of ginger and herbs, and he will always lend an ear if needed.

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Physiotherapy Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Dr. Rolf Michael Krifter, doctor
The paragraph about Dr. Rolf Michael Krifter could have also started “Meet Dr. Michi, the Dakar rookie”, as the Dakar first-timers are called rookies.

There are no coincidences in life, and this law also applies to Michael Krifter, orthopedic surgeon and enduro rider in his free time. He was the last member to join the team, quite literally, as on January 4, he still performed his last urgent surgery. At 5pm, he took off his surgeon gloves, reached the airport at 6pm, and took off for the Dakar at 7pm.

His Dakar affair started when as a kid he was watching Kini racing the Dakar in Africa on late night TV. He felt the ultimate adventure so falling in love with dirt bikes was the logical next step. Nevertheless, there was something he loved more. Observing his grandfather and father working as general practitioners, he knew he wanted to become a doctor too. He did it a bit differently and became an orthopedic surgeon. Between surgeries, once he even went to Libya for a Dakar-like experience, together with the Dakarian Peter Hinterreiter, fell in love with the desert and got a glimpse of what the Dakar might be. Years later, he came in contact with Matthias Walkner. “Matthias was my patient, I treated him, operated one of his friends and one day he said: ‘It would be really cool if you came with us.’ I said: ‘Ok, I’m happy to do it, I just need to know 3 months in advance so I can reschedule my calendar!'” But desert racing is unpredictable and a few days before Christmas 2018, Michael got a call from team manager Jordi Viladoms – and accepted the job. He worked over the holidays, pushed hard to make the Dakar possible, and that was the beginning of something amazing.

“There is no easy way to put this experience into words,” he replies to the basic rookie question. “It’s such an amazing, complex thing. It’s incredible how the members of the team interact; things work easily and almost automatically. On the other hand, it’s so interesting to observe everyone here as a real character! It looks like the secret of this harmony is a common goal: every member of the team wants to win just as bad as the riders do.”

When asked about the riders and his job, Michael takes a deep breath: “I worked a lot with different professional athletes, but I found desert racers are really different. I knew they are risk-takers, though I couldn’t imagine how far they are prepared to go in a sport where you can lose your life over such a small mistake. You can feel they do it because they really love it. Our team has the best riders in the world, and that means they go all-in. Mind should certainly overcome the body if you want to win this extraordinary race, and Toby Price is the best example to prove that. I’ve for sure found a whole new topic to explore within sports medicine,” he concludes.

Still, KTM’s witty doctor didn’t just take care of the riders, but also the whole team, affected by diarrhea and the flu. His “revolutionary” work already began in Lima when he banned junk food from motorhomes and replaced it with healthy calories. “Besides that, I battled hard with torn ligaments, bad bruises, concussions, distortions up to a broken spine, a badly fractured ankle and a poorly healed scaphoid on fire … to get the riders to the finish line,” he adds, a bit proud to contribute to a great result.

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Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin


Dementor
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The mind of a champion? Talking head-games with Johann Zarco

Posted in People, Racing

At 28 years of age Red Bull KTM’s new factory MotoGPTM rider Johann Zarco is already a double world champion, holder of podium finishes in all classes of Grand Prix, a winner in two categories and the most successful Frenchman in the history of the sport.

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Johann Zarco (FRA) 2019 © Sebas Romero

In 2019 however this quiet and calm athlete from Cannes will have the sensation of what it means to be a factory rider in MotoGPTM (for his third season in the top division of the FIM World Championship) for the very first time. Zarco has the KTM RC16 at his fingertips and development is expected to go hand-in-hand with a show of results as the manufacturer valiantly tries to regain decades of time, experience and expertise on the asphalt compared to their rivals. This increases the pressure on #5 by a few extra bars.

“The target and the dream to be champion remains the same; it can become even closer or true because there is the support of a factory team,” he explains. “So, life doesn’t change but the work and the way to think on the bike does a bit because I have to ‘grow up’ in my mind and accept that to develop things takes time and I cannot get everything very quickly.”

“You have to clear your mind of many things because you are always thinking and talking about details and you have to try and control as many of them as you can: if you have people to help you with that then it’s good,” he adds.

Johann is talking at the 2019 KTM MotoGPTM team presentation in Austria. He’s been in front of TV cameras and microphones for over half an hour and is sitting in the spacious City Hall in Mattighofen for his last appointment. Understandably he’s wearied of the questions about his new race bike, it’s characteristics, when he’ll be fast and what he expects from 2019 MotoGPTM; the first year of two on his contract. So, instead, we’re curious about how the very first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion (2007) gets his head in the game.

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Johann Zarco (FRA) 2019 © Sebas Romero

Zarco is renowned for being a thoughtful and sensitive rider, one who excelled in tire preservation in his Moto2 pomp and ability to make the most of his technical race package. A child prodigy who plays the piano, coaches other kids when he can find the time and likes to celebrate sporting achievement with a backflip from a high tire wall. His demeanor suggests that he could sell you a detailed insurance policy but behind the tinted visor Zarco is one of the boldest competitors in MotoGPTM and shows no fear.

To have this intensity through a program that stretches for nineteen events and ten months of the year means Zarco is constantly ‘on’. “Generally, your mind is always thinking about racing,” he says. “In the winter, even on rest days, I am thinking ‘what can I do better?’ I don’t know if I am like the others [riders] but I think this [analysis] is what sportspeople need to have.”

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Johann Zarco (FRA) MotoGP IRTA Test Sepang (MAL) 2019 © Gold and Goose

MotoGPTM is opening the throttle on 2019 after the window testing ‘blackout’ of December and January. Tests have been completed and Qatar (where Zarco announced his arrival so emphatically by leading half the GP in his class debut in 2017) is coming up. There will be little time to break away from the microscope of racing and the respite of the winter will become a distant memory until the last days of November. “When I have a break – say two weeks – then I need a full week of doing nothing before I can feel any kind of relaxation in my mind,” Zarco admits. “After that week I might not even think about a motorbike. Otherwise the brain is always ‘connected’. Just one week is not enough because you won’t disconnect totally. Now, with experience, I know when I need a break. For the first week you rest your body but not your mind.”

“It’s important,” he goes on. “The brain is a very strong muscle. The bike is very much about the physical side but the mental part is vital in sport. If you have too much going on in your brain, you are tired, or you are stressed you have less power to give.”

Qatar means relaxation is far from everyone’s minds. It is the time to get going: when perhaps pre-race nerves and questions are at their most prominent. Zarco has made a ‘shift’ with his career by stepping into the support and resources of the Red Bull KTM setup and has that double challenge to embrace. Considering how much he values confidence and the right mentality for performance has he ever experimented with psychological assistance?

“Not yet,” he asserts. “Before that step I need to control all the new elements around me. When we have the feeling that everything is under control and we are at a good level – but maybe something is missing – then perhaps it will be the time to feel and see if I need it or not. Right now, I feel good and the people around me like the way I am working, so I don’t want to change too much because we are at the beginning of a big thing. It is a detail I will maybe have to think of … but not now.”

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Johann Zarco (FRA) KTM RC16 MotoGP IRTA Test Losail (QAT) 2019 © Gold and Goose

MotoGPTM is a bundle of personal demands: physical, mental, technical, career, public … and that’s before you think of the caliber of rivals that have to be beaten on the track. It’s not a theatre of sport for the weak-minded. Mental toughness is a trait that is rarely seen or understood by fans and insiders but it is essential. Zarco concurs. “I think I have some natural skill for that, I think you have to have it to reach this level. All the riders do,” he says. “They have some skill or aptitude to do things or push themselves. It’s like we are ‘made’ for it … but even then it is not enough and you still have to work to improve yourself.”

Johann smiles when he talks about adrenaline (“if you know you are going to have the adrenaline during the weekend then you can control yourself during the week”) and it’s curious how he says the buzz of racing can be accountable. “There are things you must control when you are on the bike but when you are doing that and everything is going well then you can let the ‘extra’ [adrenaline] work,” he explains. “It’s something a rider wants all the time: to be on that cloud and to have that enhanced feeling of control. When it happens, it feels so good … and you try to do it as much as possible. It’s the way to be a champion!”

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Johann Zarco (FRA) KTM RC16 MotoGP IRTA Test Losail (QAT) 2019 © Gold and Goose

KTM AG CEO Stefan Pierer has already said that he expects the expanded KTM MotoGPTM troupe to be hitting single digit results in 2019. Zarco has been careful with his estimations with only nine days on the KTM RC16 prior to the Qatar test but has intimated that 2019 will be an educational campaign for more serious goals circa 2020. With 16 GP triumphs to his name and 6 visits to the MotoGPTM podium Johann knows what it takes to grasp a cava bottle. This season could mean more trophies or more moments of personal excellence. What matters more to the star: the sensation of victory or the satisfaction of a performance ‘high’ regardless of the result?

“I want the win!” he laughs. “It is the proof that I’ve reached the level I dreamt of and then I want to stay there as long as I can or I want. At the moment, I can enjoy and know I am doing good things even though I am not winning … but then the result is always the right answer.”

“It is good to go home and sit there on a Tuesday and think ‘I did it …’ but the problem is that it’s done! That’s why you must live with all your energy and heart in the present. It can be positive or negative but what is done is done and you cannot spend all your time thinking back to good moments: That is almost sad. Even if you were world champion it is sad you have to think about that to enjoy the present. Nostalgia is good for a story … but too much of it means you are not living for today.”

With that Zarco has to leave. He may have just taken part in his first formalities as a factory MotoGPTM ace up on the City Hall stage but Johann has been going places for a while now. It’ll be exciting to see where this talented and dedicated racer can speed to next.

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Johann Zarco (FRA) MotoGP IRTA Test Sepang (MAL) 2019 © Gold and Goose

Photos: Sebas Romero | Gold and Goose


Dementor
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MXGP 2019: 3 Big Questions

Posted in Racing

What is frustrating about racing? Is it a last lap crash or loss of position? The tough moments when hard work does not translate into results? Or maybe the fact that it never stands still, and the achievement of today can rapidly fade tomorrow? KTM could perhaps volunteer the last point; especially with the efforts of the Red Bull KTM team in MXGP.

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KTM 450 SX-F & KTM 250 SX-F © B. Swijgers

The 2018 FIM Motocross World Championship was arguably a defining moment for the company and the team: first and second positions in both the MXGP and MX2 classes with titles across the board and relentless dominance every weekend. The KTM 450 SX-F and KTM 250 SX-F motorcycles reached a pinnacle of performance and subsequently became the essential bikes to have on motocross tracks across the world.

Five months after champagne corks hit ceilings in the Netherlands, Italy and Austria, everything has been wiped clean. The metal gate has been re-lifted, the podiums are dusty, the standings are reset to ‘0’ and the guessing begins again. Frustrating or challenging? Regardless of the emotion, the movement of time it is an aspect of racing to embrace and harness for energy and motivation.

In the spirit of celebration and in anticipation of another nineteen rounds of punishing and exciting motocross we dug out three key questions around the reigning world champs ahead of the inaugural Grand Prix of Argentina this weekend.

1) Is 2018 an untouchable dream?
A ‘dream’ in the sense that last year is firmly in the past and the sheer rate of trophies and achievement is something that still seems hazy now in terms of reality. KTM may have won the premier class 7 times in the last 9 seasons (and 8 from 9 in MX2) but the 2018 inter-team battles between Jeffrey Herlings and Tony Cairoli and Jorge Prado and Pauls Jonass not only saw the championship crowns passed onto athletes in the same team but witnessed the sight of one squad decimating two classes at the very highest level of a single sport. It was a very rare situation.

Circumstances dictate that 2019 will not be a replica. Herlings is fighting to come back from a broken right foot and an injury that will eat into the season until the champion regains race speed and confidence. Thus, two Red Bull KTM riders claiming all but one Grand Prix as they did in 2018 will be a mammoth task to repeat. This is not to say that Herlings and Cairoli will not add to their tally this year. Cairoli can still sniff a history-making tenth world championship at the age of 33, and any spoils in 2019 will hike his current GP win haul of 85 closer to the record of 101. Herlings sits on 84 and is also eyeing the dash to that milestone.

#84 and #222. 1 and 2, and the most prolific riders in Grand Prix history this decade: Red Bull KTM have the two best athletes in their stable but even then their sum of 19 wins (17 for Herlings, 2 for Cairoli) 33 podiums (13 times together) from 2018 is something special. To their credit KTM are not taking the triumphs for granted (check out VP of Offroad Robert Jonas’ words about 2018 on the KTM BLOG here) and have to keep modest about whatever the outcome in 2019 compared to their annus mirabilis last summer.

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Tony Cairoli (ITA) KTM 450 SX-F © B. Swijgers

2) Can the Spaniard get any better?
Oh yes. Jorge Prado may have continued KTM’s excellent lineage of young and exceptional riding talent ascending to the position of MX2 gold plate holder (think of Townley, Rattray, Musquin, Roczen, Herlings, Tixier, Jonass) and is arguably the most proficient starter seen in Grand Prix in recent memory, but he wasn’t the finished package in 2018. Prado gained ground on Jonass in the standings throughout the season but also matured into a formidable rider of few mistakes that became almost unbeatable in leading from the front. That journey will continue in 2019. Sometimes the youthful impetuosity (he turned 18 in January) was clear in race situations – the Grand Prix of Turkey – was an exhilarating ‘low point’ for the team with the clash between the Spaniard and Jonass on track losing the overall win and inflicting a right knee injury on the Latvian.

2018 was just the second Grand Prix year for Jorge and saw a stronger and more physical teenager exerting his influence. In 2019 he will have yet more conditioning, experience and a different kind of pressure as ‘the hunted’ rather than ‘the hunter’ but such is his light and care-free (but deadly determined) demeanor that his status in the MXGP paddock is unlikely to be a deciding factor in his performances. Another winter of training with Tony Cairoli and his De Carli crew (plus an undefeated streak in the three round Italian Championship) means Prado will continue sprinting on the fast-track to more brilliance. Could the MXGP class already be knocking come October? If Prado defends the championship, then he’ll be obliged to jump into the premier division according to FIM rules.

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F © B. Swijgers

3) What about Tom?
When eighteen-year-old Tom Vialle filled the saddle vacated by Pauls Jonass (the Latvian leaping into the MXGP class) there were a few eyebrows raised. The French youngster is the son of a former Grand Prix rider and had shone through moments of last year’s EMX250 European Championship – the increasingly competitive feeder system to MX2 – but did not boast the kind of record in the junior classes compared to his predecessors.

Handed a test and chance to impress with the Red Bull KTM, Vialle convinced the expert opinion of former multi world champion, former Belgian MX of Nations Team Manager and KTM Motocross Manager Joël Smets sufficiently to earn one of the most sought after opportunities in the FIM World Championship. The Belgian liked Vialle’s style and character but acknowledged he has to make vast strides in order to place that works KTM 250 SX-F where it needs to be (particularly in the recent context of 2018).

Unlike most of KTM’s previous MX2 stars Vialle has not been fed-through or groomed by a junior program and it is important to remember that not only is he a rookie in a factory setup but also in Grand Prix. Smets and the team will be looking for signs of progress in 2019 with Vialle already showing the technique and desire needed to make the cut.

Aside from this interesting new story keep an eye on two more KTM prospects in the EMX European championship in the forms of Austrian Rene Hofer (racing a KTM 250 SX-F for the first time) and Liam Everts on the KTM 125 SX.

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Tom Vialle (FRA) KTM 250 SX-F © R. Archer

Photos: B. Swijgers | R. Archer


Dementor
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#inthisyear2009: Marvin Musquin becomes the MX2 world champion – today he is one of KTM’s best prospects in the AMA Supercross World Championship

Back when Marvin Musquin won his first world championship race in early 2009, the Frenchman was still largely an unknown quantity. But that would change very quickly. Never before has anyone left their mark on a season in the way Musquin did back then at just 19-years old. Blessed with immense talent, he impressed the world of motocross, securing his first MX2 world championship title at the end of the season on the KTM 250 SX-F.

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) Anaheim 1 (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

For KTM, the 2009 motocross season could not have gone much better. In addition to Musquin’s world championship title, the world championship runners-up position in the big MX1 class and the Women’s Motocross World Championship also went to KTM. In an equally glorious competition, Musquin successfully defended his title in 2010. “The next step will see Marvin in the USA, where Roger De Coster is already waiting for him”, said KTM boss Stefan Pierer at the time. Today, Musquin is one of KTM’s best prospects in the AMA Supercross World Championship.

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) Canelinha (BRA) 2009 © Ray Archer

Supercross is still a relatively new type of offroad sport, at least when compared to today’s “Six Days of Enduro”. The first International Six Days Reliability Trial took place well over 100 years ago in the English city of Carlisle. It wasn’t until after the Second World War that motocross became popular in Europe, where races took place on natural tracks on heavy-duty 4-stroke motorcycles. In Belgium, motocross was even a kind of national sport. It’s no surprise then that many successful motocross riders, such as the five-time 500cc world champion and current Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager Roger De Coster, come from the land of the Flemish and Walloons. In 1947, the MX of Nations took place for the first time in Wassenaar, Netherlands as a team competition for national teams, similar to the International Six Days Enduro in enduro racing. For two decades, only Belgian, English, and Swedish teams succeeded in taking the title. The motocross world championship for individual riders only began in 1957. Even today, circuits from the early years, such as Hawkstone Park in Great Britain or the tracks around the Citadel in Namur, Belgium, are still legendary.

Motocross was practically unheard of in the USA; offroad sport was held at cross-country races such as the Elsinore Grand Prix and Baja 500, or as flat track at horse racetracks, with a few road races as well. Even enduro racing was considered a highly exotic beast in the USA. It wasn’t until European manufacturers exported their competition bikes to the USA toward the end of the 1960s that crowd-pleasing motocross racing surged in popularity in the USA. Although it would still be a few years until American riders caught up with the stars of the day, such as Roger De Coster or the Scandinavian riders, the spell had been broken. The 1971 race at the Daytona International Speedway marked a first. Up until then motocross races had been held on natural tracks a long way outside cities, however the organizers of the Daytona race constructed an artificial track with spectacular jumps and brought motocross to the spectators. This successful concept was developed further, and just a year later a race was held at the Los Angeles Coliseum, one of the largest football stadiums in the USA. The term “Supercross” – a combination of “Super Bowl” (the NFL championship) and “motocross” was also coined at this time. Supercross quickly became one of the most popular motorsports in the USA. In Europe, motocross races were only held in the summer, however in the USA there was not one but two series. Since 1972, the AMA Motocross Championship has been held in the summer. During the winter, the Supercross championships take place in the stadiums, traditionally kicking off during the first weekend of January.

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Detroit (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Since 2008, the AMA Supercross series has enjoyed world championship status, even though the races are almost always held in the USA. During the heats and a last chance qualifier, around 40 riders compete for one of the 22 starting positions in the final.

In the USA, Roger De Coster took the young Frenchman Marvin Musquin under his wing, and, through him, KTM was able to enlist the then 22-year old Ryan Dungey, who received the prestigious Supercross title for KTM three times in a row from 2015 to 2017 before announcing his retirement from active racing at the end of the season. Musquin initially started on the KTM 250 SX-F in the 250 SX Championship, which is held in West and East divisions. He won a total of four races in 2013, including the Supercross in Daytona Beach, which ultimately took him through to the runners-up spot of the East division. Two years later, Musquin was crowned the winner of the 250 SX East Championship before switching to the 450 SX class where he quickly became the “Rookie of the Year 2016”.

The current SX season is on course to be one of the most thrilling. After the sixth of seventeen races, just two points separated the top four. Musquin came in eighth place in the kick-off race in Anaheim. Non-stop rain and a muddy track coupled with a training shortfall due to a knee injury in the previous season all prevented him from finishing higher. However, the Frenchman later regained his momentum and obtained his fifth consecutive podium in Arlington. After a slow start, Cooper Webb made an impressive comeback at the second Red Bull Factory KTM, taking leadership on the very last corner and defending it with a lead of less than 0.03 seconds in a neck-to-neck final. With four victories this season, this meant that Cooper Webb also secured the leader’s red plate. After finishing second at the Detroit Triple Crown, it seems that he is the man to beat during the second half of the season; closely followed by his teammate Marvin Musquin, currently placed third in the standings.

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Marvin Musquin (FRA, #25) & Cooper Webb (USA, #2) Arlington (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Photos: Simon Cudby | Ray Archer


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The team behind the (Dakar) team or five short stories of love and passion – Part 1

The Dakar Rally is a massive operation, therefore it requires more working hands and ingenious minds than any other cross-country rally of the season. This year, the team backing up the Red Bull KTM Factory Riders included 33 members, achieving a historical result under the command of new team leader, Jordi Viladoms. We talked to five of those who joined the orange family only for Dakar.

They came to Lima to take care of riders, team, trucks, motorhomes, and KTM customers. How did they join KTM´s Dakar operation, and what are their roles? How was it once upon a time in Africa, what has changed, what has remained exactly the same, and what’s love got to do with it?

Everything!

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Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

August Linortner, truck driver
“I did my first Dakar in 1997. We had a satellite phone the size of luggage we would use only as a last resort. We were travelling without much information, yet that was not our main concern. The truck was too heavy, and it was the truck driver’s first Dakar,” he laughs, pointing at himself. “We were learning how to survive the Dakar as we were doing it. Several times in Mauritania, it took 24 hours from bivouac to bivouac. It was unreal! That place sure wasn’t gentle on our truck; it’s the most arid, unforgiving country you can imagine. We broke everything possible, finishing the African Dakars with completely destroyed trucks. When it came to big repairs, we mostly relied on miracles. Surprise, surprise – they do happen in Africa!”

Even though Africa was tough, his eyes light up: “Africa gave us all a feeling of complete freedom. Nothing was granted, nothing was easy, and communication was a real challenge. But people inside and outside the bivouacs were all incredibly friendly. Of course, the Dakar has changed a lot recently. Distances have shortened considerably, motorhomes are now loaded with fresh fruits, the coffee machine is always within reach and assistance always on time. On the other hand, the Dakar will never be easy. I still feel the sense of adventure, and working for such a team is a dream come true.”

Before he ventured offroad, the ex-road racer was working for Mike Leitner. Later on, he changed disciplines, yet his work remained more or less the same. “I am taking care of the motorsport fleet trucks, all together there are 15 trucks under my watch. Besides that, I am the handy man of the motorsport building. I solve practically everything,” says a life-long Dakar university student. “I left school at 15, I got my hands dirty and my passion for bikes brought me to the Dakar. This is the university I am still enrolled at, collecting the craziest memories of my life, like all students do.”

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Red Bull KTM Team Truck Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Tom Haider, personal assistant
“This is the third Dakar of my life,” says Tom, preparing the motorhome for Hiasi, nickname for Matthias, and Luciano, the two riders sharing the Dakar home for 10 days. “I’ve known Hiasi for a very long time. We met on the motocross track, where else? We love the same sport, but he is obviously from a different league. I started late, but still competed on national level. Well, occasionally I still put on my riding gear if I am not doing up some old car,” laughs the 34-year-old IT specialist from Salzburg.

His story of how he became a mechanic specialized for hard cases, is full of wisdom and therefore, worth sharing. “I was 19 and I´d just bought my first car. It was an old Audi Quattro, with some issues, of course. I took it to the workshop where they were supposed to repair it, but I wasn’t happy with the work done. And even less pleased with the huge amount of money they wanted from me! I was discussing it with the workshop owner, trying to negotiate and lower the price, because I didn’t want to pay for their mistake, when the owner had enough and said to me: ‘Ok, go, but if you don’t like our work, you will have to do it on your own.’ And I did it. Years later, I was thinking about what he said to me and realized how valuable that was. It gave me the power to think that nothing is too difficult for me, and that I can learn all by myself,” remembers Tom.

So, he did repair his car. He repaired other people’s cars, mostly old ones with complicated issues. He even built himself a racecar. And all that knowledge brought him all the way to rally sport. For his first race, he prepared during the flight. “I had 40, 50 pages of car instructions and the flight was long enough to study them,” laughs Tom, but admits it was no walk in the park; rally cars are super expensive and you need to be very precise.

In contrast to his job where he dealt with rally cars, he didn’t need to study much for the Dakar. Matthias needed somebody to help him, and Tom was perfect for the job. Still, to take care of a rider 24 hours a day: to wake him up, bring him breakfast, help him dress, assist him to get started, and then repeat everything in reverse order when he returns to the bivouac, is not his “only” job. Tom is also the on-duty handy man, responsible for all the motorhomes. “I am here for the whole team,” explains Tom. “Though my main priority is Matthias. I have a lot of work with him, because he knows very well what he wants, but that’s also a reason why working for him is easy.”

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Miquel Pujol, responsible for spare parts
Miquel’s Dakar journey begins on the Lisboa-Dakar route in 2006. He was 23 when the invitation arrived, and caught him eager to explore the Dark Continent. He comes from the same village as the Dakar legend Marc Coma, so the path to the rally was a short one.

“Basically, Marc recruited me and introduced me to the rally team. At the time, Trunkenpolz was running the team, and 2006 was also the year when our team manager made his debut. That year, Andy Caldecott replaced the injured Jordi Duran, so I took care of his bike. We all know what happened to Andy on January 9, 2006. My first Dakar! I felt completely devastated. The next year, Jordi Viladoms had a big crash, and we again returned home with a bitter taste in our mouths. But that was Africa, it always took its toll. Fortunately, nowadays it happens less,” he says with relief, and adds: “But the most incredible thing is that the core of the team has stuck together all these years. Stefan is still here, as are Rolli, August, Miki and Jordi.”

After a break of several years, Miquel made his comeback to the team, and to the Dakar, which in 2009 had switched continents. A few years ago, he would make his own switch from mechanic to spare parts manager, now having approximately 1000 spare parts under his wing. Happy to be part of the KTM Dakar team, he explains: “I didn’t study to work as a mechanic, I am an industrial engineer, but when Marc offered me a job, I grabbed the opportunity to enter motorsports with both hands. The greatest power of KTM is the team spirit. We work like a family, you can feel it. Sure, in the past there was a big rivalry between the French and Spanish teams. Fights between Cyril and Marc were also difficult for the team. Now the air we breathe is lighter, even if the Dakar is always tough. It doesn’t matter how long it is or where we race, it’s still the most unpredictable race in the world.”

When the nights are extremely short, Miquel sleeps on the truck, under the stars. When the nights are a bit longer, he might put up the tent. Sometimes, during the night, he would also become nostalgic. Speaking of the joy of being part of the orange family, during the rally expeditions he misses his own. “Sure I want to be a good dad, but it’s not easy with this job. We are away a lot, and this is the major downside. My son is almost three years old and starts to feel my absence.” It’s not the best consolation, but to live your life with two families?

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Tools & spare parts Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin


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Interview of the Month: Nathan Watson – French Beach Race Champion & WESS preview

Winner of the French Beach Race Championship and third overall in the World Enduro Super Series, Nathan Watson has enjoyed a memorable 12 months of racing.

It’s been a busy, whirlwind 12 months for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Nathan Watson. From classic enduro to beach racing, with hard enduro and cross-country in between, Watson has achieved standout performances in both the World Enduro Super Series and the French Beach Race Championship. Winning the iconic Le Touquet beach race recently gave the young Brit his biggest ever international victory.

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Nathan Watson (GBR) Le Touquet (FRA) 2019 © P. Haudiquert

Contesting the inaugural WESS championship during 2018, Watson threw himself into a wide and varied mix of disciplines. Always delivering his best, he rode admirably in his debut appearances at Erzbergrodeo and Red Bull Romaniacs, while taking a podium result at the Hawkstone Park Cross-Country before winning the Red Bull Knock Out. His ‘never-say-die’ attitude saw him end his WESS campaign in a promising and impressive third overall.

With no time to dwell on his success, he quickly turned his attention to his first love of beach racing and the hotly contested French Beach Race Championship. From six rounds, the KTM rider proved himself an eventual worthy champion by winning an astonishing four races. His greatest moment came at the series’ finale – the grueling Enduropale du Touquet. A come-from-behind ride to victory saw the young Brit achieve a childhood dream as he etched his name onto the winner’s trophy at the world-famous race.

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Nathan Watson (GBR) KTM 450 SX-F Le Touquet (FRA) 2019 © P. Haudiquert

With his championship celebrations now over, the KTM BLOG spoke to Nathan about his recent accomplishments, what’s been a varied and challenging 12 months and the 2019 WESS season, which begins in May …

Congratulations Nathan on winning the Enduropale du Touquet. How does it feel to have won the world’s single most important beach race?
“It’s incredible to have won Le Touquet. It’s such an iconic race, that’s been running long before I was even born. I don’t think the enormity of the result has really sunk in yet. I’ve dreamed of winning this race since I was a child and followed it throughout my racing career, hoping one day I could be in this position I’m in now. To actually tick it off my bucket list is awesome – it’s a career highlight for sure.”

What makes the race itself so difficult to master?
“There’s so many factors that can go wrong in the race, which makes it so hard to win. For a start the volume of riders is insane. There’s over 1000 competitors out on track from all ability levels. The track itself is about 15 kilometers long. One half is flat out and the other is enormous sand whoops. When you factor that and dodging slower traffic for three hours, it becomes so physical and so risky at high speed. It’s really easy for something to go wrong and that’s what makes it so hard to get right on the day.”

Your Enduropale du Touquet victory also led to you winning the French Beach Race series. Did that result come by surprise?
“Arriving at Le Touquet I was third overall in the standings and 40 points behind leader Milko Potisek, so winning the title felt out of reach. But then this is a race where anything can and usually does happen, so I didn’t rule it out. However, when Milko and myself were racing for the win on the final two laps I was sure the title was his. However, after I crossed the finish line we began to notice that he hadn’t appeared. As other riders finished, suddenly winning the title was a possibility. It was kind of something we didn’t expect to happen, so it’s been great to wrap that up too. To win the championship with a victory at Le Touquet is a fantastic end to a brilliant season. I can’t thank KTM and the team enough for their support.”

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Nathan Watson (GBR) & Team Le Touquet (FRA) 2019 © P. Haudiquert

It’s been an incredible beach racing season for KTM by winning the championship, Enduropale du Touquet and of course the Red Bull Knock Out. What contributing factor has led to such dominance?
“Beach racing is very much a team effort. I don’t think people realize just how complex it is. There are so many factors to consider – the length of the course, the firmness of the sand, volume of riders and how all those things affect fuel consumption and pitstop strategy. I’m lucky to have a great crew behind me and in particular our team manager Tof Meyer, who’s so passionate about it. He was Antoine Meo’s old trainer and he stepped forward to take on management of the team when Antoine moved to rally. His wealth of knowledge about this sport is incredible. Nothing’s overlooked – even down to knowing which side of start line has the firmest sand, in order to get the best start. When you line up against 1000 riders, it’s the details like this which prove critical and a reason why, with Tof’s expertise, we’ve become the team to beat.”

How does the beach race setup of your KTM 450 SX-F differ from a motocross one?
“My beach racing KTM 450 SX-F is a special bike. It really only works best in a beach race and when riding above 80 per cent because the setup is so unique and stiff. We run a longer swingarm to increase the wheel base length and improve stability at such high speeds. The front forks are set below the top of the triple clamps to try and lengthen it that bit further, so it doesn’t do tight 180 degree turns. The suspension is harder and stiffer all round because there are only a few changes of direction on the track. Really, you want it to work best in a straight line over sand whoops. You need top-end speed for the main straight, but still need responsive power to negotiate the whoops. To get around that we run a six-speed enduro gearbox, but gearing is always a debate depending on how the course is laid out. Our sprocket ratio for Le Touquet was 13:50. I generally prefer to run a 50-tooth rear sprocket to suit the whoops but that can make the engine rev too high on the straight. I did lose out on top speed on the main straight but gained a lot on the whoops.”

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Nathan Watson (GBR) KTM 450 SX-F Le Touquet (FRA) 2019 © P. Haudiquert

Looking forward to the upcoming World Enduro Super Series, what’s your thoughts on the season ahead having finished third overall in 2018?
“I like the mix of events on the calendar this year. It’s 50/50 between classic enduro and hard enduro, so it doesn’t necessarily favor one specific discipline. With a full year of WESS under my belt I have a better idea of what to expect for the hard enduro races too. They proved a huge learning curve to me last year and by having raced them I can now tailor my training and preparation to suit. I think that’s what took me most by surprise – the fact that each hard enduro race is so different. Classic enduro has a consistent format and routine regardless of event, whereas Erzbergrodeo is a four-hour race and Red Bull Romaniacs is five days.”

Are there any events that stand out to you the most and where you will aim to deliver you best results in?
“Outside of beach racing I’m a classic enduro rider at heart, so I will want to deliver my best in those races. Also, the Hawkstone Park Cross-Country is my home race. I was second there in 2018 and would really love to go one place better next September. I saw first hand just how important a win can be in the series. Winning Red Bull Knock Out lifted me up to third in the final championship standings, so I’ll be pushing hard to take a victory where I can. With four classic enduro races I know I have a very strong chance to improve on my result of third overall from last year.”

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Nathan Watson (GBR) KTM 350 EXC-F Hawkstone Park (GBR) 2018 © Future7Media

The 2019 World Enduro Super Series begins at Portugal’s Extreme XL Lagares on May 10-12.

Photos: P. Haudiquert | Future7Media


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Floating the Armada: 2019 KTM MotoGP™ lineup gets ready for the sea

Posted in Bikes, Racing

Nine riders and motorcycles filled the new City Hall building in Mattighofen. The 2019 presentation not only showcased the fresh faces and colors that will adorn KTM’s fastest ever collection of race machinery but also the stunning breadth of the factory’s effort in MotoGPTM.

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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MotoGP Team Presentation 2019 © Sebas Romero

KTM AG CEO Stefan Pierer may have said “in this racing world we are still beginners” in reference to only the third year of ‘orange presence’ in the MotoGPTM category (seven in total in Grand Prix after claiming the inaugural year of Moto3 in 2012) but the company now has a longer spread than any other motorcycle brand in the FIM World Championship. A rider can take his first steps in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup with a KTM RC 250 GP (the feeder series established in 2007 and racing at seven of the MotoGPTM events in 2019) and progress through Moto3, Moto2 and up to one of four bikes in the flagship class.

It was this ‘visual map’ to world championship acclaim (minus the Rookies machine) that was so stark on a stage that also contained five world titles, more than sixty Grand Prix wins and over one-hundred-and-fifty podiums. There were three teams and three different types of motorcycle and French, Spanish, Portuguese, Malaysian, Italian, South African, German and Turkish talent watched over by management figures and experienced experts like Aki Ajo, Pit Beirer, Mike Leitner and Hervé Poncharal.

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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MotoGP Team Presentation 2019 © Sebas Romero

The orange, black, blue and stunning chrome decaling decorated bikes of 250cc, 765cc and 1000cc and the overall line-up reads:

MotoGP
Pol Espargaró – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Johann Zarco – Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Miguel Oliveira – Red Bull KTM Tech3
Hafizh Syahrin – Red Bull KTM Tech3

Moto2
Brad Binder – Red Bull KTM Ajo
Jorge Martin – Red Bull KTM Ajo
Marco Bezzecchi – Red Bull KTM Tech3
Philipp Öttl – Red Bull KTM Tech3

Moto3
Can Öncü – Red Bull KTM Ajo

“It’s a very special moment for me and another milestone; seeing this structure in place,” said Beirer, dressed in the same collarless jacket-and-suit combo worn by all of KTM’s largest road racing collective ever created. “We have been building it since 2012 and it is all in place now.”

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Can Öncü (TUR), Jorge Martin (ESP), Brad Binder (RSA), Pol Espargaró (ESP), Johann Zarco (FRA), Miguel Oliveira (POR), Hafizh Syahrin (MAL), Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) & Philipp Öttl (GER) © Sebas Romero

The German likened the ladder through the MotoGPTM levels to the similar philosophy applied to Junior, European and then World Championship racing in offroad, principally motocross and MXGP where the factory have seen teenage ‘promise’ like Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Jeffrey Herlings, Jordi Tixier, Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado mature into FIM title winners.

KTM have long been a major player on the dirt and now the rush is on to reach similar gains across the asphalt. “This is a five-year program and by the end we want to see podiums and for the upcoming racing season I’d like to see single digit results; that’s realistic because we are still collecting data and we miss all the experience of our competitors,” said Stefan Pierer with typical defiance and no shortage of ambition. “For 2019 – in gambler’s speak – it’s ‘all in’.”

MotoGPTM has the second of two official pre-season tests from the February 23-25 at Losail in Qatar with the season starting at the same venue on March 10.

Photos: Sebas Romero


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Fresh Orange Talent: KTM UK Youth Team Makes Its Mark

Posted in Bikes, Racing

When you’re READY TO RACE age is irrelevant. Adrenalin courses through veins, young or old. Passion fills hearts, youthful or mature. Determination grits teeth, be they baby or adult. Regardless of whether you’ve got school or work to go to on Monday, when the gate drops every racer’s aspiration is to reach the chequered flag first.

That desire was spotted in seven special riders that were selected to compete for the Judd Orange Brigade, KTM UK’s official youth motocross team. 2018 was the inaugural season for the squad, with KTM UK joining forces with Judd Racing, a youth motocross parts specialist, to form the team. With national championship winning representation at senior level, KTM UK wanted to provide a platform for the next generation of racers to hone their skills. “Because KTM are market leaders in the youth competition market, the easy thing would be to let that racing scene look after itself,” says KTM UK Managing Director, Matt Walker. “But we have a responsibility to ensure that racing at junior levels is healthy and with this new program KTM UK is providing the opportunity for young racers to graduate into our senior teams and to possibly make a career in the sport.”

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L to R: Billy Askew, Archie Britton, Jack Grayshon, Zane Stephens, Drew Anderson, Bailey Johnston, Aaron-Lee Hanson © TooFastMedia

The seven riders that comprised Judd Orange Brigade’s first intake of pilots in 2018 were armed with new KTM SX machinery shod with KTM PowerParts and WP suspension. The team were then decked out in KTM PowerWear to ensure that they had all the right equipment for the tough season ahead. Some riders were bristling with experience, others were showing the first signs of talent, so it took a keen eye from Michelle Arnold from Judd Racing to pick the seven that would battle it out for 2018 honors. Running from KTM 50 SX to KTM 250 SX-F, every class had Judd Orange Brigade representation in it, with the riders running from a paddock set-up to rival many senior teams.

The British Youth Nationals (now British Youth Championship) is the official national championship for youth riders in the UK, and was the prime focus of the Judd Orange Brigade in their first season. The six round series has developed racers that have gone on to international level racing, pro contracts and junior world championship rides. The weekend long events are popular, with four races across two days to ensure that each rider gets as much saddle time as possible. The pocket rockets in the championship would race all night if they could fit lights to their bikes, but lots of race time means fast-tracking skills and honing race craft at some of the best tracks in the UK. The competition in each class is intense, and would test every rider in the Judd Orange Brigade.

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© TooFastMedia

There are so many unknowns ahead of any season, regardless of how well training has gone in the run up to round one. Most of the Judd Orange Brigade had campaigned in the series before, but moves to bigger bikes, switched machines or an influx of new talent into the championship means that no-one can ever be sure of how a season will pan out. Zane Stephens, jumping on a KTM 65 SX for the first time, showed his potential by scoring a third in the (indoor) UK Arenacross series that precedes the outdoor season – an impressive achievement for the youngest rider in the field. But the rest of the team would have to wait while the tracks in the UK dried after a very wet UK winter.

After the weather stymied the start of the season, the delayed first round got underway well for the team. The Judd Orange Brigade quickly confirmed that the team were a force to be reckoned with thanks to a string of wins and a pair of overall firsts as proof that the team hit the ground running. Any race season has its ups and its downs, but aside from the odd hiccup, injury, puncture or crash the Judd Orange Brigade took the British Youth Nationals by storm. The next rounds proved that this was no fluke as the team built on each other’s success throughout the season. More success means more camaraderie within the team, buoyed on by more wins.

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© TooFastMedia

While their school mates would have been away on holidays in the summer, the Judd Orange Brigade were hard at work, refining their skills at a boot camp put on for the team by KTM UK. Rider coaching, WP suspension set-up, psychological training, social media and presentation skills were all experienced by the team over two intense days on track. This was an opportunity for the team to gel in a less competitive environment, so each rider could focus on building on their strengths. Any weaknesses were confronted by Jen Duffee, a rider development coach who focuses on the bit between each rider’s ears. Arguably, this was the most difficult session of all, and certainly one that was alien to most riders, but the way they took all of Duffee’s advice on board was impressive.

The results of the boot camp were clear to see – Bailey Johnston and Aaron-Lee Hanson both went 1-1-1-1, Jack Grayshon took three wins out of four and Drew Anderson took a pair of wins. The rest of the team also pushed forward impressively. However, in the last race of the penultimate round the youngest member of the team, Archie Britton, showed his mettle by jumping back on his bike to finish the meeting with an ankle he’d broken in four places showing that those in the Judd Orange Brigade are made of sturdy stuff.

With everything to play for, and with calculators at the ready, the Judd Orange Brigade headed into the last round at Weston, home of the infamous beach race, in hope rather than expectation. Bailey Johnston and Aaron-Lee Hanson arrived leading their championships, but the rest of the team would have to battle hard for any glory. But only six would race at Weston, with Britton dropping from second to fifth by the end of the year.

The track at Weston-Super-Mare had been converted from the beach race into a challenging MX track, and the championship’s first visit to the seaside venue would present the whole paddock with many unknowns. But the sand proved to be no barrier for Bailey Johnston and Aaron-Lee Hanson who cemented their championship leads at the final round to win their respective 2018 crowns. The surprises came in the 125 and 85 Big Wheel categories as Drew Anderson and Jack Grayshon turned round their fortunes and winning the round to win the series. Grayshon started the campaign with a DNF, so to finish it on top shows just how wildly a season can swing. With Billy Askew finishing the year in fourth and Zane Stephens an encouraging 10th in his first year on a KTM 65 SX the Judd Orange Brigade finished the season on a high.

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Bailey Johnston (#19) KTM 85 SX © TooFastMedia

Ecstatic riders loved their first season with the team. On his victory, Drew Anderson said: “What a great year this has been for me, with so many ups and downs, we got it done, 2018 British Champ, 2018 Masterkids Champ. I’d love to thank everyone that made this possible, especially my family and sponsors.” Bailey Johnston, meanwhile, acknowledged a job well done, while refocusing on the job in 2019: “Well it’s been an amazing 2018, I completed all of my goals and extra! I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone that helped me, because I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you. Now onto 2019 to chase more dreams.” Who’d bet against them not saying the same in the pro ranks …

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Drew Anderson KTM 125 SX © TooFastMedia

Four titles out of the six on offer is a hugely impressive haul for any team, especially in its first year. Team manager Michelle Arnold couldn’t have been more proud at the season’s end. “2018 was a fantastic season for the Judd Orange Brigade. Winning 4 out of the 6 British Youth titles contended at the Judd KTM British Youth Championship in our first year was an awesome achievement, the whole team raced brilliantly, we are so proud of them all!  We’ve now set the bar very high, but that was always the intention when we set up the team with KTM.”

But you’re only as good as your last set of results, and the off season has been a busy one for the team and the riders within. According to Michelle Arnold: “The team has expanded for 2019 from seven to ten riders, with some great new talent joining us. We have big hopes for all of our riders for the forthcoming season. The reason to enlarge the team is to successfully manage the progression and continuity of each rider’s achievements. When stepping up in an age group, we need to aid the development of each rider’s skills whilst still challenging in every youth class. We can’t wait for it to start!” Giving one rider the chance to hone his or her skills while another makes an assault on the championship future proves the team’s ambitions and ensures that KTM and the Judd Orange Brigade are driving youth racing forward in the UK. As the countdown to the 2019 season nears its end, the enlarged team is READY TO RACE!

Photos: TooFastMedia


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The highs and lows of the 2019 Dakar Rally – Sam Sunderland

Posted in People, Racing

Sam Sunderland talks openly about how tough the 2019 Dakar proved to be with extreme highs and lows arriving with each stage of the infamous rally.

No offroad sport is more mentally taxing than the Dakar Rally. 10, maybe as much as 15 hours alone inside your helmet racing at high speeds across unknown deserts in tough riding conditions for day after day, all on top of four or five hours sleep a night. This is Dakar they say and for rally racers like Sam Sunderland and his Red Bull KTM Factory team-mates these are the realities of racing the toughest race on earth.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) 2019 © Sebas Romero

For Sunderland the 2019 Dakar Rally threw a wild mix of issues above and beyond the norm. Dealing with a badly injured fellow competitor, stage wins and mechanical issues including riding with no brakes, were all in the script. The biggest blow came when he was incorrectly docked an hour time penalty by race organizers – but that came later …

The list of events “derailing” Sam’s plan for Dakar 2019 began in week one, stage five when he witnessed and helped deal with a crashed rider, Paulo Goncalves.

“I saw him crash, directly called the helicopter and assisted him as I could with some water, getting his gear off and trying to make him as comfortable as I could even though he was in a lot of pain,” explains Sunderland. Pro racers are focused individuals naturally, but still humans and a fellow competitor’s well-being comes first.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

With the medics on the scene Sam was back on his bike again but both lost in terms of his pace and position in the race and unsettled: “I thought all of my work and the team’s work was going down the pan because I’d stopped to help another rider. I was a bit angry and really was just swinging off it trying to get by all these slower riders. I didn’t really have any reference to know where I was in terms of time.”

The result was a stage win for Sam, a fact ordinarily you’d expect to be a positive for a rider? “The problem was nobody wanted to win that stage because everyone was petrified of opening the Tacna stage [following day] because they knew it was going to be hell!” says Sam.

“I got to the finish and the media was there all going, ‘congratulations Sam, you won the stage’ and I was like, ‘Nooo!’ Outwardly I was having to be cool but riding back to the bivouac I was almost crying in my helmet thinking I’d just jacked up my whole race.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

The drama wasn’t over yet. “I actually opened Tacna really well and was super-pleased with my navigation.” But things took a turn quickly when he unknowingly hit a rock and broke his rear brake disc.

“I looked down the whole disc was off the hub somehow. Every bolt had bust off and I still had 100-odd kilometers to go in the special. I continued but the caliper came off and started to hit me in the leg so I had to stop and pull it all off, cut the brake line and that’s where all the time went.”

Riders must learn to deal with these set-backs (including riding 100s of kilometers in sand with no brake!) and must adopt a psychological reset button or an emotional mute button inside the head to lock away the problem and deal with what is in front and not behind.

“The next day I won the stage because I had no choice. The only thing I could do was try and make up time by going all out to win. From that point onwards I could only deal with what I had,” explains Sam, perfectly illustrating the point.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

But Sunderland’s Dakar took yet another twist the following night after stage seven when organizers issued an hour time penalty.

Sam explains exactly how events unfolded: “I went to go in the stage and they stopped me saying there is a problem with your iritrack, there was no power, I changed the fuse and I was ready to go. I could have left sooner but they re-seeded me to fourth place at the start line.”

Innocent until proven guilty? Not in Dakar. Back at the bivouac race organization made the leap Sam had deliberately tampered with his bike in order to not be first on the stage. “I was fuming,” explains Sam. “I had big discussions with the organizers, the FIM, with my team manager and it was no budge. They were standing firm on it and I was out the rally effectively.”

In the rider’s mind at this point all is lost. 12 months leading up to Dakar, all the issues already overcome during the 2019 rally were blown away with a blown fuse. Sam says he was so angry he was ready to throw in the towel but out of respect for his mechanic and the KTM rally team he continued onwards.

“Having four or five hours sleep each night and riding for hours or whatever is tough but to have all this other stuff piled on is difficult,” explains Sam.

The perhaps unseen effect of getting a penalty from the organizers is how you are then viewed by your peers: “When the organizer gives you the penalty it is like a stamp of confirmation that you did something wrong. It looks to everyone else like they found factual evidence – of course I knew I hadn’t but from everybody’s side it looked like I had.”

“How did I deal with all that piled on top? Not very well to be honest, my head was in the clouds,” says Sunderland. “The worst was day nine because it was a long stage, I got lost a lot, made mistakes, rode in dust a lot and it was tough.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

In the end the Dakar organizers quashed the penalty but only after the race had finished and after Sam had raced two stages with his “head in the clouds.”

Emotionally, every sportsperson takes knocks physically and mentally. In offroad sport those knocks can come with a turn of the wheel but at Dakar, the toughest race on the planet, those knocks can be with sledgehammers.

Last word to Sam: “I race to win, I was in really good shape, did all the hard work and went to Dakar to do that job but we didn’t get to play the full hand of cards. In the end, after everything that happened, I’ll take that third place and live to fight another day.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Sebas Romero | Marcin Kin


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Race hard, play hard, chill out hard – it’s rally style!

Posted in Lifestyle, People

We caught up with KTM´s Dakar 1-2-3 finishers and asked them about their after-Dakar life. Is it paradise?

Feeling second-hand
“This Dakar has been a tough one, the body is definitely feeling very second hand,” says current Cross-Country Rallies World Champion and the most epic winner in Dakar history. Toby Price did the impossible: He endured the insane pain which drove him crazy, and occasionally having to rev the bike with his left hand. There were moments, especially in the stages 3 and 7, when he already felt beaten; the win was far away on the other side of pain. After ten bloody battles, he won the war with inhuman will, and consistency. “I am so glad I didn’t give up,” said Price after crossing the finish line.

On the rest day in Arequipa, the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Dakar winners of the bike category, who would later finish on 1-2-3 spots of the podium, were being interviewed by several media. There were a lot of laughs and banter, even though none of them believed they could win this year. Despite sitting in 2nd place of the general standings, Sam Sunderland had to open stage 6, and that meant a sure loss of time. Matthias Walkner was 7th overall, Toby Price 4th, and all three were carrying injuries. It indeed has been a very tough one, and that’s why we did a special debrief, asking them how they would unwind afterwards.

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Matthias Walkner (AUT), Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Toby Price
He broke a bone during his first slightly more daring motorcycle race, rolled his car in his first 4-wheel race, and, maybe it’s a good thing he is not flying planes. The latest price he paid was a broken scaphoid, a souvenir from the final test last December. The injury was far from healed when on January 1 he boarded a plane to Lima. Like a casino gambler who beat the dealer, he grabbed the jackpot.

We were sitting in a hotel in Lima after the Dakar celebrations, when he said: “Back home, I am going straight to the hospital first, that’s pretty much my second home.” His doctor would later tell him the bone was about to collapse, and another screw was needed. “There is a question mark hanging over the trip I have already organized. I should go to Vietnam with my family and friends, but unfortunately this is a motorbike tour we are talking about. In the land of old Chinese bikes I would ride a KTM 690 ENDURO R, and I am so excited about that. If everything goes well with my wrist, I will soon check off my bucket list the second biggest cave in the world, and a golden bridge held by big rocky hands. Though the best of all is that I am gonna have a KTM motorcycle, hoping to get some pretty amazing footage and some cool stuff for my vlogs. From there, I don’t know exactly, but for sure I will book a holiday also on my own, some nice place with white sand and crystal water, where I can drink from a coconut and let my body recover,” he explained his plans.

And how Toby Price zones out in his free time? “I just love being around friends, and family. I’ve got a KTM 690 DUKE for my adventures back home. It’s an amazing bike, I am pumped to have it and to explore on it. I love mountain biking and getting to know new faces. Some days I love being in the city, having everything at my fingertips, while there are other days I just want to get off the grid and just find a hidden spot to light a camp fire. At the end of the day, I am no different to anybody else. Motorcycles are my life, but they are not everything; I like doing fun things in life. I love being at the beach, to spend time with my friends and wakeboarders, Harley Clifford and Cory Teuniseen. Sounds like a privilege, but I am telling you I am very terrible at this damn thing. I can only control handlebars and steering wheels.”

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Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Matthias Walkner
Hurting his ankle in the 5th stage didn’t slow down the 2018 Dakar winner. Shining on the toughest stages where riding and navigational skills were fundamental, Matthias Walkner finished the 41st Dakar edition as runner-up. Even though he didn’t win, he is convinced he rode his best Dakar so far. Now I deserve to party a bit, because I worked really hard for this Dakar. It’s not easy to start with number one, it sure adds extra pressure,” he admits. But since there are some medical issues on his to do list, party time will be short and sweet. “In my first two weeks back I’ve got some press stuff to attend to around Austria, and to cheer on my friend Marcel Hirscher.” At the end of January Matthias went to one of the most famous downhill ski races in Kitzbühel, before visiting the night race in Schladming. “This is what helps me relax, watch a good ski race and hanging out with friends.” At the time of writing, Matthias already successfully underwent knee surgery, and is waiting to have the pin taken out of his femur. “It’s going to be three or four months of recovery, and then, in the summer, I hopefully will be ready to race again, at least on two wheels,” the car enthusiast explained. The last Dakar came with a special prize, a brand new KTM X-BOW, and now it’s the time to take it onto the racetrack.

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Sam Sunderland
This year’s Dakar was a bit of a rollercoaster for the 2017 Dakar winner Sam Sunderland. Only on the last stage he was granted the removal of the one-hour penalty issued for missing the start of stage 8 and was promoted to third place. “This Dakar was really, really tough on every level: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had so many ups and downs, that I feel completely drained. Drained, but happy, we could say, because obviously this is a big achievement for KTM. On day 8 it still didn’t look like it would happen, we fought till the last meter. The top ten riders were really strong, and it wasn’t clear which one would dominate. It was more about who would make the least mistakes. Saying that, I feel really tired and just want to relax. I want to go home, and finally see my dog.  He’s with some friends now, but I know, he misses me likewise. Everybody loves Oli,” he smiles and adds: “Wouldn’t hurt to spend some time with my girlfriend too, to go for some nice food and just be together.” Otherwise Sam confesses he has a bit of a bad habit. “I play too much PlayStation, with teenagers over the world. I know it’s not very healthy, but it’s my way of relaxing. Of course, nothing compares to walking Oli in the beautiful Andorran mountains. I am happy to have moved here to live, the nature here is truly amazing. Besides that, Andorra it’s close to Spain, if you want some extra sunshine,” says a citizen of the world, while he prepares his ticket to Paris.

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin


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Street or Dirt? The new KTM 690 SMC R & KTM 690 ENDURO R

Posted in Bikes, Riding

The all-new KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R are now available at KTM dealers, with the hardest choice being which of these cutting-edge single-cylinder machines to take and where to point it at.

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KTM 690 SMC R & KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © Sebas Romero

Naughty has never been so nice with the new KTM 690 SMC R. A bike for those who crave corner kicks on road or track and an addictive torque-filled punch with every turn of the throttle. The return of the KTM 690 ENDURO R in 2019 offers riders a true long-distance Enduro machine, always ready to connect the tarmac with trails with its flexibility to perform excitably on and offroad.

Similar in many aspects but completely different in their execution, both models take full advantage of an intensive development program that has seen front to back changes. The latest generation LC4 single-cylinder engine is housed in a lightweight, dynamic frame dripping with top specification chassis components and the very latest electronic rider aids to give an exceptional riding experience.

Sharper and more refined, the focus of these upgrades was to improve on what already made these machines the benchmark in their respective class – without diluting excitement and focus with the addition of technology and increased usability.

Both bikes are armed with the most powerful production single-cylinder available – smoother and more sophisticated than ever. Efficient engineering excellence, the latest compact LC4 is a totally modern interpretation of a big single-cylinder engine. Two balancer shafts aligned to a dual-spark cylinder head and ride by wire technology leave only good vibrations. The 690cc engine now punches a devastating 74 hp and 73.5 Nm of torque; smoother than ever with an incredibly wide delivery of performance and now boasts a Quickshifter+ for further refinement.

Electronic rider aids now feature heavily on both bikes, with the addition of ride mode technology and lean angle sensitive ABS and traction control systems to get the most from these potent packages in all situations.

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KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

KTM 690 SMC R
All fun and no frown; the unique riding appeal of a Supermoto is something KTM has wildly celebrated over the years and punching back into the range in 2019 on opposite lock is the KTM 690 SMC R. Pure, extreme and high performance – this is a very focused motorcycle that embodies the READY TO RACE approach and takes advantage of refined and unrivaled LC4 drive with advanced electronics in a truly unique package.

The sharpened bodywork is not just for the look; improved ergonomics improve feel and control be- tween rider and machine to get the most from this Supermoto superhero. All-new, fully-adjustable APEX suspension from the experts at WP also helps deliver a charismatic machine capable of conquering the tightest curves and cutting through congested commutes.

Getting the most from the KTM 690 SMC R’s performance in all situations is a suite of rider assistance systems. Two ride modes – Street and Sport – cornering ABS, lean angle-sensitive motorcycle traction control and Quickshifter+ are new to the game, with the familiar Supermoto ABS mode aiding rear slides with front-end confidence.

KTM 690 ENDURO R
Making the impassable possible, the KTM 690 ENDURO R unites tarmac and trails like never before. Simplified: KTM engineers and KISKA designers have made all the best parts better. The latest KTM LC4 single-cylinder silliness has two balancer shafts for reduced vibrations, ride by wire to allow changeable ride modes and traction control. More than enough power to pull clear of the steepest climbs yet efficient and manageable for trails and daily use.

Sharper and slimmer, the new bodywork with a redesigned seat, enhances aesthetics and improves ergonomics. Underneath, a lightweight and agile chassis coupled with fully-adjustable WP XPLOR suspension provides a competent package for experienced riders yet confidence-inspiring for those new to dirt. Better still, the KTM 690 ENDURO R remains sure-footed for street riding – increasing its versatility as a trust-worthy daily ride.

The new electronic systems on the KTM 690 ENDURO R get the most from this dynamic machine in all situations. Two ride modes – Offroad and Street – produce different characteristics of the throttle response and motorcycle traction control (MTC), while cornering sensitivity for the ABS and traction control also make its debut on this bike.

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KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

Both bikes are available from official KTM dealers now, backed up with a wide range of official KTM PowerParts to intensify them further. And for A2 license riders, these machines can also be made 35kW compliant with no hardware changes.

Photos: Sebas Romero | KTM/F. Lackner
Video: KTM/KISKA


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Interview of the Month: Toby Price – 2019 Dakar Rally Winner

2019 Dakar Rally Winner and 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Champion! The last three months have seen Toby Price reaffirm himself as the world’s number one rally racer. And in unquestionably impressive style. Battling his way through the world’s toughest cross-country rally with a broken wrist, with the full support of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Price earned his second Dakar victory having overcome injury and 10 brutal days of racing in Peru.

The KTM BLOG caught up with Toby just days after his incredible Dakar achievement to find out exactly how he braved the pain to win the iconic Dakar Rally.

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Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Toby, the first goal of the Dakar Rally is always to simply finish, especially when carrying an injury. What did you really hope for when you arrived in Peru before the event?
“I’m a racer and racers will always want to win the race. I have to be honest though, when I boarded the plane in Australia, I was starting to think that it wasn’t a good idea – I knew my wrist hadn’t healed fully but I wanted to at least make the start if only for my fans’ and the team’s sake. As the event went on, things started to turn our way, my wrist didn’t get any better but we found ourselves in a good position with some of the other riders having issues. Each day presented a good opportunity and there was no way I was going to give it up.”

This year’s event was very close, with competitor’s stage times up and down throughout the rally. Do you think the 2019 Dakar has been one of the toughest yet, in terms of strategy?
“Definitely, and it comes from having the majority of the stages in the sand dunes. The guy who starts first is always going to be at a massive disadvantage by opening the stage. As it happened, I didn’t even win a stage until the very last one. Riding consistently paid off and I didn’t have to take the lead on any of the specials. One of my biggest worries was pushing too hard and risking a crash. I knew if I went down hard on my wrist it would be the end of my rally. Unfortunately, I did have quite a big off on day eight – it rattled me pretty good that one, but luckily I was able to roll out of it and keep going.”

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Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

The 2019 event was often more about start position and being able to push the tracks left by the riders in front. Do you think the rally should slow its pace and rely more on skilled navigation than it did this year?
“It’s quite a difficult situation because everyone has picked up their pace, but they’ve also improved their navigation. We are all pushing out there as the competition is getting tighter and tighter and unless they bring in some new rules to calm things down, I don’t think that is going to change. The sport has evolved now and the riders are often younger and more willing to risk everything for the win. That, combined with the improvement to the bikes, means the overall pace is a lot higher now. As long as there are riders willing to push to the maximum, the speeds on the rally will remain high and in order to compete, we have to do the same.”

At only 10 days long and just over 5,000 kilometers, the race covered half the distance of last year’s event. Did this help you achieve your goal?
“Massively! Although a 5,000-kilometer rally here in the dunes of Peru feels like an 8,000-kilometer rally anywhere else. The terrain and the conditions have been tough and it certainly wasn’t easy out there. The length at only 10 day has probably helped the most, the way I was riding, it’s unlikely my wrist would have put up with another three or four days flat out. They do say one kilometer in the dunes is about that same as two or three offroad.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

At what point in the rally did you think, ‘I can win this’?
“Basically, the same place as my first win a few years ago – about 100 meters from the finish line. You can never count your chickens before they hatch, the Dakar is a strong beast and it can pull you down very quickly. You only have to look at Pablo to see how fast things can change. Each day I just tried to stay in the race and in contention and was able to get it done.”

You were always consistent throughout the race, was that part of the plan from day one or was your hand forced by injury or strategy?
“It was a bit of both. I knew from the beginning that my wrist wasn’t going to be strong enough for outright speed on a lot of the stages. My plan was to find a good rhythm and try to stay inside the top 10 as best I could. As time went on, we could see that it was all working out but as you know, we went into the final day with only a narrow lead, so it stayed close the whole way through.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

What have you learned from this Dakar in particular?
“I have certainly learned a lot about myself on this rally, and obviously never to quit – never to give up. Strategy-wise, it’s kind of the same, consistency is key but even when you have a bad day you need to keep on going because anything can happen at the Dakar. Take the rough with the smooth but make sure you are in the right place and in the end it will work.”

With three winners in the team, do the egos clash at all, are you all extremely competitive?
“Oh, for sure, absolutely. They’re going to have to get a bigger door on the truck now so that I can get my head through! No, for the three of us who have had the honor to win the Dakar Rally, it’s good to have a certain amount of competition between teammates. It feels great to keep KTM’s winning streak going, that is really important to me and the other guys. I think first and foremost we are a team, but at the end of the race I want it to be me that’s holding the winner’s trophy.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

What was the pressure like on the final day?
“I never want to feel anything like that pressure ever again. I wish going into the final day I had a 10-minute lead, it would have been so much better. Pablo put up a great fight but of course he had that crash and it made my life a little easier, but I still had to make it to the finish line. Pablo crashed at 10 kilometers and after that I still had 95 kilometers to go. It certainly wasn’t an easy stage and like I said, you can never truly relax until you have crossed that line.”

And on crossing that line, how did it feel to win?
“It’s a feeling like no other. I thought after winning my first one, the second wouldn’t be so much of a big deal, but it’s not like that at all. It sounds like a cliché, but it honestly feels like a dream. I woke up the morning after the final day and I was ready for someone to come and tell me it was the first day of the race and I had to get up and get ready.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

How does it feel to do the double – World and Dakar champion, back to back?
“Wow. You know I never even thought about it. To get my first world title and then the Dakar title just months later is amazing. You get so caught up with what is coming next a lot of the time you don’t get a chance for these things to sink in. I can’t take all the credit though, rallying is truly a team sport and none of it would be possible without the KTM family I have around me. Handing KTM that 18th Dakar win is hugely important to me.”

How does it feel to have lost your hair?
“It’s extremely cold now. I can certainly feel the wind on the top of my head that’s for sure. I look in the mirror and it looks very, very different. It’s done though, and there was no way I was going to try and get out of it. When you make a bet, you have to stick to it, you have to stick to your word.”

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Laia Sanz (ESP) & Toby Price (AUS) Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

It looked emotionally painful when you were having it done.
“It was, exactly. It’s taken years to grow my hair out like that. Sam and I started it off and other than racing dirt bikes it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had!”

Now the celebrations have died down, how will you spend the next few weeks?
“What do you mean the celebrations have died down? There is plenty of celebrating left to do! No, I’ll spend some time at home now and one of the first things I need to do is have my wrist looked at to see how it has handled two tough weeks in Peru. The world championship will start before we know it and I want to be ready and as fit as I can be to defend my title. I’ll take some time to let all of this sink in, but I’ll soon want to get out there riding again.”

Thanks Toby, and once again congratulations on your second Dakar rally win.

Photos: Marcin Kin


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Ready for Dakar: A 12-month task

Posted in Bikes, Racing

As the KTM Factory Racing Team battled their way through the 2019 Dakar Rally in Peru all eyes were unquestionably focused on the job in hand – that of overcoming the event’s many and varied challenges. But Dakar is an otherworldly undertaking, one that requires a full 12 months of preparation.

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

The two-week event is not part of any world championship and there is no huge prize fund for the winner – it is simply one of, if not, the greatest offroad motorcycling challenge. The Dakar Rally is the one everybody wants to win.

From a layman’s perspective, it might seem that there isn’t much in the way of competition for the KTM team. Toby Price´s 2019 victory marked the Austrian brand’s 18th consecutive Dakar victory. However, the unequalled record at the race is not down to luck, or a lack of trying by rival teams, it is down to an incredible team, passionate riders and intense preparation. All of which starts the moment the previous year’s rally finishes.

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Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

The process of development is always ongoing. In late 2017, the team debuted the newest version of their KTM 450 RALLY machine at the final round of the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship in Morocco – it won first time out under the control of Matthias Walkner who then rode it to victory at the Dakar a few months later.

“The new bike was a massive success,” tells Walkner. “It felt much safer to ride, although faster at the same time. Our sport has changed over the past few years and with the new, younger riders coming through they prefer the lighter, sleeker feel of the new bike.”

Despite its success, the bike has been continually developed throughout the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies season. Work has been done to the engine to make the power delivery even smoother, this becomes incredibly important on the longest of stages where riders start to tire and anything that can conserve a rider’s energy becomes extremely valuable. The suspension is also an area that has received attention over the course of 2018. With such long distances covered and stages comprising a mixture of different types of terrain, the absolute perfect suspension setup is simply not possible. A setting that might suit soft, rolling sand dunes may not perform so well if the stage then takes riders onto a fast, rocky track. It’s all about finding a compromise and an efficient set up that handles well while not making the rider work too hard.

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

It’s not just the bikes that can be upgraded on the run up to Dakar, so can the riders. Fitness and strength are the obvious attributes needed to race for 100s of kilometers each day for up to two weeks, but one of the less obvious challenges faced by all competitors is the sheer fatigue and mental strain imposed by such a tough event.

Riders prepare for the Dakar by working closely with nutritionists and physiotherapists throughout the year and especially on the lead up to the event. Some, it has to be said, are stricter than others but the fact remains, to compete at the very top level, you have to be in excellent shape. The rally itself takes its toll on the riders, even with an accident-free run, the physical strain is huge. Crashes do happen and even the smallest of falls can produce bruises and sprains that have a cumulative effect as the race progresses. Carrying an injury when entering the rally is of course never a good thing – there can be a lot said for the power of adrenalin when competing. Sometimes riding is the best medicine.

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

One aspect of cross-country rallying, and the Dakar specifically, is the lack of sleep and mental strain faced by the riders – this situation is not so easy to prepare for. There are few sports in the world where its participants have to perform for so long, at their maximum level, often alone and with very little rest in between each day. The mental strength required to pull this off is huge and not every top-level rider is cut out for the solitude that rallying can present.

“It’s definitely the hardest part of the Dakar for me,” admits KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz. “Even after a couple of days you start to feel drained and the lack of sleep only adds to that. You wake up feeling tired and then have to ride again all day. Unlike other races, when you finish a day’s riding at the Dakar, you have to prepare your roadbook for the following day and then attend the rider’s meeting before you get any rest, it becomes really difficult. The loneliness can get to you, but there is a good side to riding alone too, you experience so many beautiful landscapes and I love the feeling of freedom the Dakar gives. Bad days can really cause you to start questioning why you’re there though, but at the finish it’s definitely feels worth it.”

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

As the year progresses and the Dakar looms closer, riders and the team set about their final preparations for the most important event of the year. The bikes and team vehicles are packed up and loaded on to the ‘Heritage Leader’ that sets sail from Le Havre in France. Close to 300 race vehicles travel on the ship across the Atlantic, through the Panama Canal and arrive at the port of Lima in Peru at the end of December.

The team themselves undergo one last test in the dunes of Abu Dhabi, the aim of which is to finalize those last few settings on the bike and suspension, cover navigation skills one last time and to simply bring the team all together before the trip to South America in January.

The riders then have a few weeks remaining to train, to relax, to prepare themselves mentally for the challenge ahead. Each rider spends his or her time differently with some choosing to maximize their training time and others taking a final chance to relax with friends and family.

2017 Dakar Rally Champion Sam Sunderland is one rider who makes the most of his downtime, he’s never far away from a bike, or the sand.

“During the final few weeks before the race I go to Dubai to get more time in the dunes,” tells Sunderland. “Dubai is like a second home for me anyway, I have family and friends there and always enjoy the atmosphere. Apart from that it’s more training in the gym, maybe some motocross with friends, then we have Christmas and then it’s off to Dakar – there really is very little time to rest. For me I try to push right until the last moment, I think it’s important to keep training and stay sharp.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2019 © Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin


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Repeating the unrepeatable? MXGP 2019

Hangover or hegemony for KTM and their MXGP rule?

Motocross was an orange domain in 2018 as Red Bull KTM completed a historic season of grand prix excellence. We asked VP of Offroad, Robert Jonas, about the aftermath and then the outlook for the summer to come …

Inside the KTM Racing Division building in Munderfing the principal workshop is covered with KTM RC16 MotoGPTM bikes and components. A large-scale amplification of the road racing effort is underway for 2019 and it feels like the HQ is awash with slicks and MotoGPTM technicians and experts. In the corner of the main atrium two MXGP factory dirtbikes sit prone and ready. The KTM 450 SX-Fs works machines may only need a fraction of the technical upkeep and refinement of their MotoGPTM cousins but this racing technology is the undisputed King of a (now crowded) facility that also houses Dakar, Rally and Enduro title-winning pedigree.

In 2018 Red Bull KTM owned MXGP unlike any other team or brand in recent memory. They were 1st and 2nd in both MXGP and MX2 classes and from 20 rounds they harvested 19 and 17 wins in both categories respectively. They appeared on the podium a total 29 times in MX2 and 33 times in MXGP (on 13 occasions Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings walked the rostrum together, Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado 9 times in MX2). Glenn Coldenhoff was unbeaten at the Motocross of Nations and the biggest stage for the sport.

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Robert Jonas (AUT), Pit Beirer (GER) & Jeffrey Herlings (NED) Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Back in Munderfing and on the first floor the management offices contain the odd shirt, trophy and red plate. VP of Offroad, Robert Jonas, has overseen copious amounts of success through his work alongside Pit Beirer. His workspace could be far shinier and much more cluttered … but the Austrian is conscious of the fickle nature of motorsport: motocross in particular with its keen emphasis on the form, shape and confidence of the athlete.

“The season was so amazing that it is always a joy to talk about it and remember how great it was … but you are also aware that 2019 is a blank piece of paper and everything will soon start again from scratch,” he admitted. “Preparation is full gas to go again and people are already focused. We will be well prepared … but we know the competition will be doing the same.”

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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Imola (ITA) 2018 © Ray Archer

KTM, Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado gathered much praise once the racing season had ended on the first weekend of October but the weight of the numbers had already began to sink in as the silverware kept on arriving on a weekly basis. Relentless victory is a ‘dream-like’ goal, however there is also something surreal about such attainment. “I understand that we cannot take this for granted and I would say we definitely got a bit spoilt this year with so many wins and fights for race wins,” says Jonas, almost forewarning and with both feet firmly planted on the floor under his desk. “We didn’t leave much room for the others and that is something I recognize. It is not the ‘norm’ and we have to do our homework again in order to be in a position to win again.”

‘Homework’ seems to be a key word and there is little doubt that KTM have worked their socks off to chisel the KTM 450 SX-F and KTM 250 SX-F to the wishes of exceptional riders like Herlings, Cairoli, Prado, Jonass; the vast amount of holeshots and advantageous race starts are part testimony to this. “Sure, that’s clear,” Jonas says. “I’m still convinced that we had the best bike in both classes in 2018 and the target is to have that again. The competition will unlikely accept this for long and will try to work as much as they can … but our team is great and we can really see all their effort over the last few years on the racetrack now. It is not only the result that matters because it is also about how good the bike works and how the bike and rider combine on the track. These steps and progress are something almost as good and they are very cool to see. Very satisfying.”

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KTM 450 SX-F 2018 © Ray Archer

Any casual viewer of MXGP will be aware that Red Bull KTM can call on two of the best racers of the 21st century in the forms of Herlings and Cairoli but such is the unpredictable (and hazardous) state of top-flight motocross that the meld of rider and machine does not automatically equal glory. Especially over nineteen rounds that stretch from Argentina to Asia.

“In 2015 we had Max [Nagl] and Tony fighting for the title and it seemed as though nobody else would get a look in … but in the end it was another rider that won it,” says Jonas with a note of caution. “Currently we have two of the world’s best riders on our bikes and if nothing goes wrong then we are in a very good position – I’m fully aware of that – but it doesn’t take a lot; a little injury here or a problem there and all of a sudden you are not ‘there’. All of our riders have been through this already. An injury at the beginning of the season can change things completely and that’s why a new season is exciting.”

Herlings, Cairoli, Prado and Jonass all had their injury issues at stages of 2018 (Jonas: “Thankfully just little problems, and we have some tough guys who are quickly back on the bike! I think it was better to be in our position and still leading than struggling; that’s when the season feels even longer.”) but there was also another – unusual – facet of adversity: inter-team rivalry.

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Sevlievo (BUL) 2018 © Ray Archer

There were memorable clashes among the quartet in Britain and Turkey but the tension of the title battles was largely contained without much drama or controversy and marshalled by team managers Claudio De Carli and Dirk Gruebel. Among all the other gains in 2018 this was another source of pride.

“Yes, things went quite smoothly,” Jonas says, raising his eyebrows both with surprise and admiration. “With Prado heading over to work with De Carli it turned into something that we did not expect to go so well. I mean, we hoped it would! And we were convinced that Claudio would help Jorge with that last little step. They did a great job. I’m really happy we made that move.”

“In MXGP the biggest challenge was at the start of the season and how we’d control the competition between those two guys in the team,” he adds. “Honestly, we thought it would be very difficult, and in the end – with a rider’s perspective and with a few small exceptions in some interviews where one was complaining about the other – it was very professionally handled by both. It was very fair and I really hope it continues in the same way next year because they handled it so well. There weren’t always easy moments, for both of them, but we’re proud of how Claudio and Dirk managed the whole situation.”

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Tony Cairoli (ITA) & Jeffrey Herlings (NED) Lommel (BEL) 2018 © Ray Archer

In the month of January tracks in Spain and Sardinia will be pounded by the four-man crew (Jonass shifting across to Husqvarna to attempt MXGP with rookie Tom Vialle taking his MX2 berth) as KTM look to go at MXGP again. Jonas, as a former racer and well-versed in the swinging fortunes of the sport, has already warned against complacency but this might be a tougher sell throughout the rest of the company and perhaps all the fans that witnessed the wave of spoils in 2018. “MXGP definitely matters for the company and is respected a lot,” he counters. “Of course, we have been dominating the championship and it makes it look a little ‘easy’ to some people but it is not devalued against something like MotoGPTM. I think it is still very much appreciated that we do so well in offroad.”

It would be remiss to let the head of the MXGP operation escape without directing the question that will fill pre-season build-up before the opening round in Argentina on March 2-3: can Tony Cairoli match Jeffrey Herlings? Maybe aim for that record-equaling tenth crown? “Never, ever, underestimate Tony: that’s my opinion,” Jonas smiles. “I think Jeffrey is fully aware of that. I think he respects Tony a lot. In the end we could be in the same position as last year but I don’t really know what to expect. I just know that both will give 100% and Tony will go into it with full motivation. I really think he will try for it again. It won’t be easy for either rider.”

Red Bull KTM will be fortunate to scourge MXGP with the same intensity as 2018 but the series will undoubtedly feel a bright splash of orange in the months to come.

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Orlyonok (RUS) 2018 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


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KTM Factory Racing: The ultimate support truck and rally team logistics

Behind every good team is, among many other things, an impressive race truck. Certainly, that’s the case at KTM Factory Racing. Two years in development and construction, the new six-wheel-drive monster is the brainchild of Michael Angerer. The KTM BLOG spoke to the Austrian mechanic to find out more.

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© Marcin Kin

“It has been a really big project for me,” admits Angerer. “We bought a chassis from MAN, and the whole thing was built from the ground up. Although some other companies helped with the initial build, all the planning and the interior construction was done by me.”

Michael’s regular job is to support the factory and customer teams with spare parts at events such as the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, and of course the Dakar Rally. The race truck build turned out to be quite the side-project.

“This was the biggest challenge I have ever taken on, and as it was an addition to my normal work it took a long time to finish. I knew exactly what was needed from the truck though and after close to two years I got it finished. I’m very proud of it, but I need a holiday now!”

KTM Factory Racing Rally Support Truck Specs:

Base model: MAN TGS
Engine: 12.4 liter 6-cylinder diesel
Power: 500 horsepower
Weight: 26 tons
Generator: 26Kw
Seats: 3

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© Marcin Kin

Behind the cab, the truck is split into sections, each with its own role. At the front is the workshop area where two bikes can be stored and worked upon. All the tools and machinery needed to maintain the bikes or strip down engines and suspension are stored here.

The middle area is used for spare parts. In a race situation, mechanics working on the bikes request the parts they need, these are then distributed by the ‘spare parts guys’, such as Michael. At the 2018 Dakar, customer service was huge – 75 riders, half the entry list, were looked after by the team. Competitors have a contract with their local dealer who then works closely with the factory to carry and supply the parts necessary for each rider.

The service provided by KTM is invaluable to the customer riders. By receiving their spare parts from the team, riders simply have to turn up with their own bike and gear. A suspension tuning service is also available – the customers simply bring their forks and shock absorbers to the truck to have them serviced, every day if they wish. Even if someone suffers some sort of technical issue, the team mechanics will try to help as best they can.

Towards the rear of the vehicle, there is a space for a fridge and food storage. A small shower and wash basin are located here too for the use of the mechanics. At the very back there are racks for spare wheels. 25 front and 25 rear wheels are carried, these are all fully prepared and ready to go straight onto the bikes when they are required.

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© Marcin Kin

Although changes to the regulations now mean the support vehicles rarely have to follow the riders’ route offroad, the KTM race truck is still extremely capable when the going gets rough. With six-wheel drive and 500 horsepower, only the very toughest terrain can challenge the 26-ton MAN vehicle. Even in the soft sand dunes the truck can make good progress, despite its weight.

In the past, KTM has entered vehicles in the truck class of the Dakar but not any more due to the sheer work involved in taking care of them as well as the bikes.

“One previous Dakar we had six trucks to look after,” remembers Michael. “We had two race trucks and four customer trucks. It was too much, I prefer just having to worry about the bikes these days.”

“When the support vehicles followed the route, the rules were a lot different. Everyone used to stay in tents and these had to be erected at the end of each day. Now the riders stay in camper vans and the support vehicles generally only use proper paved roads to get from bivouac to bivouac. Back then, all vehicles had to incorporate a roll-cage, drivers wore helmets and the trucks were equipped with bucket-seats and five-point harnesses. I do miss those days sometimes – there was a greater feeling of adventure and things got quite competitive between some of the rival truck drivers!”

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© Marcin Kin

When in transit two team-members ride in the truck, there is also a third seat if needed. The one bed onboard is used by the driver who also enjoys all the comforts you would expect including air-conditioning and a good heater for those cold nights in the desert. The life of the mechanics and spare parts distributors is often less glamourous.

“Last year at the Dakar, an average day would see us get up at 3am in time to start work at 4. After the bikes leave, we would pack up the bivouac and hit the road, onto the next stop. If you are lucky you might get a few hours’ sleep on the way. We normally arrive between 2 and 4pm in the afternoon and set up everything again. The top riders generally arrive soon after but, on some stages, would make it to camp before the trucks.”

“The fastest customer riders then trickle in through to about 9pm – we are generally finished with the factory bikes by then. But then we have to wait for the last few riders to get in – some might have had troubles out on the stage and they need even more assistance. Often riders are still getting in early in the morning. We try to help out as much as we can, and it can often mean only a couple of hours sleep in the toughest nights.”

“The pressure involved with supplying the customer parts is huge. The riders pay a lot of money to ride an event like the Dakar and rely on the support we give them. Supplying half the motorcycle entry with parts is a massive task.”

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© Marcin Kin

With the introduction of the latest version of the KTM 450 RALLY, the team had to increase its total number of parts held due to the all-new design of the machine used by the factory. At any rally event, shared between the factory and customer trucks, is a total of over 60,000 parts valued at around a quarter of a million euros. Just making an inventory of all the spares takes up to two weeks to complete.

When the 2019 Dakar Rally kicked off in Peru on January 6th, focus was of course on the competitors leading the field through the 5,000km route. Without the individuals and infrastructure behind the scenes, those top riders would soon grind to a halt. KTM and Toby Price gained the 18th consecutive victory at the event, but only a huge team effort made it happen.

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© Marcin Kin

Photos: Marcin Kin


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The new ‘home’ of KTM

KTM’s ‘MOTOHALL’ is the result of four years planning and almost 30 million euros of investment. Here’s the lowdown on the company’s impressive new showpiece set to open early May in Mattighofen.

There is an undeniable KTM presence in Mattighofen. The town is a short distance across the German-Austrian border, east of Munich, north of Salzburg. Signs, transport, and bikes pop up frequently in the small center and close to the main factory. A spares center and engine plant are also easily spotted before the main road to Munderfing shows off yet more new structures, the Racing HQ and KTM Components GmbH.

The taste of orange will become slightly stronger by May when the firm open the doors of their ‘MOTOHALL’ to the public. Built a ten-minute walk from the principal assembly lines, the easy-to-find multi-purpose, multi-storey KTM ‘hotspot’ is more than a museum or a display zone: it is a modern and stylish beacon for the company’s roots, achievements, current activities and future. Kristina Kuttruf has been charged with overseeing the massive project – one of the most diverse and fascinating in KTM’s history – so we asked what it’s all about, what visitors they can expect and why it’ll be well-worth tapping ‘Mattighofen’ into the GPS app.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

Welcome to our MOTOHALL. There are five sections to the exhibition then a shop, an adjacent restaurant called ‘Garage’ and a small café bar inside the actual MOTOHALL. We also have the presentation hall and parking space for about 130 cars. We have three main floors that chart the KTM story. On the first floor we talk about the design, the clay modelling, the shapes, the engineering and evolution. We’ll speak about the engines and the engine families, frames, suspension, the subsidiaries and KTM worldwide. It is hard to offer people KTM factory tours because we don’t have the space for visitors to walk around so in the MOTOHALL instead we’ll have a map model to see how the factory has developed and grown over the years and since the 1950s. You can touch a ‘building’ and see how it is inside and how it is today. You walk to the third floor through a ‘ring’ layout that illustrates the KTM history with all the bikes. The MOTOHALL floors are inclined and it is quite a complex and interesting piece of architecture. After seeing the evolution of the bikes you can then pass other areas like customer racing that has models like the KTM X-BOW and the Moto3 bike and the actual current model range will be on display. Racing has pride of place and we have the third floor dedicated to our racing heroes. It was not easy but we chose 28 heroes from our champions and they are present with their ‘figure’ and original clothing and bikes. We have a 360-degree video installation where a film made exclusively for the MOTOHALL is shown every hour highlighting the racing and the racing spirit. Goosebumps guaranteed.

“It’s not a museum because it is not dedicated entirely to history instead it is the heart of KTM, the epicenter.”

That’s not all. In the basement we have meeting rooms as well as a presentation space where we can run events for up to 400 people. It has a state-of-the-art sound and lighting system so we envisage having launches, MD meetings and things like presentations of race teams. We also have a ‘living workshop’ where one of the technicians will be there the whole time and will be restoring old bikes and you can talk and interact with him. In the Innovation Lab, located next to the workshop, kids and teens can experiment with technology like a laser plotter and 3D printers. Students might find it interesting to work in this section as the facilities are on a high level. For sure it will be interesting for school kids making an educational visit.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

Staying in Mattighofen. We had a mission statement and it was to allow people to be part of KTM and our technique, visions and heroes. Also to let people know why we are in Mattighofen and what our roots are all about. It was important that the MOTOHALL was located here.

Shop ‘til you drop. I’m very happy that we have about 300 m² for the shop space and to show the whole KTM PowerWear range. The current shop at the factory is really small so we are limited with what we can reveal. Riding gear is a bit different because you need time to explain technical wear and best left to the dealers. We can keep stock in the factory – which is just next door – but we also have space for stock in the MOTOHALL. The same staff in the current store will move in and I think they are happy to have a much larger and more modern facility.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

Reaching the people. One of the great things is that up until now we, as a company, have only really communicated with motorcycle riders and race fans and now we are able to open up to much more people: families and kids, grandparents, non-bikers and business partners that want to do an event at the MOTOHALL. For the first time we are really ‘open’ and speaking with everyone. It is a challenge but it is great. What I really love is that we can offer something more. In the past we saw people who have ridden up from Italy and they are standing outside the factory taking photos and selfies; we cannot offer them a tour because the rate of bike production means we need all the space we have. Now, for the first time, we can open our doors and offer them something. We can show them the core of KTM and some of the philosophy as well as a chance to read and hear cool stories, see cool bikes, videos and things they won’t find anywhere else. We have a whole launch and communication concept and we have only just started with the Instagram account. We are going slowly with that because there are still a few months to go. Two months before opening we’ll push on with the publicity, offer more and more information on the KTM MOTOHALL website www.ktm-motohall.com and get in touch with KTM fans.

Initial visitor numbers. It’s hard to say … we have tried to see what other similar concepts have managed but we have to remember that while we are a very strong and interesting brand on the one hand on the other we are not located in a big city like Munich or Stuttgart. I think if we can attract 60,000 visitors a year at the beginning then this would be fine. Overall it is a little of guesswork but we as team are prepared to offer a comfortable and interesting experience for all national and international visitors.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

The tickets. We’re talking about 10 euros for adults and 7 euros for concessions. Children up to the age of 14 are free. We have a group price and a family ticket. The MOTOHALL will be open every day of the week except Mondays. The few public holidays where the MOTOHALL will be closed can be found on the website.

The MOTOHALL has to be engaging for a motorcyclist, an engineer but also a mother of two kids who has never ridden a bike.”

Let’s get interactive. The kids will have a ‘Rookie tour’ that involves a ‘Road Book’ taken from the main desk and there will be fourteen stations in the MOTOHALL where there will be an activity, sometimes with a touch screen and they will have to collect stamps in the book. We’ll also have a model of a 65cc bike with the sounds and vibration so they can feel what a bike is like for the first time. Then there are things like finding particular ‘heroes’ where the stamp is an autograph, and a section where they can build their own bike digitally and get a photo of themselves with types of riding gear and this image can go inside the road book. It is pretty interactive from the age where kids can read – so from six, or even younger, if parents help them. There is a lot to do. For older ages we have technical tables where you can go into real depth. At the suspension ‘table’ you can take a screwdriver and adjust suspension to see and feel the clicks and digitally a bike will then appear on the screen and show you how effective your idea or setting was. There will also be educational videos, such as showing the differences between 4-stroke and 2-stroke and engine concepts. You can interact with the screens. It is much more interactive than some other places I’ve visited where the displays are very static. KTM engaged the agency ATELIER BRÜCKNER from Stuttgart that has dealt with many huge projects, like BMW in Munich, and they made the ideas for the interior and we delivered the bikes and the knowledge.

It will look good! The metallic sculpture of the exterior is supposed to give the effect of a dirtbike’s wheel spokes of going through the mud. Each individual metal plate has been slightly adjusted and changed to create this. Quite a job!

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

Our biggest challenge was … that we started with an idea but we have not stuck with it. If we’ve seen or thought of something that would be an improvement then we’ve gone with it, even as we have drawn closer and closer to the opening. We had the architects around the table and have used a technical team; an example is the Innovation Lab – which will be in the basement – that came up around a year-and-a-half ago and gives youngsters the chance to explore all these new technologies like 3D modelling and virtual reality. Furthermore, they can experiment with things like soldering stations. We saw that it would be popular and it wasn’t in the original plan but we moved to make it happen. It’s typical KTM: if you see an improvement then we go for it and don’t stick with the old way. We also had to lean quite heavily on departments like R&D. They are busy designing and building new motorcycles but we needed details and approvals and used the test riders to give us sensory information and data for the interactive parts of the MOTOHALL. It was a lot…and I know they are now happy that we’re not bothering them anymore!

We’ll make our own oranges. The café and restaurant was something we wanted to handle internally. After all, the restaurant is normally the last place to be visited so the impression has to be just as strong as the experience in the MOTOHALL and you don’t want guests having low quality food or drinks. Of course, KTM is not a catering company so we were looking for partners and in the end founded our own company with experts. The quality is something we can control directly. It is something new and something to learn.

The MOTOHALL down the line. After the first year we’ll start with special exhibitions – we already have some ideas in mind – and we want to keep it interesting. I believe there is a lot inside the MOTOHALL and it might not be possible to ‘get it all’ in the first turn. You might need two or three visits to enjoy all the details. The MOTOHALL will have a ‘convention center’ role as well and we’ll invite companies to have their meetings and presentations as long as their ideas fit together with KTM. This will be a new kind of business case.

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© KTM Motohall GmbH

What KTM think of A KTM MOTOHALL. It has been a long-term task and we have been working on it now for nearly four years. People were a bit distant from it in the beginning but as it progressed and took shape the interest really grew and the questions started coming and I saw many people getting so enthusiastic. I think every corner of the company is standing behind this and is proud that KTM is building this MOTOHALL. It is a positive project and I think we are lucky to be working on it.

Photos: KTM Motohall GmbH


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Jordi Viladoms’ Road Book School

Speed in cross-country rallies is useless without good navigation to back it up. The skill required in both marking and reading a road book separates the great from the good, especially at races like the Dakar Rally. KTM Rally Team Manager Jordi Viladoms takes us through the all-important, and often misunderstood, roll of paper.

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Jordi Viladoms (ESP) 2018 © Sebas Romero

With the 2019 Dakar being held exclusively in Peru, with the majority contested in the expansive sand dunes of the Peruvian desert, navigation will be key throughout the 10-day competition. Looking back to the 2018 event, the four days spent in Peru proved to be some of the toughest of the rally, both in terms of navigation through the featureless landscape and the sheer physical and mental strain endured by the athletes.

Jordi Viladoms is no stranger to the Dakar Rally having ridden the event 10 times himself. The KTM Rally Team Manager takes us through the road book used by the Dakar riders and how it can make the difference between securing a top stage result or getting lost and losing valuable time in the desert.

“The road book itself is quite simple – it tells you how far you have travelled and takes you from reference to reference by helping you to plan the route that lies in front of you. Printed on a roll of paper, it is made up of three columns – the first shows you the distance from the start of the stage, the second is the terrain, obstacles and dangers at that specific distance and the third contains additional information, other points of interest and reinforces the danger markers.”

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KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

“At the end of each day of racing, riders are given the road book for the next day. You have probably seen the photos of them with lots of colored markers, going through the road book adding notes and coloring them in. Each rider has his or her own method for marking their own road book, but the objective is always the same – make the road book easier to read at speed by highlighting any dangers as well as the important information needed to follow the correct route – your heading, waypoints, etc.”

“Although it looks like fun, this process of marking your own road book and understanding the following day’s route is extremely important. Most of the terrain you encounter in the rallies is unpredictable and you have never seen it before. Because of this, you will find the top riders mark their road book and then go through it several times. Often, they try to visualize the stage so that when they come to ride it the following day, they have a good idea of what to expect.”

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Toby Price (AUS) Merzouga Rally 2018 © Marcin Kin

“On the bike, the road book is mounted on a couple of rollers and you scroll through using thumb-buttons mounted on the handlebars. Part of the skill of cross-country rallying is the ability to glance down for a split-second and understand your road book immediately. You don’t have time to study the information or symbols as you are covering the ground so fast. To master this and become completely familiar with the symbols and instructions can take quite some time.”

“At the very top level of competition, riders are prepared for turns and obstacles that still lie miles ahead. It’s this skill that separates the very elite of rallying and enables them to maintain a fast pace throughout the timed specials.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Desafio Inca 2018 © Marcin Kin

“Of course, the KTM Factory Racing Team practices very hard on both their riding and navigation but one thing that is difficult to practice for is the fatigue and loss of concentration when racing. Something as simple as pressure to get a good result can affect your concentration, but in a rally like the Dakar, days upon days riding 100s of kilometers in the heat of the desert can seriously affect your ability to focus. This is where mistakes can be made and as such, rally riders need to be both physically and mentally strong to overcome the challenge.”

“Although the road books are generally very accurate, sometimes the information can be slightly off, or dangers can be missing – so riders still have to expect the unexpected. Terrain can also change from when the road books were created. For example, dunes can shift, holes can form and rivers can flood. A good rally rider is always ready to react to these things and again, being able to adapt can make the difference between claiming a top result or losing several minutes in any stage.”

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

For the 2019 Dakar Rally, the six-rider KTM Factory Racing Team will all need to mark and understand their road books for each one of the 10 stages of the event. Faced with timed specials covering 2,880 kilometers of sand, dunes and desert, the riders could be facing one of the most challenging Dakars to date. With the team aiming to claim KTM’s 18th consecutive victory at the event, the winner will unquestionably have mastered the art of the cross-country rally road book.

Photos: Sebas Romero | PhotosDakar.com | Marcin Kin


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Intensive course: offroading with your adventure bike

A round-the-world trip on two wheels comes just once in a lifetime. Your adventure bike is standing ready and prepared in the shed, all that’s missing is the riding skills you need for your trip. Motorcycling on the roads is no problem, but traveling on tracks and dirt roads brings with it some real challenges. An intensive course could well be the answer!

Many motorcyclists dream of doing a long-distance trip on their trusty two-wheeler. Eventually you get to the point where you need to make that trip that’s been going round your head all these years actually happen. So … you clear your diary for two months and take the sabbatical you’ve been planning for so long. The motorcycle trip you’ve mapped out will still be great if you stick to the beaten path but will become really brilliant if you get offroad here and there. A challenging gravel track will get you to places you won’t read about in a travel guide.

But, for many motorcyclists the question is how do I handle the bike offroad? Eddie de Vries, editor-in-chief of Dutch motorcycling magazine, MOTO73, does ten thousand kilometers a year on his bike but mainly on asphalt roads. He understands the right riding and observation techniques, but when you’re offroading, there’s also a strong element of being bold and going for it. “We have articles on offroading in our magazine, but we have specialists we call on for those pieces. As a result, I rarely find myself going offroad. It’s a shame really as it’s a great feeling just striking out on a route that leads into the unknown.”

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Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

And that would suit the 33-year old journalist, who you could say has got the traveling bug, down to the ground.  Eddie can already cross a few countries off his bucket list thanks to the launch of so many new bikes. But, outside of his work too, he enjoys taking off to unexplored regions and this has already brought him to countries like Vietnam, Colombia and Nepal. All by bike, of course. He’s currently planning his next trip for work, to Morocco. Clearly, the rugged landscape of the country is an invitation to get offroad. So, time to get some advice from the experts on a course run by former Dakar competitor Eric Verhoef. With ten Dakar Rally competitions to his name, you can be sure he’ll be able to teach the editor of MOTO73 a thing or two about offroad motorcycling. The course is open to all and, if you’ve got an adventure bike, he’d be delighted to take you offroad and show you what it’s all about. In any event, these tips will give you a good grounding to help you on your way.

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Eric Verhoef KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Tip 1: prepare well for your adventure
Eric Verhoef: “There’s so much more enjoyment you can get out of your adventure bike. In fact, once you’ve learnt to ride offroad, a whole new world opens up in front of you. It’s important that you approach this new challenge in small steps. Before you start, it’s a good idea to look over your equipment carefully. Clearly, a good helmet is a necessity, but even there you’ve got a range of choices. Always make sure you have a wide field of view and your eyes are well protected. The options include an adventure helmet with visor or a motocross helmet with goggles. Take a careful look at the visor tinting. If you’re going to a hot country where the sun shines a lot, it’s definitely good to have dark tinted ‘glass’. That way you see more contrast during the day – it can make quite a difference. Another alternative is to wear sunglasses under your helmet: then you can have your visor open if you want to and get a bit of fresh air circulating while still keeping your eyes protected. Tough boots and extra protection for your body are very important. Body armor should not be thought of as an unnecessary luxury, because if you do take a fall you want to be sure you minimize injury to yourself as much as possible. I would say knee protectors are a must. Even though you only have to bend out your knee to a minimum on a heavyweight adventure bike, you need to give your knees that extra protection at all times. After all, your knees are very important joints, especially if you want to go offroading. In terms of clothing, there is a wide choice and so all sorts of variations are possible. As long as you’ve got the basics right, that’s all that matters. One thing to remember is that you need to be able to move easily on your bike. It is definitely worth giving consideration to thermal underwear. It’s designed specifically to keep you warm and is very thin. That way you don’t have to wear a thick jumper that may restrict your freedom of movement. My final tip in terms of equipment is to get a camel bag. It might sound like a luxury, but it’s far from it. Make sure you drink a lot: cycling offroad takes much more out of you and uses more energy than riding on asphalt.”

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Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Tip 2: check your motorcycle thoroughly
“Even more important than your personal equipment is, of course, your bike. You need to check that everything is working properly and check all wearing parts. This applies in particular if you’re going to be away for an extended period. If you are in any doubt as to whether any parts are still up to the job, replace them. One key item if you’re going to be riding offroad is tires. Some decent nobbly tires are a must if you’re riding on rough terrain. You might lose a bit in comfort and grip when you’re riding on asphalt, but that’s a small price to pay for the advantages you get once you’re offroad. I would recommend considering the Continental TKC80, the Michelin Anakee Wild or the D606 from Dunlop. So, get good advice on tires from your local dealer. Grip is everything if you’re heading out onto rough terrain with your adventure bike. Another must is hand guards, if they’re not already fitted as standard. The same applies to crash bars. There’s always a chance you’ll take a tumble, and they will help you avoid damage to expensive bodywork. Not only do hand guards protect your fingers from pebbles that are thrown up, they will also increase the chances your handlebars will stay intact after a fall. These are parts that could just make the difference between continuing on your journey or having to stay put with a severely damage bike. What I almost forgot to say is that you should get a shield for the crankcase to prevent a stone strike having fatal consequences for your engine block. As well as tire grip, you need to be sure you can stand securely on your bike. Check whether the rubbers on your footrests will come off. You are usually able to do this on an adventure bike. You need to be sure your boots won’t slip. Another good tip is to check if the handlebars are in the right position. Normally they will be adjusted to an average length, but if you’re slightly below or above average h, it’s worth checking this. You need to be able to ride comfortably in a standing position. If the handlebars are too low, you could consider handlebar risers.”

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KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Tip 3: assume the right posture
“The important thing when you’re riding offroad is being able to feel what your machine is doing. To achieve this, you usually need to get into a standing position. You should not extend your limbs fully as they act as human suspension components. The knees and elbows need to be able to absorb unevenness in the surface you’re on. They won’t be able to do this if they are ‘locked’ straight. Because you’re standing, you also have more pressure on the foot pegs and that’s the main thing for balance too. The position of your feet on the pegs is also important. The ball of your foot should be doing the work. I still see far too many people riding with clown’s feet. It’s dangerous too, because the risk of getting pulled off your bike is that much greater. In terms of your hands, just keep gentle, relaxed contact with the handlebars. In fact, you only need them to apply the gas, to change gear and to brake. Imagine you’re playing the piano. Don’t hold on for dear life or it’s not going to work. At higher speeds you generally steady your bike with your knees, but when you’re going at creeping speed you need to keep your knees slightly away from the machine. That way you can let the bike move nicely between your legs to keep your balance. To get a proper feel of the effect of standing on the bike, do a bit of a test. By letting your machine break out, you’ll feel the difference instantly. If you sit on the seat, your whole body will make the same movement as the bike. Then take up a standing position: when the rear wheel breaks out it will feel much more controlled. Once you’ve experienced this, it won’t feel so worrying next time it happens and that in turn is good for your self-confidence. And, if there’s one thing that’s important for offroad motorcycling, it’s having confidence in your own abilities.”

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Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Tip 4: steering on unimproved roads
“It’s just like skiing. Just because you’ve bought a pair of skis, it doesn’t necessarily mean the next thing you need to do is book a winter sports holiday. Start by learning to ride on rough terrain nearer to home. It’s definitely helpful to go on a course, then you pick everything up that much quicker. Whatever way you approach it, riding offroad needs a different technique to road biking. It’s a good idea to learn the basics first on gravel tracks. Gravel still gives you a reasonably hard surface, but you still need to use all the offroad techniques to stay in control. When you’re riding an adventure bike on gravel, create pressure on the front wheel by standing. Keep your speed low and build up your confidence. Initially, avoid using the front brake altogether and learn to drop your speed using the back brake. It’s not that easy to recover when you lose your front wheel on gravel. Of course, modern bikes have special ABS settings for offroad use that provide extra control. On reasonably hard surfaces you ultimately steer with your body and you think yourself round bends. Look well ahead and make sure you have enough time to anticipate unexpected situations. You need to see your adventure bike as being more like a steamboat, while a true offroader feels more like a speedboat. Its hefty weight means you need to build in a bigger margin. Riding in soft sand demands a completely different technique again, because in this situation you need to make sure you keep the weight off the front as much as possible. You also need to make sure the bike keeps pulling, albeit you don’t want to be giving it full throttle all the time. When the bike is pulling, the front forks will not plunge in. If this does happen, then the front wheel has a tendency to act like a castor. In loose sand try to keep a straight course as much as possible. Keep your weight towards the back and make turns using the rear wheel, once again controlling it using the gas. Weight and application of the throttle are very important for riding on sand. If you’ve never tried it or only have limited experience, I’d definitely recommend doing an offroad course. You need to know what it feels like when it’s working right to be able to ride on sand. If we’re talking about sand, dune riding has to be the ultimate. Be warned, it’s pretty hard-going cruising through dunes on a heavy adventure bike. Having a play in the dunes is great, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a whole day riding in that sort of terrain. But, if you think dune riding is really your thing, then it’s best to get a lightweight offroad machine.”

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Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Tip 5: it can go wrong
“We touched on hand guards and crash bars earlier. These will help to avoid damage if you take a fall. Another point to be aware of in terms of safety is riding with others. If you’re planning to go offroad, make sure there is at least one other rider with you, and always keep each other in sight. If something does go wrong, at least there’s someone there to help. You don’t want to be waiting hours for the next vehicle to go by because you’re in a sparsely populated region. If your bike is lying on the ground, then you need to have the strength to right it again. Given the right technique, this should be within everyone’s capabilities. A good approach is to push your bottom into the saddle from the side with knees bent. Pull one handlebar toward your body and hold it with one hand. Put your other hand down as low as possible on the other side of your body and grasp the bike. It’s then a question of taking small steps backward until the bike returns to an upright position. Don’t forget, by the way, to put the bike in gear so that it can’t roll away while you’re busy righting it.”

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Eddie de Vries & Eric Verhoef KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

There’s one other thing to remember when you’re offroading with an adventure bike: practice makes perfect. Have a go, maybe take a course and get as many kilometers under your belt as possible. You never know, you might be standing at your employer’s door in a few weeks’ time with the all-important news that you’re off on your travels in a couple of months. If that’s you, then we’d like to wish you a fantastic trip!

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Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions


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Dakar Rally Fast Facts

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Dakar Rally Fast Facts

With the start of the 2019 Dakar Rally growing closer and closer, we take a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about the world’s toughest cross-country rally. From the fuel used by the bikes on the long, arduous days to what the riders do when it comes to bathroom breaks when out in the desert …

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KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

1. Origin of the rally
2019 marks the 41st edition of the Dakar Rally and the 11th successive year the event will be held in South America. Of course, the race got its name from its original final destination – Dakar, the capital and largest city of Senegal, West Africa. The race was first held in 1977 and was the brainchild of Frenchman Thierry Sabine who, after getting lost in the Ténéré desert while competing in the Abidjan to Nice rally realized that navigating the wide-open dunes would pose quite a challenge for a rally. 182 vehicles took part in the inaugural Paris-Dakar Rally, just 74 made it to the finish – 40 years on, 335 vehicles made the start of the 2018 event with just over half completing the 14-stage event.

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Antoine Meo (FRA) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

2. Mousses and tires
All of the KTM Factory Racing bikes run Michelin tires and mousses during the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and at the Dakar itself. For the 2019 race, which will cover a lot of soft sand, the team will run the desert mousse and tire combination that has proved so successful in competition. The mousse itself is a foam insert that takes the place of an inner-tube, inside the tire. It’s puncture-proof and can withstand a lot of abuse from even the roughest, rocky stages.

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KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

3. Fuel and regulations
Unlike other motorsport events where a control fuel is used, petrol at the Dakar is not regulated by the organizers. The team will always try to use the highest quality fuel available to them and will aim for a minimum of 98 octane for maximum performance. During the race riders will stop at refueling points, which are placed so that there is never more than 250 km between stops. Suggested petrol stations are listed on the road book too, should competitors need further fueling. Receiving petrol from fans or locals is not allowed however, although if a rider is forced to do this it normally means he’s having a seriously bad day and protests are rarely made in this case.

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

4. Riders’ tools and maintenance
Part of KTM’s pre-Dakar rider training program involves working on the bikes. Riders are shown how to fix the problems they may face while out in the desert. Although they can’t carry a huge array of parts and tools, generally riders carry sets of brake pads, spare clutch and brake levers, a fuel injector and the tools required to replace these items, and to carry out basic maintenance on the bike and fuel tanks. Two of the biggest issues faced in cross-country rallying is damage caused by a crash or when the bike is flooded, when crossing a river for example. Damage can easily happen to the navigation tower in an accident and when a rider loses their instruments, they have no option but to either wait for another team member to guide them home or to follow the tracks in the sand ahead of them from other riders. If the bike is flooded, riders have to first remove water from the exhaust system and then from the engine itself by removing the spark plug and turning the engine over on the starter. If water gets into the gearbox or fuel system the rider’s problems become much, much worse.

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

5. Getting some sleep
The Dakar Rally is tough. Even at a slightly shorter length of 10 stages the 2019 event, held exclusively in the Peruvian desert, will pose a huge challenge to all riders. The physicality of riding through the open desert will be matched by the mental strain of navigating the route – the four days in Peru easily proved to be the toughest of the 2018 race. After spending hours in the saddle, riders have little chance to rest due to the time required to go through the following day’s road book and rider briefing, from the organizers. On average, even the factory team riders only get six hours of sleep per night before each grueling day. Riders in the Malle-Moto class who have to work on their own machines each night before they can even think about getting some rest, often survive on only three-hours sleep before setting off again once more. It takes incredible mental strength just to make it to the start line each day, let alone complete the rally.

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Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

6. Food and nutrition
Skill and speed on a bike alone are not enough to get you through the Dakar Rally. The KTM Factory Racing riders work closely throughout the year with nutritionists and trainers to maintain the level of fitness and health required to compete at the very top level of offroad motorcycle sport. The team will aim to be at the absolute peak of their condition when the rally kicks off in early January. Of course, the nature of the sport means that this is not always possible – injuries sustained during the season can pose problems when racing for days on end in the desert. Illness and sickness can also arise when riders are physically tired or exposed to unfamiliar conditions.

Making up an important part of the KTM squad are a chef and a doctor, both of which stay with the team for the duration of the rally. The chef provides the balanced diet required to sustain the riders over such a long and arduous event, the doctor is on hand to maintain their physical condition. Even a small injury sustained in a crash early on can have a huge effect come the end of the rally. Bruises, sprains and general muscle fatigue can be countered with the correct medication and physiotherapy. In the same way that the bikes undergo maintenance at the end of each regular stage, the riders too need a certain amount of tuning.

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Luciano Benvides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

7. Altitude
Although not so much of a factor in 2019, riding at altitude can cause huge issues for both the rider and their bike. Luckily, with a h of around 2,500 meters above sea level, the highest stage in the forthcoming event will not challenge the competitors anywhere like the 2018 event. It is estimated that the stages held at close to 5,000 meters reduced the power of the KTM 450 RALLY bikes by up to 30%. The effect on the riders themselves was perhaps even worse. Already tired from the days leading up to the mountain stages, riders found the route through Bolivia exhausting. The lack of oxygen at such an altitude robs the muscles of strength and makes it extremely difficult to concentrate – two things that are most definitely required when averaging 90 km/h through fast, rocky terrain. Again, overall fitness is very important for the riders with many spending the winter break training at altitude in preparation for the rally.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

8. Bathroom breaks
It’s a fact of life and affects everyone, but when faced with hours on a rally bike while trying to maintain the highest average speed through a featureless desert, using a nice clean, well-appointed bathroom is not always possible. The choice of how to handle this issue ultimately comes down to the rider and each one will approach it differently. Often the biggest worry when expending a lot of energy on the specials is more a case of dehydration. Temperatures on the Argentinian stages last year topped 40 degrees around the town of Fiambalá, if a rider has an accident and loses the water from their hydration system it can pose a real problem if they are still a long way from the next checkpoint. Illness is another factor and can easily force a retirement from the event. Unfortunately, if faced with a case of vomiting or diarrhea while contesting an event, the rider has no choice but to go on route. As unpleasant as this sounds, it can still mean the difference between securing a good result at the climax of the event or suffering a DNF. A good shower however, is definitely necessary at the end of each day!

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

9. KTM’s support rider
For 2019, Mario Patrao will ride for the first time as a fully-fledged factory rider within the KTM team. It’s not his first Dakar or the first time riding as support rider, but it is the first time the experienced 42-year-old will be officially classed as riding within the team. An accomplished rally competitor, Mario is the most decorated Portuguese offroad rider with over 25 national titles to his name. His highest Dakar finish was 13th in 2016 where he also won the marathon class. Due to take part in the 2018 event, a bad case of appendicitis caused Patrao to miss the race after having to undergo surgery just days before the start. Although aiming for a top-10 finish at Dakar 2019, his role as support rider within the KTM Factory Racing Team means he may be called upon to assist a rider ahead of him should they run into trouble. If a rider fighting for the win should suffer a technical issue or have a crash that damages their machine, Mario can stop and assist them to get them back on track as swiftly and efficiently as possible. His help could be the difference between a rider winning the event or being forced to retire.

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Mario Patrao (POR) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

10. 17 consecutive wins
Nowhere else in top-level motorsport is there a domination such as KTM’s over the bike class at the Dakar Rally. Matthias Walkner’s win at the 2018 event was the 17th consecutive victory for the brand and the team are just as keen to make it 18 in a row when the rally comes to a close in Lima, Peru on January 17th. Imagine your local football team winning the league for 17 years solid or a single manufacturer dominating Formula One for so long. Starting from the late Fabrizio Meoni’s win on his KTM LC4 660 R back in 2001, the Austrian brand has won every single Dakar Rally since. Even when the event switched to South America in 2009, KTM kept on winning – 10 of the victories went to the legendary pairing of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma who between them won every single rally from 2005 to 2015. Through changes to the continent, different countries and even a reduction in the bike capacity, KTM has remained on top. This is purely down to the team working as one to produce an unstoppable force in what is truly the world’s toughest motorcycle event.

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Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero

Photos: Sebas Romero PhotosDakar.com


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Nicola Dutto: “Always looking ahead”

Never will he stop trying new things. A horrific crash left Nicola Dutto bound to a wheelchair, but even with that setback in mind, he’s still out to achieve his goals. His next challenge will be kicking off on January 7, 2019. That’s the day he’ll start the Dakar Rally.

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© Francesca Gasperi

Certain dates are etched in the mind. A beautiful memory like your wedding day, the birth of a child, or perhaps even the first time you swung a leg over a new motorcycle; your mind archives the day for you, so you can come back to that specific memory on its annual anniversary. Dark days unfortunately follow the same routine. One man that knows all about it, is Nicola Dutto (48). March 20, 2010 is one of those dates; one that will stick by him until the day he dies. On that day fate took a turn for the worse, when he experienced that which all racers fear. It was during that year’s Italian Baja in Pordenone that left Dutto paralyzed from the waist down. “The last thing I remember is kicking the bike up a gear from fourth into fifth. What happened right after, I don’t know. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes, wanting to get back on the bike. But I couldn’t get up.” Spectators quickly gathered round the fallen Italian, in an attempt to help him up. “I told them right away not to touch me, because they were moving in to take my helmet off. I needed medical assistance above all, quick too.” Some of Dutto’s spinal vertebrae could not handle the impact of the crash and cracked as a result. There was no way around it at this stage; the Italian Baja specialist knew pretty quickly he was paralyzed. “But that wasn’t even my main concern at the time, because the doctor that had rushed to the scene pointed out I was still critically hurt, since my heart wasn’t functioning properly and the blow had also reduced my lung capacity to around twenty percent of normal.”

Fourteen weeks of nothing
Nine hours of surgery later, Nicola Dutto spends an additional five days in the ICU. Two weeks later, he’s moved to a rehabilitation clinic near his home town of Beinette. “All the broken bones had to heal, which meant I had fourteen weeks of doing absolutely nothing to look forward to. The staff would lift me off the bed with a sheet, so they could put me in an electric wheelchair.” Because he was basically bedridden at this point, with rehab waiting for him once the broken bones had healed, he had quite a bit of time to ponder the whole situation. “Thinking about it all at the time, it’s really difficult to try and see the light,” he admits in all honesty. “I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t shed a tear. Once I started to figure out what the consequences meant, I cried a lot. It’s like someone pushed a button. The one moment you’re out there racing and the next you’re confined to a bed, without functioning legs.” Dark clouds had been gathering over Nicola’s head, but he was fortunate to have Elena Foi by his side. The couple had met at a party at Scorpion Bay, six months before Nicola’s life-changing accident. “We’d only known each other for a little while at that point, and the first thing Nicola told me when he woke up after surgery was “You don’t have to stay with me.” Naturally I wanted nothing else but to be there for him, even though I didn’t know what was going to happen at all.” Elena lives in Brescia, almost three hours from Turin, where Nicola was treated in the rehab clinic; traveling back and forth as often as she could. “We lived three hundred kilometers apart, so that was problematic, especially since I had a job and two daughters to raise. I lost my job in the end, unfortunately, but my parents couldn’t have been more supportive. It was a tough period, but Nicola’s recovery was going well and after nine months he could return home. After that my daughters and I moved in with Nicola.”

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© Francesca Gasperi

The sole Italian
Before his accident, Nicola Dutto earned a living racing professionally. It wasn’t until Dutto was nineteen he started racing, but that did not stop him from building quite a career in a relatively short period of time. After moderate success riding enduros, the Italian shifted his focus to Baja races. Cross-country races with arrowed out routes seemed to be his forte. “A friend of mine pointed out this particular new sort of racing. In Spain the sport had taken flight and I just fell in love with the game. Eventually I moved to Spain and lived there for six years, just to put all my time into the Baja.” Dutto regularly competed with Dakar hotshots like Marc Coma, Isidre Esteve Pujol, and Nani Roma. Back in the day he was something special, being the sole Italian in a field full of Spaniards. In Italy they held only some fast enduro races, but nothing like a ‘real’ Baja. Dutto managed to make a name for himself in the sport, eventually taking the European Baja title in both 2008 and 2009.

Dutto’s beloved sport first came to be on the Mexican Baja California peninsula, and in 2010 he had intended to race the legendary Baja 1000 race there too. Unfortunately, that never happened that year, but – believe it or not – despite his injuries and his time rehabilitating, Dutto’s name was back on the entry list the year after, as a buggy racer this time. “My crash had ruined my chances of racing a motorcycle in Baja, but my rehabilitation gave me time to reconsider my options. In the end I decided on racing the Baja 1000 in the buggy class, together with Elena.” The Italian couple’s adventure ended with them stuck in the Mexican desert, after a transmission belt got fried. “The problem was aggravated because we just couldn’t replace the belt on site. The belt was behind my seat, so it was impossible to get to. We waited for assistance in that riverbed all night. I had made up my mind right then and there; this never again. Four wheels mean trouble. So, I needed to get myself back on two wheels.”

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© Francesca Gasperi

Spanish connection
Three-time AMA motocross national champ Doug Henry inspired Dutto to follow in his footsteps. After the Italian saw the roll cage Henry had used on his bike, he started to work on building his own version. “Motorcycle racing is the pivot point of my life, although getting back on a motorcycle after my crash had seemed impossible until then. I had thought about trying my hand as a race organizer, because it was still the world I wanted to be a part of. Riding bikes again myself? No, that had never crossed my mind in the beginning.” After seeing Doug Henry all that changed, and the Italian was back on a bike soon after. Thinking about that day immediately puts a smile on Dutto’s face. “I felt like such an idiot getting back on a bike again. I was terrified too. We had mounted sort of like training wheels to the bike and at first I went completely pale at the thought of actually riding it. What had I gotten myself into. But a few hundred meters in, I found my balance again. I was certain then I was going to ride again.” After those first tentative steps back on a bike, Dutto enrolled in a Baja race. Just four months down the road, Dutto scored a 24th place in the Baja Aragon. “I had really intended for it to be a fun ride with friends. Just cruising through the mountains, but I couldn’t deny I wanted to get back in the sport. I needed to get in touch with some of my Spanish friends.”

With motorcycle racing back on the cards, the Dakar Rally soon came up for Dutto, too. “Before my accident Bajas had been my main focus, but since it, I’ve been seeing new opportunities everywhere I look. Like the Dakar. It was never a dream for me like it is for most, but to me racing the Dakar is like taking part in the Olympics. Three years ago, while watching the race on TV, I thought to myself why not do the Dakar?”

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© Francesca Gasperi

How adversaries became ghost riders
Despite his handicap, Nicola Dutto is no different than other potential contestants, in that he has to qualify to be allowed to take part in the world’s toughest race. He did so last year when he finished the OliLibya Rally. Every competitor needs a team to even have a shot at finishing a race, but for the Italian having capable people around him is beyond crucial. During rally raids the KTM rider is accompanied by so-called ghost riders. These ghost riders go by the name of Pablo Toral, Victor Rivera, and Julian Villarrubia. “We will start the Dakar Rally as a four-person team. One rider will ride in front, because I can’t just stop to have a look around, to see where I’m supposed to be going. He guides me onto the right trails up a dune for instance. He’s also the one to ‘catch’ me when I have to stop for fuel or when I reach the finish line. The other two riders follow in my wake. In case something goes wrong, they’ll be there to pick me up. As I’m tied to the motorcycle it’s important having the two of them, because it’s not just the bike they’re picking up, but the roll cage and myself with it. For me it is even more important than it is for ‘normal’ riders to have a team I can rely on; it has to feel like a family. I am fortunate to have three incredible ghost riders – guys I’ve known for a very long time. They used to be my adversaries in the Spanish Bajas!”

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© Francesca Gasperi

Since Dutto is paralyzed from the waist down, he needs more than just his three ghost riders with him; the bike needed quite a bit of work as well. His KTM 450 EXC-F has undergone a transformation to allow the Italian to be comfortable on the bike. Dutto uses an electronically controlled shifter as well as an automatic Rekluse clutch. The rear brake master cylinder has been moved to the handlebars, too. His legs are secured and guarded by a framework. Other important parts on Dutto’s unique KTM are the Vicair seat and back support with a three-point harness attached. “Comparing my current Dakar bike to the bike I first built to get back on two wheels, you could say a lot has changed. On the old bike the roll cage was pretty big and bulky, where on my new bike it’s brought back to a very minimalist design. It allowed us to shed quite a bit of weight from the bike, which helps controlling the motorcycle. It’s also worth noting the engine of the KTM enduro is a lot better, too. Engine characteristics and the fact it has a six-speed gearbox is perfect for me.” Obviously, Nicola had to adapt his riding to the new situation. In his own words, it now feels like normal riding without using his legs. “It’s pretty difficult explaining how I have to ride a bike now. It is a very involved manner of riding, and it has taken a lot of time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Working on getting the suspension to work for me was interesting, because I’m unable to stand up to take the blows anymore.”

© Francesca Gasperi

The best example
The paraplegia has led Nicola Dutto through a deep and dark place, but his eyes were always on the light shimmering on the horizon. He couldn´t be happier he decided to approach his rehabilitation as only a professional athlete would. “I put in the hours of training, with the clinic staff telling me I was mad. Instead of going for just an hour of required physical therapy, I pushed on. If I could, I would try two or even three hours. That sped up progress drastically. I still felt like a professional athlete, even without functioning legs. Preparing for the Dakar Rally I’m back in that zone again.”

His entry in the Dakar Rally is the best example of Dutto’s will to enjoy life – especially since he can combine life with motorsports again. “I consider myself a happy man, not just because I’m still alive, but also because there’s still so many projects left to do for me. In 2013 my good friend Kurt Caselli lost his life. That was hard to swallow, but at the same time it made me more determined in making the most out of life. Look, the accident left me with two options. I could’ve looked back, thinking about the time when I could still walk, but that wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere. I decided to take the second option, because when I’m on a bike or when I’m skiing – another passion of mine – I’m always looking ahead. And that is how I’m living life with my paraplegia, too.”

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© Francesca Gasperi

Want to follow Nicola Dutto during the upcoming Dakar Rally? Check out his social media pages:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nicoladutto/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nicola.dutto.official/

Photos: Francesca Gasperi


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Interview of the Month: Toby Price – Bouncing back from injury and his journey to the 2018 Rally World Championship

2016 Dakar Rally winner Toby Price is no stranger to hardship. Before his rally career had even begun the Australian suffered three broken vertebrae during a Hare and Hounds crash in America. Then, when defending his Dakar title in 2017, another fall resulted in a badly broken leg that resulted in his immediate retirement from the event. But through a positive mental, dogged determination and a never give up attitude, Price fought back to claim a hard-fought Dakar podium finish in early 2018. Price then went on to win the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship making him a firm favorite for Dakar 2019. However, once again the KTM ace is experiencing the rollercoaster ride of the sport, as he faces a race back to fitness to make it to the start of the Dakar in January, after sustaining a wrist injury this week.

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Toby Price (AUS) 2018 © Sebas Romero

Toby’s Dakar journey started back in 2015. Riding for KTM as a support rider to the notably more experienced duo of Marc Coma and Jordi Viladoms, the Australian finished on the podium to surprise not only many of the Dakar regulars but also himself.

“I was shocked to be honest, I certainly didn’t expect to finish on the podium. Going into the event, I knew it was going to be tough – my goal was to finish top 20, but I was definitely hoping to go a little better and maybe even crack the top 10. As the rally went on, my results improved, even taking a win on the penultimate stage. I just kept my head down and kept charging. Finishing third was amazing and I was hooked from then on.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar Rally 2015 © Marcin Kin

One year later, Price was standing on the top step of the Dakar podium. In what was only his sixth ever rally, the multiple Australian Offroad Champion won five of the 13 stages and his winning margin at the end of the 9,237 km race was close to 40 minutes.

“It’s hard to put into words how tough the Dakar is, if you haven’t experienced it for yourself it’s not easy to understand. Just finishing the event is a triumph – winning it feels truly amazing.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar Rally 2016 © Marcin Kin

Not surprisingly, following his Dakar success his focus was 100% on cross-country rallying. Claiming third place in his first full season in the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Price went into Dakar 2017 full of confidence.

A strong start was followed by a win on stage two as it started to look like Price could claim a second consecutive victory at the event. A navigational error cost him a lot of time on stage three and the Aussie went in to the fourth stage looking to claw back valuable minutes. Disastrously, a crash when pushing hard just a few kilometers from the stage finish resulted in a broken femur and the end to his Dakar Rally for that year.

To say 2017 was ‘a challenge’ for Price is a huge understatement. Needing time to recover properly and rebuild his strength and fitness, a planned return to competition at the OiLibya Rally of Morocco ended up with Price needing to go under the surgeon’s knife with Dakar 2018 just around the corner. A serious question mark hung over Price’s participation in the following January’s 2018 Dakar.

“I was worried. I had to have my injury cleaned up and because of the extra surgery it meant I had very little time to prepare for what is one of the toughest races in the world. I’d been off the bike for close to nine months and to come back from that and be on the pace was going to be a huge ask. The team were great though, they did an incredible job on the bike and in supporting me and I went into that first stage in Peru feeling as good as I possibly could have considering the year I’d had.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar Rally 2017 © Marcin Kin

After a solid start to the rally, Price went from strength to strength, finding pace when other riders were beginning to tire. With two consecutive stage wins and a second place on the 14th and final stage, the 2016 Dakar winner successfully completed the rally in an impressive third place.

“I was so happy to get to the finish line in Argentina – that was always my main goal right from the start. To finish the Dakar Rally is an achievement in itself, to come away at the end of the race with a podium was unbelievable, especially after such a difficult year. The whole team came together and worked so hard, our results simply wouldn’t be possible without all the great people around us.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar Rally 2018 © PhotosDakar.com

The start of the 2018 world championship season wasn’t so successful for Price. At the first race in Abu Dhabi things started off well with a win on stage one, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders claiming the top three positions on the day. Going into stage two, and despite another strong start, a sizeable crash caused damage to a fuel line on his KTM 450 RALLY, which ultimately cost close to 30 minutes. Price crossed the line in 11th position. The Australian was able to fight his way back to seventh overall, but with his main championship rival Pablo Quintanilla taking the win, it would be a huge challenge to make up enough points over the remaining rounds to claim the overall championship title.

“Seventh at the end of the rally was not where I had planned to finish. Having said that, after the crash I had I was glad to complete the rally in one piece. I didn’t give up and pushed right to the end, although it was always going to be tough to try and make up for so much lost time.”

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Toby Price (AUS) Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2018 © Marcin Kin

With the major teams deciding not to contest round two in Doha, it wasn’t until the Atacama Rally in Chile and round three that Price could regroup and fight once more for the title. Riding consistently and never finishing outside of the top five, the 31-year-old claimed the runner-up position on the podium and went a little way to putting his world championship campaign back on track.

“I set out at the beginning of the Atacama to ride consistently and get back up to speed with the bike and navigation after the break over the summer. To take second after such a tricky race was really encouraging and helped to build my confidence for the last two rounds.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Atacama Rally 2018 © Rally Zone

Another strong ride in Argentina at the Desafio Ruta 40 took Price to another second place, a mere six seconds from the win after 17 hours of riding. Most importantly however, Quintanilla was again one place behind giving Price an extra few points in the championship battle with just one round left to race – the Rally du Maroc.

The rankings were close heading into the final round with Price trailing the leading Quintanilla by just eight points. Any one of the top six riders in the standings had a chance to take the championship title however, and it would all be played out in the sand of Morocco.

Despite the pressure of the championship chase there was only one option for Price and that was to come out swinging, and that is exactly what he did. A win on the opening prologue stage threw down the gauntlet to his competitors. He backed it up with a win on stage one.

Despite opening the route on stage two, Price led most the timed special and was only narrowly beaten on time by teammate Matthias Walkner. Holding the overall rally lead heading into stage three – the first of the rally’s marathon stage – Toby rode a safe 280 kilometers, conserving himself and his machine, to arrive sixth at the bivouac.

With just the final two stages left to complete, Price gave it his all – posting the fastest time on the long stage four, finishing one place ahead of Quintanilla to secure his overall lead at the event with just the one day remaining.

The fifth and final stage of the rally, and indeed the 2018 world championship, could not have gone much better. A close fight with Honda’s Kevin Benavides took Price to second place, just 12 seconds behind. The result was enough for the KTM rider to claim overall victory at the rally and in turn, the 2018 FIM Cross-Country Rallies crown.

“It was such an amazing season – I still can’t believe it. It was seriously tough and after a slow start in Abu Dhabi I never dreamed I would be champion at the end of it all. Despite injuries and setbacks during my career, I have never given up, I have always looked ahead and tried to take some kind of positivity from it all. I was really nervous going into that last day in Morocco, despite my lead you can never take anything for granted in rallying. This is my first ever world championship and after such a positive Dakar at the beginning of the year, 2018 has been incredible. It’s all credit to my team and everyone at Red Bull KTM, without them behind me I wouldn’t be in the position to do the things I do. To stand on top of the world is the best feeling ever.”

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Rally du Maroc 2018 © Rally Zone

Toby now looks to Peru and the 2019 Dakar Rally. The Australian has another injury-battle to overcome, having fractured his right scaphoid in training for the event, which is a definite reminder of the elation and challenges involved in racing offroad. Toby is a determined man though, and he fully expects to be racing in the new year – with his comback history, who knows what he might be able to achieve in the 10-day event. What is clear is that his goal will remain the same as every year; a good safe ride and a strong finish. We wish you a fast recovery Toby and look forward to seeing you at the Dakar!

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Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY 2018 © Sebas Romero

Photos: Sebas Romero | Marcin Kin | PhotosDakar.com | Rally Zone


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Under the skin of the rally team: Sam Sunderland and Toby Price talking about their ink

Their wins are the result of their riding skills and inner strength. Their scars are a sign that their motivation to win outweighs their fears. Their tattoos are reminders of their teenage rebellions and deepest passions. Their body art is the ultimate proof that pain is nothing to endure when you decide to bleed for love. Translated into words, their ink says Life is fragile, we are not.

Warriors have always used them, long before they became mainstream, to identify themselves, to commemorate loss and mark triumphs. Sam Sunderland and Toby Price have fulfilled the two former things of the tattoo list, while the latter, the ink that would represent their wins, is still on hold. On January 7 they will again put on their armor, and go chasing glory. The number of Dakar trophies to document on their skin is still far from final.

Sam’s story

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) 2018 © Sebas Romero

A stupid one to start
Not every tattoo has a story, yet there is a story behind everything. Like many significant things in the life of Sam Sunderland, his love affair with ink began at the edge of Rub’ al Khali desert as well. “I got a stupid one when I was 17,” recalls Sam when asked about his first tattoo. “It seemed like a cool idea at the time, to have my name written on the back of my arm. I went on holiday to Dubai to see my cousins, we were best friends and pretty much the same age, and we got our names translated to Arabic. At the time, people in England would have their names written in Chinese, so to be different we chose Arabic. Actually, it wasn’t that cool because now this thing will be on my arm for the rest of my life. I can’t see it, which is good, and I can say to people that it means something like `Seize the moment` or `Never give up`, which is funny.”

Love, death and sugar skulls
After a couple of years, when the pain was already well forgotten, Sam had another – much more brilliant – idea, and got his second and third tattoo on the backs of his calves. “I’ve always loved sugar skulls. I don’t know why, just have. They are linked to Mexican culture, to the Día de los Muertos celebrations, as a way to honor the deceased. Mine are here for the same reason, to remember my friends who died. One skull is female, one is male, with a mustache, though it doesn’t mean that one is for a girl and one for a boy. If you look closer, there is some interesting stuff inside: bicycles across both the eyes, guns, a sprocket, a spider web, a compass and of course, the flowers,” explains Sam, and adds: “Looking at them now it really seems a bit strange to have two skulls on the back of my calves.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) 2018 © Sebas Romero

Sharing scars with a koi carp
“For me free-diving is the only time when I can really zone out. My life is pretty chaotic, but under the surface I somehow manage to control my thoughts. I go free diving because I spearfish,” says Sam. The big koi carp tattoo, masterly done in Thailand by a local tattoo artist, tells a story of a big passion. “To be honest, this one is also a bit strange. The reason I wanted it so big is that I wanted it to seem like it’s flowing around my knee. As result of a broken femur the fish now has two big scars,” says the winner of the Dakar 2017, and adds: “The ones on my calf muscles took three hours each, while I had to lie down for six hours for the fish. I don’t know which is harder: a really long day at the Dakar or a painful adventure like this.”

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Sam Sunderland (GBR) 2018 © Sebas Romero

Time to roar
Thinking of his next one, the idea is to get something super delicate, detailed, with fine lines and stuff. In other words: on a warrior’s skin there is always some place for a lion’s head. “I like what the lion represents and I think it just looks bad ass with his mane.”

Toby’s story

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Toby Price (AUS) 2018 © Sebas Romero

A chubby kid, riding for national titles with number 287
“My first tattoo goes back to when I was 17, about to turn 18. I was racing motocross at that stage and never thought I would change my number. As all motorcycle riders do – they put their motorcycle number somewhere, I decided to do the same, and put number 287 on my lower back. Even now when I don’t run that number any more it still holds significance for what I did in the past,” Toby opens up about his first inked adventure. “87 is the year I was born and basically my riding number, but as a junior, every time I took part in Australian nationals we had to add the first number of our postcode. When you saw number 2 on the plate you knew the kid was representing New South Wales. Well, a little short chubby fat kid running for nationals with number 287 was me,” laughs the current World Champion in Cross-Country Rallies, the winner of the Dakar 2016 and proud guardian of two smaller tuaregs.

Painting the Price
Another thing motocross riders do is put their last name on themselves. So, Toby got PRICE written down his spine, the exact place where the riders can pay the highest price. “I got the outline done and then basically left it as that for a year or so. When I decided it wouldn’t be that bad I went back to the chair and had it colored in. Well, not entirely. After the P, it started to feel really uncomfortable so I skipped R and went straight to I, because it didn’t take as much coloring in. After an hour I got fed up again and left. The plan was to come back again in a couple of days, as at that point I still had three letters to do. Unfortunately, it took me another year to finish it. My mates made fun of me whenever they saw it. It’s all under my shirt, no one knows of it, unless I run a racetrack and take my shirt off. I always like to keep them covered, I want people to approach me without being put off, even if now I am sitting here with a dodgy mullet. What does that say about me?”, he smiles.

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Toby Price (AUS) 2018 © Sebas Romero

For a girl he would still carry in his arms if he could
“And then I also got one tattoo on my chest, a cross and two birds holding a ribbon,” he goes on. “This one is for my older sister Amanda that passed away in 2011. She had a big impact on my life and now I carry her on my heart. I know she is keeping me safe while doing all this wild, crazy and wonderful stuff. She was disabled from birth and also blind, so already as a kid I was looking out for her. I was her legs and her eyes, I really enjoyed being around her. I always thought to myself that could have been me. She taught me about how precious life is. Because of her and for her I live my life to the fullest. You never know when your numbers are up and you’ll get cold. Therefore, when the moment arrives, I will be sure that I did everything I could, pushed hard and gave 100 percent. I never say no to anything, I grab every moment with both hands and run with it. This is why this tattoo means so much to me. I knew what I wanted to do, and strangely enough, although the two tattoos on my back were extremely painful, the one on my chest, I knew it was for a reason and I don’t even remember it happening.”

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Toby Price (AUS) 2018 © Sebas Romero

Time to race
Speaking of expanding his tattoo collection, Toby says he’ll wait and see how many Dakar trophies he is able to get, and then he will act. Also, his next tattoo will be meaningful to him. It will talk about something he’s achieved and done. “What I know for sure is that I don’t want to get anything random, and I also have to accept the fact that there is no more space on my back,” laughs the wild Aussie.

The road to a new tattoo will obviously be dusty, fast and utterly adventurous.

Photos: Sebas Romero


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#inthisyear1998: Technology and Design Offensive

Full-speed ahead in every respect – that’s what KTM is all about. This also means keeping on top of what’s going on in the world of motorcycling, be it touring bikers or owners of powerful single-cylinder beasts. The KTM 790 ADVENTURE in particular, presented in two versions at the EICMA, and the return of the completely overhauled KTM 690 SMC R caught the attention of KTM’s army of enthusiasts. Two decades ago, as the global market leader in the offroad sector, KTM also successfully gained a foothold in the sporty street and touring bike segment with a successful technology and design offensive. Even from first glance, KTM bikes have boasted an unmistakable KTM design pedigree for years – we don’t need our logo to stand out!

KTM has been READY TO RACE for more than six decades. In the mid-1950s, Erwin Lechner went from victory to victory on the “Apfelbeck-KTM”, and in the late 1960s, the start of series production of offroad bikes marked the beginning of KTM’s journey into becoming the global market leader in offroad models for years to come. As early as 1974, KTM bagged its first international title win. Gennady Moiseev from the then Soviet Union won the first motocross world championship for the Mattighofen-based manufacturer, and Imerio Testori from Italy became European Enduro champion in the 500cc class – the Enduro world championship having not yet been launched. These were two titles that would be followed by countless others over the years.

In 1992, KTM was under new management following the insolvency of the former KTM Motorfahrzeugbau AG, meaning that the R&D department was devising new concepts for the future. Just two years later, the range of offroad bikes was expanded to include the KTM 620 DUKE – a street version with a powerful LC4 single-cylinder Enduro engine. KTM has manufactured both offroad and onroad machines ever since. However, the KTM 620 DUKE, which was designed as a “fun bike”, was not produced in high volumes in order to close the gap with major industry players. As long-distance touring was the fashion of the time, it made perfect sense that Wolfgang Felber, who was head of R&D at the time, entitled the next project “All Terrain Enduro” – a twin-cylinder machine for long-distance touring bikers that could be used both offroad and onroad. In fact, there had already been some talk of getting ready for the future some years previously. A V2 engine with two 553cc LC4 cylinders was produced in collaboration with Jens Polte from Darmstadt, who is known for his racing achievements at the “Battle of the Twins”. This monster promised power in abundance. Those responsible for the “All Terrain Enduro” project also opted for a slim twin-cylinder V-engine, which offered considerably more possibilities than the tried-and-tested LC4 single-cylinder motor. The 60 mm short-stroke design provided for a low construction h, while the cylinder angle of 75° ensured compact dimensions. Called the LC8, the V2 engine delivered a good 100 hp from 950cc by the time the KTM 950 ADVENTURE concept bike was presented in 2000 at Intermot in Munich. At the 2002 Dakar Rally, Fabrizio Meoni was the first to cross the Lac Rosé finish line in the Senegalese capital on the rally version of the KTM 950 ADVENTURE. This was the second KTM victory at what is probably the most popular motorbike rally in the world – a distinction unmatched by any other manufacturer to date. The introduction of the KTM 950 ADVENTURE onto the market followed in 2003, the year of KTM’s 50th anniversary. By the time KTM introduced the KTM 990 DUKE concept bike at the EICMA in autumn, it was clear that KTM did not wish to surrender the large-volume street bike segment to its competitors.

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KTM 950 ADVENTURE © KTM

However, the developments did not represent a departure from the offroad sector – quite the opposite in fact. With the LC4 Super Competition having previously raised the bar for 4-stroke engines in Enduro and motocross races, a second range of 4-stroke racing engines (starting from 400cc and 520cc) then went into series production. Alongside the move to the new factory building in autumn 1999, production of the EXC-Racing and SX-Racing models – which were intended exclusively for competition use – began.

The LC4 motor was also further engineered – with an increased displacement and now called the 640 LC4, it was most powerful single-cylinder series engine in the world. It was used in various Enduro and Supermoto models and also in the KTM 640 DUKE 2, which is still hailed as a “design masterpiece” by some journalists today.

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KTM 640 DUKE 2 © KTM

For KTM, the days of only being able to identify a motorbike by the brand logo on the fuel tank were long gone. The legendary Mint & Pepper models from the early 1990s are still remembered by many owing to their extravagant colors, but somehow they did not succeed. Great success only came several years later when KTM turned orange. At the time, Gerald Kiska, a young designer to whom the KTM design contract was awarded, and who has been responsible for the distinctive KTM design ever since, was in agreement with KTM CEO Stefan Pierer that all future models should be recognizable at first glance.

The original orange color was refined further, and in the world of motorcycles, “KTM Orange” soon became the equivalent of “Ferrari Red” for cars. This not only applied to the paintwork on the motorbikes, but also to the entire brand image – from letter paper and trade show stands through to dealer showrooms.

In the late 1990s, Kiska perfected the topic of “Edge Design” for KTM, which had become popular in the automotive sector. To this day, all KTM motorcycles bear the hallmark of Kiska’s unique handwriting style.

And long before anyone ever thought of LED signatures, the KTM DUKE 2 was immediately recognizable as a unique KTM model even from the rearview mirror. The reason for this was the two ellipsoid headlights one above the other; a unique styling element in the motorcycle sector. Over the years, KTM did not produce any more bikes with two adjacent headlights, let alone one above the other. Even today, a DUKE or ADVENTURE is still recognizable at just glance thanks to its typical “face”.

Twenty years later and things have come full circle at the EICMA – two decades after the first multi-cylinder concepts, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE (in two versions) with the compact LC8c motor complements the mid-range class in the Travel segment. And just like the one-time “All Terrain Enduro” project, the bike is well suited to adventure tours and offroad voyages of discovery on tough terrain.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R MY2019 © KISKA/F. Lackner

Photos: KTM | KISKA/F. Lackner


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