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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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The KTM Factory Racing Team is prepared for Dakar

Posted in Bikes, Racing

The Dakar Rally is not a race where you can be complacent. Despite 17 consecutive wins for the KTM Factory Racing Team, each member of staff involved in the rally program is meticulous in the preparation for one of the toughest and most famous races in the world.

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Toby Price (AUS, #3), Luciano Benavides (ARG, #77), Matthias Walkner (AUT, #1), Sam Sunderland (GBR, #14) & KTM 450 RALLY © Sebas Romero

The countdown has begun for the 2019 edition, which will be solely hosted in Peru, and with a vast majority of the 10 challenging stages being held on sandy terrain. It will not be easy.

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team includes three Dakar champions; Toby Price (2016), who recently won the Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, Sam Sunderland (2017), Matthias Walkner (2018). They will be joined by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing young-gun Luciano Benavides, and KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz – the fastest female rally racer in the world – as well as Mario Patrao. It’s a strong line-up that will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in January, as they begin the journey for one of the most difficult races on the planet aboard their KTM 450 RALLY factory machines. With 5,000 brutal kilometers, sleepless nights, difficult navigation, marathon stages and the test of endurance for both rider and machine, anything really can happen.

With the team’s final test ahead of Dakar complete, we wanted to share with you a cool video of the KTM factory racers in action just before their race machines were loaded onto the boat at Le Havre last week. With the bike and support vehicles’ journey overseas started, the final preparations are being made and in a month’s time we look forward to the start of Dakar 2019.

Photo: Sebas Romero
Video: Luca Piffaretti



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Interview of the Month: I worked really hard – Laia Sanz and the Dakar determination

Posted in People, Racing

Incredible talent, an incredible mindset, and incredible determination; that’s what we found when we talked to Laia Sanz. A Dakar hero in her own right, the Spanish ace has defied the stereotypes to become one of the most-respected rally racers in the world.

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY 2018 © Marcin Kin

Dakar is tough, it’s grueling, it’s demanding – it requires excellent bike skills, and physical endurance whilst negotiating some of the most dangerous terrain in a motorcycle race. With wild extremes and navigation over 1000’s of kilometers from a piece of rolled up paper during the two weeks of the event, Dakar is the ultimate test for offroad riding skills.

KTM Factory Racing’s Laia Sanz is one of the only people to have finished every Dakar they’ve raced, that’s eight so far, and whilst being the top female competitor, she has enjoyed a number of top finishes within the top 10 and 15 in the overall standings. An outstanding result for any competitor. The five-time Enduro World Champion is always working hard, and is coming into the most important preparation time of the year for Dakar 2019 (the race highlight of the year), having raced some rallies and enduro events in recent months to keep her ticking over.

“Last year I did a hard training, I lost some weight. I was working hard in the gym, cycling, training a lot on the enduro bike and rally bike. I think in Dakar it’s not only one thing, you need to be really complete. Your head needs to be fine, you need to be in a good physical condition,” began Laia when asked what makes a good Dakar racer.

“Last year I had a trainer to work with me in every day training in the gym, but also to help me with the bikes and the van at home, so I can be more focused on training and rest a bit more. This means after training I don’t need to wash and maintain the bike – before I was doing all of this as well, which meant everything was always busy.”

“In the gym I’m doing strength, endurance, everything, some cycling, some skiing – I worked really hard last year and in June it’s time to start with the hard work again. I’ve kept training, but it’s time to step it up again. Between June and Dakar I have time to work hard, to lose a little weight and to be ready for Dakar – I cannot be at my best level during the whole season, because you become really tired. Dakar is the main race and I just want to be prepared for that.”

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Desafio Ruta 40 (ARG) 2018 © Marcin Kin

Last year Sanz was battling for another Enduro World Championship title, but it was difficult to switch between the heavier rally bike and her KTM 350 EXC-F when racing at such a competitive level. Now the KTM racer competes in national Spanish enduro events for fitness, especially as it provides around eight hours on the bike racing in Enduro2, which supports her training program for the rally events. She feels more focused and relaxed with this setup. So, what gets a young woman into bikes and then into rally racing – one of the most difficult racing disciplines of them all, with such high-risk factors and such a need for physical greatness? The answer is simple: A sheer love of bikes, and a passion for being the best she can be.

“I was four years old and in my first race I was six. Nobody in the family raced before me – my dad is really passionate about cars and bikes; he had trials bikes at home and my brother and I started with a small bike. I saw them all around and on the weekends they were going riding, and I wanted to go with them, but I was too young. Finally, I started riding at four and could go with them.”

“I think I arrived at this level because I worked really hard, but also because of my physicality. I’m not a small woman, I’m quite tall and strong and I’m lucky because of this as I have long legs and a big body. For me this helped a lot, for sure if I was a small girl on a rally bike it would be quite tough – this is a help, but I need to work hard. To be on a similar level as them (the men) I need to work more, I try to be fit, work hard and I think I have a lot of mental strength. I think that side of it comes with your personality and of course things in life make you learn can make you stronger – (the determination) it’s in my character, it’s something I was born with. I’m persistent, maybe even stubborn when it comes to my goals.”

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Laia Sanz (ESP) Desafio Ruta 40 (ARG) 2018 © Marcin Kin

It is well documented that women don’t have the same strength, endurance or even lung capacity as men, but Laia’s technical skills that she honed on a trials bike previously (she was a world champion at this too) gave her a fantastic technique that ensures energy is not lost in difficult places on the rally bike. Sanz is also excellent at navigating with her calm, precise approach, which gives her an advantage over many of her competitors.

However, with the extreme cold, followed by the extreme heat, the altitude, the terrain, the long days, the lack of sleep, fatigue, it’s not easy for any Dakar racer. The mental challenge to get up at 3am and race those conditions day-in, day-out is one that every rider has to battle, whilst not losing concentration after hours on the bike – a moments lapse can be catastrophic. We asked the question: Do you ever wonder why you’re doing it?

“Sure, many days in Dakar you ask yourself what you are doing there, why. I could be at home doing a normal job that’s safer, where I don’t risk my life, but of course I also enjoy what I’m doing a lot. It’s a really good feeling when you get to the end, especially if the result is good, because all of the work you’re doing through the year and in your life is paying off, and it’s a really good feeling. In Dakar the months before are so intense with work, also with the logistics, preparing everything. I’m lucky I’m in the KTM Factory Racing Team as before I had to prepare everything myself, the tires, loading the crate, just with people that can help me. I appreciate everything and the work that goes into it.”

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Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Desafio Ruta 40 (ARG) 2018 © Marcin Kin

She’s an incredible woman, an ambassador for sport in general with a strong allegiance of fans and while it’s a cliché thing to say she’s a woman succeeding in a man’s world, Laia demonstrates and represents what can be achieved despite any physical disadvantages with enough grit and determination – I’m sure many of the hundreds of men she’s beaten in races would agree.

All focus and intensity is on the Dakar 2019 race, which begins on January 6 where Laia will aim for a great result aboard her KTM 450 RALLY factory machine.

Photos: Marcin Kin


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Keep cool, calm and casual: The new KTM PowerWear Casual & Accessories range

Posted in Lifestyle

When you want the world to know you’re powered by orange juice … We pick out our favorite items from the 2019 KTM PowerWear Casual & Accessories range.

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KTM 2019 PowerWear Casual & Accessories © KTM

Comfortable and cool or fully leathered and protected? Dressed for the sunshine or wrapped up for inclement weather … It’s hard to know what to wear while riding, but for times off the bike, KTM has more than delivered with a huge range of casual wear and accessories from its 2019 KTM PowerWear range.

For those ‘orange bleeders’ who need to let people know they are cut from the READY TO RACE cloth at all times (even when not riding their bike), there is something for everyone – literally. Boys, girls, adults, children – the choice is as eccentric and eclectic as ever! The latest KTM PowerWear Casual & Accessories range features everything from bikes to bags, hoodies to hats, mugs to mats, shades to shoes and watches to wallets, made specifically to meet the demands of die-hard KTM fans who live life in the fast lane.

With over 160 items for riders, racers and fans of all ages, the range is broken into nine distinctive collections to suit the attitude and ambition of its intended user: Radical, Pure, Unbound, Emphasis, Replica, Orange, Mechanic, X-BOW and Kini-Red Bull. We picked out some of our favorites (below), but you can see, feel and try on the KTM 2019 PowerWear Casual & Accessories range at your local authorized KTM dealer. The full range can also be viewed online at www.ktm.com.

Our favorites

RADICAL EMPHATIC TEE (Radical Collection)
The Radical Collection features designs as loud as the KTM motorcycles they represent. Made from 100% cotton and 100% power, the Radical Emphatic Tee features a razor-sharp design to make a high-octane statement when supporting trackside.

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Radical Emphatic Tee © KTM

PURE JACKET (Pure Collection)
Subtle isn’t a word usually associated with KTM. That said, the Pure Collection features clean, authoritative designs but still shouts KTM attitude. The Pure Jacket strikes the perfect balance between form and function; waterproof, wind resistant and full of orange style 24/7.

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Pure Jacket © KTM

UNBOUND VEST (Unbound Collection)
The Unbound Collection encourages exploring the limits of everyday convention and beyond. KTM’s goal when designing the Unbound Vest was to follow the same winning formula as that of its motorcycles – keep the performance and function high and the weight low. Reversible with a sporty cut, this vest is also water and wind repellent. Available for men and women.

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Unbound Vest © KTM

EMPHASIS HOODIE (Emphasis Collection)
The Emphasis Collection has been made with the hardcore training requirements of a champion in mind. Leading that charge is the Emphasis Hoodie; fast drying, elastic and breathable. Available for guys and girls with a READY TO RACE attitude in a wide range of sizes.

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Emphasis Hoodie © KTM

REPLICA TEAM SOFTSHELL (Replica Collection)
From the pit lanes of MotoGP™ to Supercross, the Replica Collection allows fans and aspiring champions to look just as READY TO RACE as the pros do. The Replica Team Softshell lets guys and girls show their support and colors on or off the track or simply feel like a KTM factory rider.

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Replica Team Softshell © KTM

ORANGE JACKET (Orange Collection)
The Orange Collection stands alone with its unique blend of orange, black and white contrasts. Multi-functional, durable and undeniably KTM, the Orange Jacket is the perfect trackside companion – whatever the weather! Available for him or her in a wide range of sizes.

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Orange Jacket © KTM

MECHANIC SHIRT (Mechanic Collection)
The Mechanic Collection embodies everything a KTM specialist demands from their work clothes; robust and made to work. Gone are the days of oil-stained overalls and old tee-shirts, the Mechanic Shirt is a must-have item for every master technician’s workshop.

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Mechanic Shirt © KTM

Photos: KTM


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A Kid’s game? Talking Junior SX bikes and the ground-breaking arrival of the KTM SX-E 5

It’s not all 4-strokes, 450s and flying horses: KTM have also kept a sharp eye on their Junior bikes and the progress of the KTM SX-E 5 electric bike means a special step forward for the kids and the SX range. We asked how, why and when …

Among all the hype and homage to flagship motocrossers like the KTM 450 SX-F, the 2019 launch of the SX range had some surprises when it came to the Junior models. The recent EICMA show in Milan also upped the stakes with arguably one of the most important bikes in the offroad range being unveiled for the first time.

In a way the small SX´s – 50, 65 and 85 – are some of KTM’s purest expressions of riding and especially racing. The factory has equipped the machines with similar or the same components as their ‘bigger brothers’ with WP suspension, chromium molybdenum steel frames and a list of other features while the racing pedigree is obvious through the attention to competitiveness. If in doubt then simply look at the amount of KTMs in the top ten of the 2018 EMX 65 and 85 European Championships in the Czech Republic (6 in both classes respectively) last July.

A potent line-up of offerings for kids is basic marketing and sales sense. The machines may be mini but they should not be undervalued or underestimated. After all they could well be carrying KTM riders and customers of the future. “The kids are important to us and to get them on KTMs you need to get them early; you can see that even with our factory riders,” opines KTM Product Manager Offroad Joachim Sauer. “We have a very ambitious team for the minicycles.”

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KTM 85 SX MY2019 © KTM/R. Schedl

The essential toy & tool
KTM looked at ease of use for the 50 with an adjustable multidisc automatic clutch, lightweight WP AER air fork, PDS shock and a priority for easy handling. The 65 went a little more toward ‘race mode’ with the frame and high-performance cylinder equipped with pressure controlled exhaust valve (providing lots of torque for the competitive 65 class). To accommodate the step-up in experience and the needs of kids to continue learning meant a demand for the SX´s to keep setting standards on the track.

This was especially relevant with the KTM 85 SX. “The 85 was taken very seriously because it is a completely new bike and we adopted the same strategy of development as the big bikes but perhaps with a little less intensity,” says Head of Motocross Platform R&D Manfred Edlinger. “A strategy usually means moving step-by-step and area-by-area to make improvements. We looked at this very closely on the 85 and we took one of our best – and smallest! – test riders to do the concept work because with kids it is always really difficult to get good feedback. We did the main comparison tests with him and for the next stage of feedback we checked with a Junior racer at a high level and in this case it was [2018 EMX 125 race winner] Rene Hofer. That collaboration in 2016 fitted really well with our schedule of development because it was the last year for him on the 85 and he used the prototype in almost all the races and won the championship with that bike. It was great, and we did the whole process together. We looked at new topics, implemented them on the test rider’s bike and then Rene was immediately riding and racing with that.”

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KTM 85 SX MY2019 © KTM/R. Schedl

The 50 and 65s were not left behind. “We are always working to improve these models,” Edlinger adds. “The ergonomic development is a lot simpler because we use the same principals and surfaces but on a smaller scale. There are some small details that we improve frequently, such as smaller grips.”

If there is one regular observation when it comes to the Junior SX´s then it involves the bikes’ sheer strength and power. They really are READY TO RACE. Perhaps they are slightly overwhelming for the total beginner who has missed the 50 or 65 stages. “We have a restriction kit for the KTM 50 SX MINI and this works pretty well but the bikes are race-orientated and even the KTM 50 SX is quite powerful but it is difficult to find that balance between racing and slower riding with such a small engine,” Edlinger admits.

It is at this stage where KTM’s next project for the little SX´s comes to the fore. “The kit works well … but to be honest with the KTM SX-E 5 we’ll solve that problem and we can make different engine settings quite easily,” Edlinger says.

Flick the Switch
KTM have dabbled with e-mobility before. The Freeride concept for Enduro and Street have been explored and represented a benchmark of more than a decade of R&D and heavy investment. CEO of the KTM AG, Stefan Pierer, also underlined how important e-bikes will be to next generations of the company in a press presentation for the latest KTM FREERIDE E-XC model at the end of 2017. It was in October of the same year that KTM first talked about the KTM SX-E 5 and with a tentative date of 2020 for the technology to sit alongside the KTM 50 SX. The EICMA show pushed that date much closer to the present with the fetching 5kW low voltage battery powered already in finished form.

The motivation with the KTM SX-E 5 is not only to explore alternative power. It is a significant first rung on the ladder for motorcycle riders and KTM customers generally. “[This] is a great way to get more kids on two-wheels,” says Sauer. “This bike will be super-user friendly. Our 50s currently are almost race bikes and for beginners they are too strong. With electric you can make any type of power or power-delivery that is much more controllable. This will open the field and for the minicycles I’m confident that 50 is just the start.”

“We have quite a bit of experience with electric drive and batteries from the FREERIDE E but for concepts like the KTM SX-E 5 then you need a completely different development even if the department is the same,” he adds on the longer delivery time for what is one of KTM’s simpler but remarkably progressive motorcycles. “From year to year we gain more experience with e-mobility.”

“We are very confident,” says Edlinger by way of an update. The engineer also admits that he’d used his own kids as unofficial test riders for the various stages of evolution! “The performance of the prototype was already on a very satisfying level, even better than what we expected. We worked on different settings for the power delivery but even with the fastest setting we saw that unexperienced kids could handle it well.”

The KTM SX-E 5 also ended up having a few more appealing traits. “We are happy with our plans to make a ‘growing’ system, so you can change the h of the bike; this is a really nice feature and provides a bridge between the mini and the larger wheel SX.”

KTM have worked to keep their Junior offerings as (arguably) the number one choice for kids and parents. KTM SX-E 5 is just an example of how seriously they view this compartment of their motorcycle portfolio.

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KTM SX-E 5 MY2020 © KTM

Photos: KTM/R. Schedl | KTM


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Collecting Moments #9: Finally READY TO RACE again!

I may have dialed things down a notch over the past year while I got over my injury, but only in preparation for the new adventures to come. After 238 days I was back on the bike and after 363 days I was full of energy, commitment, and READY TO RACE again!

Over the past few months it has been the little steps forward that have slowly brought me back to my KTM 300 EXC. The first few steps without crutches, the first weights in the gym, the first mountain bike ride with my Jekyll, the first time back on skis, the first ride out on the bike, and finally the last – and probably biggest – step: back on the race track. It was important to me not to allow an entire year to pass between the accident and my next competitive appearance.

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© Anna-Larissa Redinger

I was staring at the calendar for the Austrian Cross-Country series throughout the entire season, with the same thought constantly rattling around my mind: “Will I be able to come back? When will I get back on the starting grid?” In my last blog entry I spoke of my first ride after my crash in October 2017. It was a special moment, even if I was more cautious, a little slower, and somewhat clumsier than before the accident.

I used the summer to try to rediscover my old form, which admittedly took longer than I had expected. A few times in training I simply expected too much of myself and became disappointed with the slow rate of progress. It was only when I set myself a goal – to compete in the final race of the Austrian Cross-Country season in Mattighofen – that my training started to kick off. And how! Suddenly it was back: that indescribable sense of freedom as you fly from one bend to the next. This was when I decided that I was definitely going to be there lining up for the start of my home race. The anticipation was huge – but with a hint of nerves too.

It had been a long time since I’d had that wondrous feeling of putting on new tires, adjusting the chassis to the perfect setup, and getting my bike ready to race. Loading the trailer, working through my race checklist, and finally getting prepared for race day. A truly special feeling. It was only once I’d got everything loaded up that I realized just how much I’d missed these moments over the previous year.

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© Anna-Larissa Redinger

Race day for me started at 1 pm in the guest class for male competitors. Why not in the women’s class, I hear you ask? Well, considering that I hadn’t raced for a single minute of the year’s championship and I really was only a guest, I felt it was more appropriate to compete in the guest class.

My start was nothing spectacular, but after deciding that I wanted to pursue an intelligent and careful strategy out on the track, I didn’t want to risk everything right at the start of the race. There were 90 guest riders in total and I lined up at number 78 on the grid. Amazingly, I quickly found a great rhythm and felt better with each corner mastered. As the race progressed I trusted myself more and overtook 20 or more riders.

One part of the course in particular asked a lot of my mental resolve. It was pretty much identical to the situation where I had injured my knee before. A steep downhill section with a rut as the track. During the warm-up lap I had noticed how my heart rate shot up when I reached this point. I was nervous. My memories of the fall played back in my mind and I could hear the sound of tearing ligaments. “Think of the Romanian forest, Larissa, you’ve already mastered far more difficult sections! You can do it!” – I had to build up my courage! But it worked: with each passing lap I completed this downhill section with more and more authority.

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KTM 300 EXC © Anna-Larissa Redinger

I also stood up to the physical demands better than I had expected. While training at home I had never ridden this sort of distance, so I was really jumping in at the deep end – I couldn’t be sure if I could hold out for the full two hours or not. But as I never overcommitted or pushed myself to my absolute limit during the race, I was able to conserve my energy through to the end. I didn’t feel anything from my knee at all. It was as though nothing had ever happened. My goal was to complete the race without an accident or injury in order to gain some confidence, but also to enjoy myself. In that respect, I definitely succeeded and I am incredibly proud of that!

I am grateful and so happy that it didn’t take a whole year to get back on the race track after my injury – and that the experience was so overwhelmingly positive. The motivation to train hard through the winter and get ready for the 2019 season is indescribable! I am once again ready for many new moments on my KTM, including on the race track!

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© Anna-Larissa Redinger

Get to know more about Larissa on the KTM BLOG – Collecting Moments #8: 238 days and I´m back in the saddle! – or check out her website!

Photos: Anna-Larissa Redinger


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A new 690 roar with the 2019 LC4

Posted in Bikes, Riding

It can be great to be ‘Single’ – plenty of people will tell you – and KTM’s feelings are the same when it comes to one of their most effective and innovative engine concepts. What new 690 delights await?

2018 EICMA and the reference for motorcycling exhibitions saw KTM unveil several models that caught the eye. Among the 790s, E-bikes and other updates for 2019 was the augmentation of the wide KTM catalog with the renovation of the LC4 single-cylinder engine. The revised ‘mono’ – first created back in 1987 and a mainstay in the KTM R&D halls since – sits at the heart of the new KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 ENDURO R: two curious bikes that satisfy the specific tastes of supermoto and offroad riders but are also configured for sturdy road and everyday use.

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KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © KTM

The SMC R harks back to KTM’s street origins when the company transitioned their punchy and exciting offroad technology directly to the tarmac and became the Supermoto rider/racer’s bike of choice. Towards the end of the second decade of this century the firm have now embellished what was once a raw and rugged motorcycle into one that still delivers thrills but boasts the type of specs demanded by users young, old, experienced and fresh to the potential of the ‘slide’.

Standing out on the KTM 690 SMC R is that engine, and with 74hp at 8000 rpm it is renowned as the world’s most powerful production single. KTM have sculpted the slimmer but more voluminous (13.5 l) fuel tank as a load bearing component for extra rigidity and precision and, together with more compact bodywork, the chassis houses an LC4 that is smoother and more sophisticated than ever. The SMC R comes with two ride modes and has cornering ABS, lean angle-sensitive motorcycle traction control, motor slip regulation (MSR) and Quickshifter+, and the familiar Supermoto ABS mode aiding rear slides with front-end confidence.

Four years ago, the KTM 690 ENDURO R was a revelatory trail bike: brutish power delivery on-tap but – somehow – as docile as a cat and with the handling of a KTM 350 SX-F. ABS braking was new fangled on such a hard enduro offering.

For model year 2019 the ENDURO R has received a hard shot to the vein with the LC4 promising yet more connection between throttle hand and power play, an even smoother pull and increased efficiency. The ENDURO R also fastens a 13.5 l tank into the brand-new chassis, WP XPLOR suspension and split damping. Electronics might seem arbitrary on such a motorcycle but the provision of lean angle sensitivity to braking and traction functions, two different ride modes, offroad ABS, Quickshifter+ and motor slip regulation (MSR) to prevent rear wheel lock means this is a state-of-the-art and versatile dirt-cum-all-purpose bike. As the promo material packaged and sent with the KTM 690 ENDURO R states: ‘No road or route is impossible’.

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KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

The LC4 continues to prosper … and means KTM are still prioritizing diversity of choice in their motorcycle line-up. Just what will EICMA 2019 bring?

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



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Let’s get 790 happy

Posted in Bikes, Riding

The annual Milan spectacle saw KTM unveil two new bikes that will excite riders of the travel enduro category. What was under the wrappers at EICMA?

Seven years of continual growth for KTM and a burgeoning street division meant that the company were not rocking on their heels for 2019. A packed presentation area in Italy saw the unveiling of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and an accompanying R model to further extend the family around the 799cc LC8c twin-cylinder engine concept.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R MY2019 © KTM

The travel enduro models are the ‘orange’ highlights of the massive show that will last the rest of the week at the Fiera in Milan. The KTM 790 ADVENTURE is a unique offering in the segment with the LC8c tweaked to offer more torque lower in a powerband that will spit out 95hp. The motorcycle has been chiseled to be smooth but also light and very nimble: the exact characteristics that a rider demands from a bike that will produce the goods offroad but then also be apt for a street cruise that will test the extent of the 450 km fuel tank capacity.

Some aspects of the popular ADVENTURE ‘siblings’ at 1290 and 1090 make it onto the 790, such as the three mode electronics (with optional ‘Rally’ setting), WP APEX suspension, 5” TFT display dash and integrated KTM MY RIDE app. The rally and enduro DNA of these bikes comes through the ergonomics, and traits such as the low ride h, the slim tank and the use of the LC8c as a stressed member of the chassis to assist with the dropped centralization. This motorcycle isn’t a road bike with some offroad AVON tires slapped on; KTM have mined their competitive roots and unparalleled success on tracks and trails to make sure that the KTM 790 ADVENTURE handles as it should on the loose stuff, and is then a powerful and practical prospect for the tarmac.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

The R version takes the offroad emphasis to another level and with the focus squarely on ‘performance’. Apparently the KTM 450 RALLY was a strong touchstone for the R with a number of tweaks over the standard KTM 790 ADVENTURE accentuating the ability for this bike to give experienced trail fans a satisfying kick. The street element is not found wanting. Again the electronics stand out: MTC (motorcycle traction control), cornering ABS and four ride modes to tailor the output of the throaty LC8c. Alternate WP technology and Metzeler tires are just some of the other specs.

Media and guests that were lucky to get the first views of the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and the R were struck by a slightly different look. The bikes clearly pack some of that rally and ‘enduroesque’ styling thanks to the narrow front end and straight, functional seat unit that only enhance the travel enduro sensation.

There were a few other surprises at the 2018 EICMA, click on our future stories to feel ‘the buzz’.

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



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High Five: A closer look at KTM´s big news in Milan

Posted in Bikes, Riding

The KTM BLOG takes a deeper looking into the five new machines the READY TO RACE company presented at EICMA.

EICMA. To some that means Esposizione Internazionale del Ciclo, Motociclo, Accessori but to most bike freaks, the Milan-based show is the time when most manufacturers present their new production machines and tease the future with incredible prototypes. KTM, in particular, likes to make a big impact at this event; remember ´The Beast´ and ´The Scalpel´? These were presented at the Italian show …

This year’s show was no less important to the READY TO RACE company. Presenting the conference on Tuesday November 6 was former MotoGPTM rider, KTM test rider and now commentator, Alex Hofmann. The German was assisted unveiling the new bikes on stage with KTM CEO, Stefan Pierer, KTM CSO, Hubert Trunkenpolz, Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing rider, Pol Espargaró and former multiple Dakar winner, Marc Coma.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE / KTM 790 ADVENTURE R MY2019 EICMA 2018 © Marco Campelli

So, what exactly was revealed? The most comprehensive, dynamic and innovative range ever from KTM with machines available that will allow riders of every age and ability to choose and best their own path in 2019.

Sounds exciting, eh? Let’s take a closer look at them …

KTM 790 ADVENTURE
and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R
Arguably the most eagerly anticipated bikes to be revealed by the orange company was the KTM 790 ADVENTURE and KTM 790 ADVENTURE R. “You spoke, we listened,” they said, and boy they did not disappoint. KTM is always proud to call itself a riders’ company and these all-new models are a direct result of customer feedback, mixed with the brand’s experience and expertise.

The KTM 790 ADVENTURE is for travel enduro fans of every ambition and ability, ready to discover new roads whichever way it’s pointed at – no matter surface. The KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is a lightweight, agile and technically advanced machine for adventurers that endeavor to challenge themselves while challenging tricky terrain.

So, two models. Which bike to choose? It all depends just how extreme and regular your offroad riding is. In a nutshell, the KTM 790 ADVENTURE is the most offroad capable travel bike and the KTM 790 ADVENTURE R is the most travel capable offroad bike.

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KTM 790 ADVENTURE R MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

KTM 690 SMC R
MotoGPTM rider, Pol Espargaró, talked on stage about his love for riding supermoto as an excellent training tool and just for fun, which was a fitting what to introduce the return of the KTM 690 SMC R in 2019. Rebooting supermoto for the road this model takes KTM´s READY TO RACE approach to its purest incarnation on the street; lightweight, agile, addictive single-cylinder punch, premium chassis components and now backed up by leading performance-enhancing electronics.

Did anyone say wheelies?

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KTM 690 SMC R MY2019 © KTM/R. Schedl

KTM 690 ENDURO R
Someone who knows KTM’s enduro successes better than most and the legacy of the LC4 engine to the brand, is Mr. Hubert Trunkenpolz. Introducing the bike on stage at EICMA was KTM’s CSO, who also happens to be the grandson of the founder of KTM, after all (and that’s what the ‘T’ in KTM stands for …).

Versatility is what the new KTM 690 ENDURO R is all about; even more perfectly positioned to connect the tarmac and trails. The massively updated bike also benefitting from the same engine, electronics and chassis improvements made to its sliding Supermoto sibling, but in a platform completely focused on offroad.

Endless enduro without the need to ever trailer to the trails. Or take the van …

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KTM 690 ENDURO R MY2019 © KTM/F. Lackner

KTM SX-E 5
It isn’t’ all about the ‘grown-ups’ in 2019 as KTM also showed off its newly developed KTM SX-E 5. The next step in KTM’s innovative line-up. Combining class-leading knowledge in youth motorcycling with years of development work in the e-sector, the KTM SX-E 5 is based on the incredibly popular 2-stroke KTM 50 SX with a high-end chassis powered by an electric motor. KTM’s mission was clear: to create an ultra-competitive machine that is also easy to ride, even for pure beginners.

The KTM SX-E 5 enjoys the advantage of zero emissions, low noise and minimal maintenance, which makes it ideal for youngsters looking to make the first step into the world of motorcycling and thanks to its dynamic design, it is ideal for the growing rider with its adjustable seat h.

Ah … to be young again! The kids have never had it so good.

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KTM SX-E 5 MY2020 © KTM/H. Mitterbauer

Stay tuned for further information on the KTM 2019 model range and visit www.ktm.com or your nearest official KTM dealer.

Photos: Marco Campelli | KTM/F. Lackner | KTM/R. Schedl | KTM/H. Mitterbauer


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How did Herlings make 2018 possible?

Posted in People, Racing

17 wins from 19 and a first MXGP title means 2018 was a magnificent motocross season for Jeffrey Herlings. How did he make it happen? We asked Team Manager Dirk Gruebel for some insight.

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Dirk Gruebel (GER) Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

The dust from the roost of 2018 MXGP is beginning to settle and besides the knowledge that he is World Champion (and Red Bull KTM are #1 for the seventh time this decade with two different riders) Jeffrey Herlings might soon begin to appreciate the numbers of the year with greater awe.

The 24-year-old Dutchman routinely crushed his rivals through a variety of conditions and across different terrain but his phenomenal numbers tell just as much of the story. Herlings has famously said he lived like a “monk” to achieve a 100% podium appearance record, 17 Grand Prix wins from the 19 he contested, 33 motos from 38, 14 1-1 shutouts and only dropped 17 points from the maximum all year (discounting the 50 missed from the Grand Prix of Lombardia, when he was injured).

“I’m not sure if he was dedicated more than before because he has always been that way,” opines KTM Group VP of Offroad Robert Jonas. “He started this year in top shape. I still think Jeffrey is ‘growing’ and hasn’t reached his full potential.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) Red Bud (USA) 2018 © Ray Archer

Behind Herlings was his loyal team and the Red Bull KTM staff that had helped and nurtured this fantastic talent since his GP debut as a 15-year-old in 2010. The technical crew refined the #84 KTM 450 SX-F especially in the early rounds of the series and by Portugal and the fifth race of 2018 Herlings had the whole package of pace, connection, reliability, confidence and starts. He was also winning the battle in a ‘toe-to-toe’ with defending champion and teammate Tony Cairoli.

To gain some more perspective on how Herlings blossomed from his emphatic opening success of the season in Argentina, returned swiftly and decisively from a training crash and broken collarbone and went on to set more records in the sport we ask German Team Manager Dirk Gruebel for an inside line …

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Imola (ITA) 2018 © Ray Archer

Ok, how did Jeffrey make the difference over the others in 2018? Rival teams are no longer talking about winning in MXGP, rather “catching Herlings” …
“You know, Jeffrey made some big mistakes in 2017 and coming into his first season of MXGP. Maybe he was a little bit wrong from the off because guys who moved up before him from MX2 were champion right away [Romain Febvre in 2015 and Tim Gajser in 2016] so for him it was a ‘done deal’ and he ‘had’ to be world champion. I think there were riders who were keen to make it tough for him because he’d smoked them in MX2. I think it was payback time in the 2017 pre-season internationals already and people were closing the door on him and being a bit harder than normal in my opinion … but it was to be expected because he was the greenhorn and there were people who wanted to show him the way, at least that’s how it looked from the outside. For sure he was not on the same fitness level as this year and it took a while to find his lines and his way. He learned. The starts were a big problem and we developed those with him. He’s a maniac now with those, especially during the week. I doubt anybody puts in as much practice as him and he’s improved a lot; top five lately and mostly top two. Within a couple of corners he is first and then it is all about the incredible pace he sets from the first lap until the last which is not possible for most of these riders. Tony tries his best and does really good but it is such a high level that even he struggles to stay with him. If they battle each other then there is usually a gap of thirty-forty seconds to the next guy in third and that’s not normal for this sport.”

He seems to run the same speed no matter the track …
“Yeah, it doesn’t matter for him anymore. In MX2 you could see he was the fastest in the sand but there was also Tommy Searle or Dylan Ferrandis who could show him a front wheel on the hard-pack once in a while. But now in MXGP this is not really happening. It is a rare thing to see: that he is excelling no matter the ground or even if it’s a new track. It’s impressive.”

There are not many motorcycle racers in any FIM World Championship with a similar rate of success …
“Last year our message to him was ‘just aim for the top five or top three and you’ll be world champion’ but, to him, it was like the message was still read as ‘be first every weekend’! It ran like this into 2018 and he was a bit down when someone else won but it was good to remove that [notion of] the perfect season because that is another kind of pressure. He was going in a good way this year and the broken collarbone and missing one round didn’t help but coming back to start winning again straight away was something nobody expected.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Was there a time when you thought he was over the limit?
“We had it in Indonesia [round twelve of twenty]. For the first event back after injury I thought he took a little too much risk. Ok, he saw the win was possible but he could have paid a high price for it. He took a risk, but so did Tony and he got the short end of the stick when he hurt his thumb and in the end it worked out for Jeffrey. In my opinion it was not necessary to put that pressure on himself to again be winning so soon after surgery.”

Can you give a rough estimation of how much Jeffrey is riding during the week? Do you see other riders doing the same mileage?
“No. Glenn [Coldenhoff] tried to keep up with him a bit more since last year but it’s tough. He normally rides three times a week between races. If there is no race then on Saturday or Sunday there will be another practice.”

Jeffrey has talked about the cost and toll of 2018. Is there the chance of burnout?
“It is hard to say. It’s not predictable. He is the strongest out there now but overnight things can change. The human body can be a strange element and can play tricks on you. He really trains a lot but then other people did before him as well and they were Ok in their particular sport. It is hard to say.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Afyon (TUR) 2018 © Ray Archer

From the outside he looks like the perfect motocrosser and there are not many weaknesses. In person what’s he like? Is there that same veneer of strength?
“In my opinion he puts up a shell, which you also need to protect yourself when you are as famous as him at such a young age already. Even now when he is older the shell is still there. He likes a bit of privacy and distance from people. He puts that ‘armor’ up, and that’s his decision. He is not the most talkative or outspoken person in the paddock, that’s for sure, but if you get to know him then he’s a really good guy.”

Did the team make a breakthrough in the period before Portugal and find the solution for his starts?
“Hmm, it was a constant process. All through spring we worked on the starts and they got better and better but we also had some stuff coming from the technical side that helped him as well to stay in the same RPM and then he found his procedure, which he didn’t have last year. This is the key now for a good start and he repeats it week by week.”

Repeating this season: is that going to be possible?
“I think next year we can expect the same Jeffrey again. He is still hungry and eager to win. Some guys do have that ‘big goal’ and then they take a step back or fall into that hole [of motivation] but I don’t think that will happen with him. He is keen to have another title and I think we’ll continue to see the best of him in 2019.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) Red Bud (USA) 2018 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


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US-Vase-1968.jpg

#inthisyear1978: Six Days Karlskoga – KTM wins Manufacturers Award

Posted in History, Racing

2018 marks the first-ever World Enduro Super Series, the first competition to combine the Hard, Classic, Beach, and Cross-Country disciplines – including the Red Bull Hare Scramble on the Erzberg. According to Winfried Kerschhaggl, manager of the WESS Series: “The sport has grown tremendously in recent years, now it’s time for a championship that brings the key events together.”

With one round to go, six KTM riders number among the top ten, with Manuel Lettenbichler one of those snapping at the heels of the leaders. The racers from Mattighofen are considered hot favorites for the WESS title.

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Manuel Lettenbichler (GER) Hawkstone Park (GBR) 2018 © Future7Media

On the other hand, the shine has to some extent come off the International Six Days Enduro in recent years, once likened to the Olympics of motorcycling.

Ever since John Penton set the ball rolling at the end of the 1960s with his call for the series manufacture of offroad machines, KTM has been heavily involved in classic enduro sports, both in national championships as well as in the European and later world championships. However, the Six Days Enduro, the annual highlight of the season in autumn, was not initially an event for individual riders. Instead it was a team competition similar to the MX of Nations in motocross. In addition to the World Trophy for national teams that until recently were made up of six riders, the “Silver Vase” was for teams of four.  The “Manufacturers Award” was of particular interest to manufacturers involved in offroad racing. In this competition a team of three riders aimed to cross the finish line without picking up any penalties with the aim of demonstrating the speed and reliability of their brand.

Delivery of the first Penton offroad machines was taken in the USA in 1968, and a week later they got the opportunity to show just what they could do at the Stone Mountain Enduro in Georgia. Six short months later at the end of September, the Penton squad and their machines made a return to Europe to enter the “43rd Sei Giorni Internazionale di Regolarita”, the International Six Days Enduro in San Pellegrino, Italy. There’s no doubt it was a big risk taking the four small machines, with just 475cc between them, to the Bergamasche Mountains for their first European competition. But, John Penton, straight from his Stone Mountain victory in the USA, was undaunted. Together with his son Tom Penton, Dave Mungenast, and Leroy Winters, the Penton Vase team ended in 10th place: more than a good result when one considers that a year earlier the machines were not even on the drawing board. Incidentally, the winners that year were the Italian Vase team that included Arnaldo Farioli, later to become a KTM importer.

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US Silver Vase team 1968 © Penton

Ten years on and KTM won the Manufacturers Award for the first time. The Six Days took place between September 4 and 9, 1978 in the environs of Värnamo in Sweden and, at the end of six hard days racing, KTM led the board in a total of 45 brand teams.

At that time, international enduro racing was in the hands of the various national importers; only the entry in the Motocross World Championship came directly from the factory in Mattighofen. Seven importers from Belgium to the USA started with KTM brand teams in Sweden. In Harald Strößenreuther, Reinhard Christel, and Paul Rottler, KTM Germany importer Toni Stöcklmeier, himself once a successful Six Days racer and 1974 German offroad champion in the 350cc category, put forward three reigning national champions all the same time. These three competed valiantly and by the end took 40 seconds and nearly a minute off the Zündapp and Jawa teams, who had started as favorites.

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Six Days 1978 © Teuchert

Today, the International Six Days Enduro is the offroad event with the longest tradition. Originally called the International Six Days Reliability Trial, this was an endurance race for motorcycles and threewheeler that was held for the first time in 1913 in Carlisle (UK). Since then the International Six Days Enduro, or the “Olympics of Motorcycling” as it is often known, has taken place every year in autumn, with the exception of the two world wars. This year it is being held for the 93rd time in the Chilean city of Viña del Mar. Albeit, it has to be said that the “Six Days” has lost much of its appeal these days. There has even been talk of making the one-time highlight of every offroad year a bi-annual event. Having said that, there’s one thing that won’t change this year – when the 600 participants push their bikes up to the starting line on November 12, the color orange is set to dominate again. Like many professional racers, many private riders continue to put their trust in KTM – the service and lease package was completely booked out in next to no time. And, as in other years, a special “Six Days” version is available again, clearly identifiable by its special decal in honor of the host country.

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KTM 300 EXC TPI MY2019 © KTM

Two days before the start of the Six Days, the first season of the WESS ended with the Red Bull Knock-Out Beach Race in the Dutch city of Scheveningen with the KTM stars Manuel Lettenbichler, Josep Garcia, Taddy Blazusiak, Jonny Walker, and Nathan Watson – the enduro season promises to be action-packed right to the end.

Photos: Future7Media | Penton | Teuchert | KTM


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From A to B

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From A to B

Posted in People, Racing

The next time you turn on the TV to watch a MotoGPTM race, take time to appreciate the complex logistics operation that goes on behind the scenes. It’s more than just getting a few motorbikes from one circuit to the other. To find out the full story, we decided to dig a little deeper.

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Jeremy Wilson (GBR) 2018 © Guus van Goethem

Meet Jeremy Wilson, logistics coordinator at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. Originally from Driffield in England, Wilson is now a long-time resident of the MotoGPTM ‘village’, with no less than 23 seasons in the paddock. And although he has been a part of the promising Red Bull KTM MotoGP team ever since its inception, this is only his first season as logistics coordinator. In fact, Wilson was rather shocked when he was offered the job of logistics coordinator for the team. “I’ve got plenty of experience, including time with Red Bull Yamaha, WCM, and Rizla Suzuki. You could say I’m a jack of all trades, I can do all kinds of odd jobs. It started like that at KTM too. When I got here, I used to drive one of the trucks to the circuits and take care of the tires for Pol Espargaró. Then out of the blue, Mike Leitner (KTM’s MotoGP team manager), called me into his office. I thought to myself, “what have I done wrong now?” But to my surprise, without warning, he asked me if I wanted to be a logistics coordinator. I thought, “is he joking?” But no, he was dead serious. I was lost for words, because I really didn’t see it coming.”

Wilson was surprised for two reasons: firstly, he’s not exactly great with computers, and secondly, he speaks English with a very strong accent. “English people are very lazy when it comes to learning other languages”, the 51-year-old Englishman readily admits. “I try to talk with less of an accent now, and I’ve been brushing up on my computer skills as well. I still type with two fingers, but I’m gradually getting better at using a laptop. Needless to say, I do much of my work the old-fashioned way … with a pen and paper. Basically, my notebook is my computer. I write down all my tasks, and then cross them off when they’re done.”

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Jeremy Wilson (GBR) 2018 © Guus van Goethem

No worries
Through a combination of Wilson’s experience and some outside help, there have been no logistical disasters for KTM this year. With his tireless commitment and willingness to learn, he tries to make the logistics operation as smooth as possible. Luckily, he has two other logistical coordinators to help him out. Wilson is mainly responsible for the trucks and the pit boxes, while his colleague Beatrice Garcia takes care of the people side of the operations. In other words, she makes sure all the team members have got a place to sleep and catch their planes on time. Then there is Thomas Rockenmeyer, who handles the logistics for the spare parts.

Jeremy Wilson always gets to the circuit early because he still drives one of the three trucks. Despite being a coordinator, driving a MAN truck is still a part of the job. “On race weekends, to make sure the logistics go smoothly, I like to be the first one there. There might be urgent deliveries, for example, that need to be taken care of as soon as they come in. So, it makes sense to drive the truck as well. That way I know everything will get to the circuit on time.” Race weekends for Wilson start at 14.00 hours on Tuesday afternoon. “It’s a very strict rule of the organization. Everyone has to line up outside the circuit, and then they let us in one-by-one and escort us to our assigned location. We wash the trucks on Tuesday evening so that everything is ready when the pit boxes are built on Wednesday morning.” After the trucks have been unloaded, the whole team gets to work to transform the pit box into KTM’s command center for the weekend. The walls go up, the motorbikes are rolled in, and the tools are laid out in exactly the right place. Everything has to be perfect, so the mechanics and engineers can just walk in and start work straightaway. Thursday afternoon is when Wilson has to take out his laptop and touch base with everyone back at headquarters and make the final arrangements with partner companies like DHL, a key logistical partner of the team. This English member of the KTM MotoGP team has to make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the entire weekend. If anybody needs anything that involves logistics, then Wilson is ready to work out an effective plan. On top of that, he has to be on stand-by next to the track, on a scooter, during the MotoGPTM training sessions. He usually goes to a spot where the riders are most likely to fall off. “Then Pol or Bradley can just jump on and I can get them back to the pit box as quickly as possible.”

© Guus van Goethem

Shipping parts
On Sunday evening, when all the racing is over, the team has to start loading everything back into the trucks. The trucks hardly ever go back to the headquarters in Munderfing, Austria. They go to a depot at a strategic location to save time and money. The logistical operation takes up a big chunk of a MotoGPTM team’s budget. Wilson: “I think something like 40% of the total expenditure goes on transportation for the team.” That is why Wilson tries to make sure all the gear is moved around as efficiently as possible. The key is to eliminate unnecessary travel. “It can take up to three days to drive from Barcelona back to our base in Austria. And by the time you get there, it’s already time to leave for the next GP. So, it doesn’t make any sense really. If we have an emergency and we need to get certain parts from head office, then we just call DHL. They will deliver it to the circuit for us.” This type of efficient planning means Wilson only has to drive around 35,000 km a year, even though he has to go to twelve different Grand Prix circuits spread out across the whole of Europe. “By taking the trucks to strategic locations, we have managed to reduce the amount of driving to an acceptable limit.”

Races outside of Europe, on the other hand, bring a completely different set of challenges, because then everything has to be sent by air. For the current series of races (Thailand, Japan, Australia and Malaysia), everything had to be boxed up in crates after the GP in Aragon. In addition, all the import and export documents (so-called “carnets”) had to be labelled the right way, otherwise the crates wouldn’t be allowed through customs. Because DHL handles all of KTM’s transportation for overseas GPs, they help Wilson out with a lot of the paperwork. However, sending everything by air is very expensive, which is why Dorna helps the teams by paying towards some of the costs. “The Grand Prix in Argentina costs the most, because you have to pay € 9 per kilo for airfreight. Normally you only have to pay € 4 to € 5.5 per kilo. And when you have to send 15,700 kilos of gear to Argentina … then you’re talking about a considerable amount of money. To make it affordable for the teams, Dorna covers some of the costs. For the top-10 teams in the MotoGPTM championship, Dorna pays for the first 11,000 kg, and the team has to pay for anything over that. We are not in the top-10 right now, so they only pay for the first 9,000 kg.”

In light of these enormous costs, KTM is currently exploring new ways to reduce the cost of Grand Prix weekends overseas. “For example, shipping by sea is a lot cheaper than shipping by air, but of course it takes a lot longer to get there … However, if you have two sets of all the gear, then you can rotate. That way you can use one set while the other set is being shipped to the next circuit. At the beginning of the season, for example, while one set is being used for testing in Malaysia, the other set can be shipped to Qatar. And while the Grand Prix in Qatar is taking place, the set in Malaysia can be shipped to Austin. It’s a strategy they use in Formula 1, and Suzuki do it in MotoGPTM as well. But the initial outlay is enormous: two of everything costs a lot of money. In the long term, though, it makes your logistics a lot cheaper. So, we might switch to this system at some time in the future.”

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© Guus van Goethem

Extreme case
The overseas races are a logistical challenge in other ways too as the team has less control over the logistics. “Say you need a certain part in a rush, then you just prey the company delivers on time. Luckily, we have very reliable partners. If they send me an email telling me the part is on its way, then it usually is. But if it doesn’t get there by race time, then I’m the one left with a problem. And it’s a lot harder to come up with an alternative solution at the last moment when you’re overseas. So all-in-all, it can be a real nightmare.”

Luckily, up until now, there haven’t been any major transportation disasters for Wilson. But there are plenty of examples to show just how important logistics can be for the success of the Red Bull KTM MotoGP team. Last year, for example, after a successful test with KTM´s test rider Mika Kallio the latest version of the RC16 engine had to be sent to the next Grand Prix as quickly as possible. “We had two of these engines in Munderfing, but they had to be finished off first. That meant we only had a narrow window get them to Jerez in time for the first European Grand Prix of the season. However, we couldn’t use a normal air cargo service because of the fluids. So, we decided to send the whole lot by private jet. It was ultimately a great decision, because it turned our whole season around. That engine was a real difference-maker.”

Jeremy Wilson obviously feels right at home being a logistics coordinator at KTM. Especially now he has found his dream job working in the MotoGPTM paddock. Although it’s not that surprising when you find out more about Wilson’s background. “My whole life has been about racing. My father started taking me to Grand Prix races when I was a little child, back in the day when Barry Sheene was the king of the road.” It wasn’t long before he became a part of the road race scene himself. He knows every bump and bend on the Isle of Man and the street circuits of Northern Ireland. Even today, Wilson still manages to find time for some road racing. “I’ve got a couple of two-fifties in the shed back home. 2-strokes of course, because they really burn. It’s the most beautiful thing there is. And now that racing has taken me all the way to the world of MotoGPTM Grand Prix, it’s a dream come true. My first job was with Clive Padgett’s team, when Jay Vincent was riding for them. And since then I’ve never left road racing. So, I’m very lucky that I can actually earn a living through racing as well. Although doing this job doesn’t feel like work at all. Quite the opposite, because I get a kick out of just being in the paddock and being able to play a part in the success of the Red Bull KTM MotoGP team.”

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Bradley Smith (GBR) & Pol Espargaró (ESP) KTM RC16 Motegi (JAP) 2018 © Gold and Goose

Photos: Guus van Goethem | Gold and Goose


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ISLE OF MAN GT

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ISLE OF MAN GT

TT legend Michael Rutter discovers the real definition of sports touring with a unique tour of the famous island riding the new KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT in an incredible new video.

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Michael Rutter (GBR) KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT 2018 © Fabbegghy Studio

The Isle of Man is steeped in motorcycling history, largely thanks to over 110 years of racing on its public roads with the uniquely challenging 60 km TT Mountain Circuit now producing laps with an insane average speed of over 217 km/h!

But away from the famous fortnight that is the annual TT races, the small island situated in the Irish Sea also provides an incredible place to go touring on a motorcycle due to its stunning and undulating landscapes, winding roads and historic landmarks. For those who have a lust for speed, the infamous Mountain Section remains free from speed restrictions, however riders must treat it with the respect it deserves – the island far from encourages would-be racers to live out their own TT fantasies when the roads are open to normal traffic …

One man who can’t resist the exclusive excitement that is the challenge of racing the TT is six-time winner, Michael Rutter. In a racing career spanning 30 years, as well as success on the roads, the 46-year old Englishman has also battled it out for 28 victories in British Superbikes and now combines his competition career by also testing motorcycles for Performance Bikes magazine. So, when it came to quantifying the credentials of the new KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT ahead of its release at the end of this year, KTM handed Michael the keys and put him on a ferry from mainland Britain to the Isle of Man. The result of the ride can be seen in this epic new video …

Setting off from the Ben-my-Chree Steam Packet Ferry at the port in Douglas, Rutter’s route toured the town and cruised the coastal road before heading to Fairy Bridge to wave to the fairies (as is tradition for luck). Back through Douglas, Michael and the GT took to the TT circuit until Ballaugh Bridge then headed to the Jurby Motordrome to remove the panniers and add some pace. The race circuit on the north coast of the island provided the possibility for full-throttle thrashing.

With the ‘boxes’ back on, Michael and the GT headed to the town of Ramsey, where the road begins its climb of the Snaefell Mountain. Powering out of the Gooseneck, Rutter unleashed the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT’s 175hp of LC8 power, all the way across the mountain before stopping at the Creg-ny-Baa public house.

Michael Rutter: “The GT is a world away from what I usually ride, I was amazed by the performance – particularly the engine; the torque and drive is phenomenal. Very impressive. Comfort is a big factor; the seat and bar position were spot-on at speed on track and on the road. For a bike designed to tackle a variety of riding types – having a blast and all-day touring – it works fantastically in all situations, even ridden hard on the fast and bumpy Jurby circuit. Best of all, it has heated grips – a big thing for all year riders and even for summer in the UK!”

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Michael Rutter (GBR) KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT 2018 © Fabbegghy Studio

Photos: Fabbegghy Studio
Video: Fabbegghy Studio


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Feeling like a factory rider … for one day

No doubt the factory riders of KTM were not very happy when they found out their ‘babies’ were being turned over to a bunch of journalists for a day. But a chance to try out the powerful machines of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing on the famous Eurocircuit in Valkenswaard is a unique opportunity that no journalist wants to miss.

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Red Bull KTM SX Factory Bike Test Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Sometimes the right words just aren’t finding their way onto ‘paper’, your computer really needs an upgrade, and an interview you had planned weeks ago gets canceled at the last minute. Contrary to popular belief, the life of a motorcycle journalist is not always glitz and glamor. Luckily, just one simple email can make all that ‘misery’ disappear in a flash. Your whole week, or perhaps even the whole month, suddenly becomes sunny and bright again when you read the words ‘KTM’, ‘you are invited’ and ‘factory bike test’. Fifteen journalists were lucky enough to find this email, sent by the KTM Press/PR Department in Mattighofen, waiting for them in their inbox this summer. All they had to do was travel by plane or car to the south of the Netherlands in the middle of September. Five factory dirtbikes would be waiting for them there, which they could take for a spin around the legendary motocross circuit of Valkenswaard. A unique opportunity to experience first-hand what it feels like to be a factory rider like Jeffrey Herlings, Tony Cairoli, Glenn Coldenhoff, Pauls Jonass, and Jorge Prado.

Busy process
“The preparation for this media test day started around three months ago”, explains Beatrix Eichhorn. She works as Event Manager at KTM and responsible for the entire organization of this factory bike test ride. Her main job was to make sure the three days went smoothly for everyone who took part in the event. But she didn’t do it alone: Eichhorn had the capable assistance of two colleagues from the Press/PR department of the Austrian motorcycle manufacturer. “They arranged everything that involved the press materials and the race department. Making sure the factory bikes were there for the test, for example, and working out which team members were going to take part. They took care of all that. Not an easy task by any means, because our motocross teams have a very busy Grand Prix schedule. But once we managed to find a date that suited everyone, then we started inviting the journalists and working out the program for the test.”

That was a tricky job as well, because with this type of media event a lot of things have to be organized behind the scenes. Even if you’ve only got a relatively small group of 15 journalists. “First you have to get the go-ahead to use the circuit, in this case the GP Eurocircuit in Valkenswaard, and then you have to arrange hotel accommodation for all the journalists and the support staff. And naturally you also have to arrange food as well, and find suitable restaurants. Plus, you have to organize transfers, journalist gifts and branding material.” Even after all these practical details have been sorted out, the team still had another challenge to overcome. They had to plan the start times for all the test runs and make sure everything was caught on camera. During the media event in Valkenswaard, for example, there were two photographers and two cameramen on hand to make sure the journalists got all the pictures and video they needed. “Putting together a timetable for the test runs can be a complicated process, because you have to make sure every journalist gets to ride every factory bike for at least 20 minutes and you have to consider their travel data.” Luckily KTM have had plenty of experience with this type of event. They do more than just organize one event a year. “We have to launch new (production) models, both offroad and street, and organize meetings and conferences throughout the entire year. So, this type of event is nothing new for us.”

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Red Bull KTM SX Factory Bike Test Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Surprise guests
When the journalists arrived at the hotel, they were welcomed with a refreshing cocktail and then treated to a gourmet dinner in the evening, joined by several surprise guests. Four of the five factory riders (Cairoli, Coldenhoff, Jonass, and Prado), who had generously agreed to ‘lend’ their bikes for this event, sat down with the journalists and answered all their questions in great detail. The only KTM rider not in attendance was Jeffrey Herlings; the young Dutchman had just been crowned the MXGP world champion the weekend before. However, the journalists were glad to learn that he would be joining them the next day at the Eurocircuit while the other riders got back to their training routine.

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Red Bull KTM SX Factory Bike Test 2018 © Ray Archer

It was an early morning start for the test ride day, with a presentation hosted by Jennifer Dick, KTM’s Offroad PR Manager. After going through all the technical details of the bikes and the test ride program, she made a surprise announcement. In honor of Herlings world title, KTM had decided to launch a special limited edition of his KTM 450 SX-F. The journalists got a few moments to take a close look at the gleaming replica, and then it was time for them to suit up and get out on the track. The excitement was palpable and plenty of nervous glances were exchanged as the mechanics casually fired up the factory bikes. The motocross circuit had been sprayed to moisten the track, but the bikes soon blew up a huge cloud of dust over Valkenswaard. Not that it bothered Krzysztof Tomaszek, because he had been waiting for this moment all his life. He couldn’t wait to get on the five different factory bikes and share this unique experience with all his readers at scigacz.pl. By the end of the day, he was exhausted, but very satisfied. Going flat out for 20 minutes on five different factory bikes had made an enormous impression on the Polish journalist. “It was a fantastic day that I will never forget. I had never been on a factory bike before, and I have to admit I was pretty nervous beforehand. I’ve had plenty of experience with the production motocross bikes of KTM, but this was a completely different level.” Tomaszek was particularly surprised by the machine of world champion Herlings. “That was definitely the most difficult bike to ride”, he admitted honestly. “Very aggressive and you could tell it was a motocross bike that had been set up for maximum speed. Herlings’ KTM just wants to keep on attacking.”

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Red Bull KTM SX Factory Bike Test Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Then it was time for Jeffrey Herlings to take his bike out onto the track and show them how it’s really done. Instead of a few steady exhibition laps, Jeffrey Herlings thundered around the circuit at the outrageous pace that has made him the seemingly unbeatable champion he is. So, no throttling back only two days after winning his first MXGP World Championship title. His dominance at Valkenswaard has been impressive, with an amazing seven Grand Prix victories in a row on this track. “The MX2 motocross bike of KTM has a very strong engine setup, and that really makes a difference in the heavy sand of Valkenswaard. That’s when you need to use all the horsepower you can get”, explains Herlings. “In the 450 class, the competition is a lot closer together when it comes to pure power. That’s where the total package of KTM makes it stand out from the rest. We’ve got a great bike, a strong team, and of course the best riders.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

The highest level
One journalist who has been in the saddle of a factory bike before is Paul Malin. The former GP motocrosser from Great Britain switched to a career in the media, including MotoX Magazine, after retiring from racing, and he now mainly works as a commentator for the MXGP races. “I’ve just been on the bikes of Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado, and you can definitely feel the difference. They have exactly the same engine setup, but they don’t handle the same. It’s to do with the rear gear wheel, because Jorge uses one tooth less. This gives his dirtbike more punch, a slightly sharper response in third gear”, explains the winner of the MX of Nations in 1994 in more detail. Although Malin has definitely been there and done it, he still always considers it a privilege to be able to ride these types of bikes. “You won’t find better motocross bikes than these, this is the highest level. And each one has its own distinctive feel. Although the bikes are fundamentally the same, they handle completely differently. That’s because each rider has a setup to suit their personal style. It’s about combining all the little details in the right way to produce the right package.”

Another veteran in the world of offroad journalism is Toine van Dijk, who has tried out numerous factory bikes over the years. “But it’s still a very special feeling every time”, according to the test ride editor of the Dutch Noppennieuws. “I’ve been doing this work now for 23 years, but I still get a thrill every time I ride these types of machines. And this year is particularly special for me as a Dutchman, with Jeffrey winning the world championship. I missed out on a chance to test Herlings’ MXGP motocross bike last year, so I was even more excited about getting to see his machine this year.” Van Dijk was also surprised by the noticeable differences between the factory bikes of KTM. Each of the three MXGP motocross bikes he took out on the circuit had a completely different feel. “The setup of Cairoli is of course adjusted to his size, like the lower back side. So, somebody of my size [Van Dijk is a good 1.94 m] is better suited to Herlings’ bike, because he’s tall as well. These personal preferences of the riders are what make each bike feel so different.”

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Paul Malin (GBR) KTM 250 SX-F Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Unique opportunity
With his many years of experience in the offroad world, Van Dijk is able to spot the improvements from one year to the next. “You really notice that with the production bikes. It always amazes me, how the engineers are able to achieve progression time and time again. You would think, after a while, that it would simply not be possible to make it any better. And yet they still manage to come up with a new model that takes your breath away. I think that is where KTM really shines. They get input from so many different perspectives, including the factory riders. So, they are able to just keep on getting better and better.”

After a long day on the Eurocircuit, it’s time to go back to the hotel and take a long shower to get rid of all the sand. Refreshed and redressed, the journalists enjoy an evening looking back over the day’s events. During the farewell dinner, there is a lively exchange of stories all around the table. The permanent smile on the suntanned face of Christoph Bertrand shows he also enjoyed getting on the KTM factory bikes today. And naturally, just like all the other journalists, he had his own favorite dirtbike. “It was the last bike I rode today, Jorge Prado’s bike. For me, that was the only machine that was reasonably suitable for an amateur rider. The suspension was a bit softer and I felt more comfortable with that. I could have a lot of fun on that bike”, admits the former GP rider and writer for mxmag.be. “If you put Herlings’ bike in my garage, then I would probably just leave it there. It’s such a beast, you’d have to be a rodeo rider to control that dirtbike. If you’re not in top physical condition, then don’t even think about getting on it. That’s what makes it so great to be given a unique opportunity to ride the factory bikes of a factory team. Just a few minutes hanging on to the handlebars of these GP bikes is totally exhausting. Never mind for half an hour at full throttle. Any respect you had for these boys before only gets bigger once you’ve had a chance to ride their bikes. That’s when you realize how good you have to be to make these dirtbikes go that fast.”

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Red Bull KTM SX Factory Bike Test Valkenswaard (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Photos: Ray Archer | Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions


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Building the next era: Ajo talks Moto2 steps

MotoGPTM faces a significant change for 2019 when the Moto2 class gets a brand-new engine supplier. The technical swap around means some busy times for Aki Ajo and an important part of his ‘development’ program for KTM’s racing structure. We asked him about it …

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Aki Ajo (FIN) Aragón (ESP) 2018 © Sebas Romero

The sound and sight of Moto2 will become something new for 2019. MotoGPTM shape-shifts with Honda being replaced by Triumph and their triple cylinder as the sole engine supplier to the intermediate class; where Red Bull KTM Ajo are currently the only team to have both of their riders on the top step of the podium in 2018. MotoGPTM will also buzz to the addition of the Moto-E series next year but it is the work, changes and evolution of Moto2 that is generating more fascination.

Aki Ajo has long been part of the Grand Prix paddock to observe and embrace such changes. Since overseeing the first Moto3 title victory for KTM in 2012, Ajo not only witnessed the explosion of 4-stroke technology in the MotoGPTM divisions but has extended his influence to Moto2 and into Red Bull MotoGP Rookies and the CEV series. He is a key part of the ‘orange ladder’ that KTM have built in the last five years to provide a path through the ranks for promising racing talent.

When the Finn is not talent-spotting or providing guidance – as he is doing with the feted Öncü twins presently – then he is chiseling Moto2. This has meant the careful blend of WP chassis performance to maximize grip and extend tire life and also bring any further counsel to the likes of Johann Zarco, Miguel Oliveira or Brad Binder for their Grand Prix education.

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Miguel Oliveira (POR, #44) & Brad Binder (RSA, #41) Chang International Circuit (THA) 2018 © Gold and Goose

Ajo and his team have already been busy with 2019 tests. The new Moto2 engine has completed considerable mileage and durability runs and was officially ‘handed over’ to MotoGPTM at the Grand Prix of Aragon. At the same circuit – Motorland (where Binder took his current Moto2 machine to victory) – the squad again ran the new bike through its paces.

“I think it has been nine years with the same engine in Moto2 and I think the change it will make people more enthusiastic,” Ajo says “and with anything new you have the chance to learn more compared to always using the same spec. We’ve been busy this summer already. The KTM test team has been working with the engine for some days and our riders will also be busy with this year’s bike and next year’s.”

For WP and the KTM Group Racing division there are obvious new parameters when it comes to the engine’s dimensions and character within the steel-tubed frame, and how the whole package will alter and have an effect on the WP suspension package and Dunlop tires.

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Brad Binder´s (RSA) Moto2 bike Aragón (ESP) 2018 © Sebas Romero

While Ajo is buoyed by the work ahead and the question marks that will arise he also doesn’t believe that Moto2 will be turned on its head.

“A motorcycle is a motorcycle and I think many people are speculating now which riders will fit well with this new engine concept,” he opines. “I think if a rider is good, works well and has a good team then it doesn’t matter what motorcycle it is. I don’t think the engine is a big problem, it just makes the work more interesting.”

“When we switched from 125s to Moto3 everyone said to me ‘it will all change …’ but for me not much did,” he reveals. “The only thing was losing that nice noise and smell of the 2-strokes but many other interesting things came with the new category and the 4-strokes. Maybe the riders needed to change their style a little bit but the basics stayed the same: racing is racing and you need to find the right ‘things’ and focus on them.”

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Miguel Oliveira (POR) Chang International Circuit (THA) 2018 © Gold and Goose

Over the last couple of seasons Moto2 has arguably turned into MotoGPTM’s toughest competition. The stock engine and slight differences between the five main chassis manufacturers means the gap between a clutch of immensely fast and capable riders comes down to fractions of a second. Gains on a technical level are minuscule.

“It will be interesting to see if it is still so close,” says Ajo who acknowledges that an important winter of laps and more ‘discovery’ of the Moto2 package lie ahead. “I think there is the chance to make a few more steps. Sometimes I feel that Moto2 is even too close. Riders and teams learn a lot through close competition but I also see some good riders a little bit in the shadows if all the things are not perfect. You can be 0.8 of second behind the top guy and way-down in 20th position but you might still be a really fast rider. It will be curious to see … but I don’t think it will be as close at the start of 2019; there could be some bigger steps between the teams.”

On a more specific note, Ajo will lose current championship contender Oliveira to MotoGPTM (the first KTM athlete to move up through from Moto3 GP winning success to Moto2 acclaim and into the ‘big boys’) but will retain Binder for a third season. The South African – who lost most of his first term to a troublesome broken arm injury – will be joined by Moto3 series leader and flyer Jorge Martin. Ajo will keep some continuity with Binder and will also have to harness the potential of the lively Spaniard. “I think it’s key with a new bike that both of the riders are not rookies … but in any case it is also important that Brad has some experience and feedback with the engine already and in November those first tests for the whole team will be vital.”

November and the quiet and vacant Spanish circuits beckon: time for Ajo’s experience to count and for his loyal crew to again move with the rolling sands of racing.

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Miguel Oliveira (POR, #44), Brad Binder (RSA, #41) & Moto2 team Assen (NED) 2018 © Philip Platzer

Photos: Sebas Romero | Gold and Goose | Philip Platzer


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More tour and more roar: 2019 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT

Posted in Bikes, Riding

The covers are off KTM’s heavily updated sports touring titan and we spoke with Project Leader, Tobias Eisele, to find out what’s new.

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Tobias Eisele (AUT) KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KTM

Following the launch of the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R in 2014 it was quickly discovered that ‘The Beast’ also had a softer side; the amount of torque available made the engine flexible for a variety of riding situations and the ergonomics – despite the exposed bars – was actually quite comfortable for longer runs. Rumor has it that this got the KTM engineers thinking what a bit would some weather protection and a larger tank could do for this machine …

Fact or fable and whatever the decision-making process it was a good one because when KTM entered the sports tourer market in 2016 with the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT it was in the typical READY TO RACE style – big on performance. This new model in the range saw a SUPER DUKE less track extreme and more grand tourer with the results as predicted; a true long distance machine with the ability to play in the curviest of corners.

But history has shown us that KTM never closes the throttle of development and no sooner had the first-generation GT hit the showrooms the R&D engineers were busy working on a sequel. Fast forward three years and KTM BLOG was at INTERMOT in Germany to see the covers come off this new GT. At first glance, the changes seem only minor; new headlight, eye-catching graphics. But Project Leader for the bike, Tobias Eisele, was in Cologne for the international motorcycle fair and spent some time with KTM BLOG to assures us the changes are both significant and a major improvement.

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KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KTM

Tobias, what’s new with the GT?
“There are many things! Aside from the chassis and wheels, quite a lot has changed in this big update. We have a new engine – same as from the 2018 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R – with revised resonator chambers, titanium inlet valves and a new mapping to give 175 hp and 141 Nm of torque. There’s now the Quickshifter+, so clutchless up and down shifting. We have a 6.5 inch TFT dash with a unique display for the GT, new windshield and adjuster mechanism, LED headlight, the latest generation setting WP semi-active suspension, storage compartments within bodywork that includes one with a USB charger.”

Is that all?
“No! We also moved the cruise control to the left handlebar, added heated grips and handguards as standard, keyless ignition with KTM RACE ON, we are navigation ready with KTM MY RIDE and of course two new colors and graphics. There’s also a new optional ‘Track’ mode – including launch control, nine-level traction slip control, anti-wheelie. You can say we’ve been busy.”

What were the main goals for the new bike?
“The main goal was to put all the latest premium features that are already available on other products in the KTM range and add them to the GT. We also had to improve on any weaknesses, such as wind protection and the windshield adjustment as the latter didn’t feel as sophisticated as it should have been. So, trying to improve lots of little bits to make the GT a more complete and sophisticated bike. Not a small task.”

How much did you listen to customer feedback?
“When we started on this new version the original bike was only just out, so not much feedback from the outset. We knew our goals for this machine and then feedback soon filtered through. A criticism of the original Street suspension setup was the inclusion of anti-dive. The new suspension settings for Comfort, Street and Sport are massively changed, but with anti-dive now exclusive to Comfort. Other small things included the wish for the cruise control to be on the left bar, a longer pin on the side stand to make it easier to reach with the foot, a quickshifter for up and down and – of course – a TFT display.”

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KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KISKA/R. Schedl

What were the biggest challenges?
“Just putting the bridge to all those new features we talked about. The dash, for example, required a new software development; it was a big challenge. You have the supplier for the display, the designers, the engineers for the functions and you have to bring it all together. In another life I worked in aerodynamics for F1, so this area of the GT was something I was very interested in. But rather than performance, we worked hard in this department for comfort – such as weather protection and noise from the screen at speed. But as well as the rider comfort, we had to make sure it was a good design. As we didn’t want to make a compromise, there was a lot of back and forth between the engineers and designers but I’m happy with the result.”

So how is the GT aerodynamically better?
“Well, we have handguards to help keep cold wind and rain away from hands, but the way in which the new headlight and screen are working sees the bike feel just as comfortable to ride as the previous bike even when you are doing 20 km/h more.”

What part of the bike are you the most proud of?
“Besides aerodynamics and the semi-active suspension where we have made a really big improvement – especially between the modes – without changing the hardware, I would say that it was convincing my bosses to add the two storage compartments on the inside of the fairings. We’ve done this without having to add any big boxes and the way they work is really neat. When we completed our first prototype, I asked my manager to find where we had hidden a phone and he couldn’t manage it. Mission accomplished!”

Backed up by a bigger array of official KTM PowerParts to further personalize this potent sports tourer, the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT hits showrooms at the end of this year.

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KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE GT MY2019 © KISKA/F. Lackner

Photos: KTM | KISKA


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Toby Price World Champion in Morocco in pictures

Posted in People, Racing

The Rally du Maroc concluded the five-round FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship, and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price won the event to be crowned the 2018 champion.

The five-round series has seen the best rally racers from around the world compete over some of the most difficult terrain in the UAE, South America and Africa, with the title fight going down to the wire at the Morocco race. The Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team has enjoyed some strong results with all of its riders, which is especially positive in preparation to defend the team’s 17 consecutive Dakar wins, and this year’s Dakar champion, Matthias Walkner, joined Price on the podium with third in the overall standings.

Price’s long string of accolades, including his Dakar win in 2016, now adds the world championship thanks to his consistent riding throughout the season. The 31-year-old Australian ace battled back from a broken femur sustained in the 2017 edition of the Dakar to take a podium third this January, followed by his world title win this week. We take a look at some of the best pictures of the Red Bull KTM Rally Factory Racing Team in action in Morocco.

Sam Sunderland (GBR) & Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Rally du Maroc 2018 © Rally Zone

Photos: Rally Zone



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Interview of the Month: The New Guy – Talking with Cooper Webb

Red Bull KTM’s exciting new AMA Supercross and Motocross recruit checks in for the first time …

Roger De Coster has his man. Three times AMA champion Cooper Webb had been on the Belgian’s radar for some time in the vast and exciting world of American supercross and motocross. The athlete from North Carolina is just 22 years old and has two 250 SX West Coast titles and one 250 MX motocross crown but he has struggled to replicate that aggressive and determined form since moving into the 450 category for 2017; injuries have also not helped his progress.

Red Bull KTM now have a fantastic prospect to mould.

For 2019 Team Manager Ian Harrison will count on Webb’s undoubted talent alongside Marvin Musquin on the KTM 450 SX-F in the Baseball and American Football arenas and then across the breadth of the USA for the summer MX series. For Webb the move to ‘orange’ is a big one; a change of residence, manufacturer, trainer and guiding forces for a season that will stretch to more than thirty weekends.

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Ian Harrison (USA), Cooper Webb (USA) & Roger De Coster (BEL) KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION 2018 © KISKA, Inc.

We facetimed Cooper at his base in Florida and after he’d taken his first laps with the KTM 450 SX-F and in the company of De Coster, Harrison and Co.

Cooper, after the success with Ryan Dungey and Marvin in recent years is there a feeling that a chance with Red Bull KTM is one that cannot be considered lightly?
“Absolutely. We’ve been talking for a long time and it was an honor when they reached out for me to be the next guy. They’ve really turned that team around and you cannot argue with the results over the past 5-8 years. I think they’ve managed to create one of the best teams out there.”

The prospect of working with Roger and Ian must have been important as well?
“I’ve seen them work every week and how they went about their racing. It was a big part of the appeal for me. The KTM is obviously a great bike but the way the crew is and all the knowledge and experience makes for a pretty powerful team. Even in my first few days with them and riding the bike, I learned so much about setup and racecraft. I’m only 22 so I still have a lot to learn.”

It’s a hefty change of scene for you …
“Yes and no. I mean it was a humongous change in some aspects: living, my trainer and from one bike or brand that I had been with for 5-6 years. Now that it is real and happening and moving fast it doesn’t feel that crazy. I’m finding my way and I’m really happy while I’m doing it. It’s also cool to be with Red Bull again because I was with them as an amateur and they always treated me really well. So, there have been a lot of changes but positive ones.”

While there have been #5s, #1s, #25s on the KTMs then there have been great results. Does that increase the pressure to hit the same marks?
“Ha! There’s always a bit of pressure in any team you go to but it’s encouraging what this team have achieved; they really have ‘been there and done it’ so I don’t see any reason why they cannot do it with me. Rather than pressure I see that past success like a ‘guideline’.”

It’s early days but how do you like the feel of the KTM?
“Yeah … I’ve only ever been Pro with one manufacturer so it is hard to comment on other bikes but the thing that struck me about the KTM was how light and narrow it felt. I was at home right away and it suited my style. The engine power is so usable. I rode it quite a bit and I didn’t really change much from the original setting we tried at the beginning because it worked right away.”

You’ll be training with Aldon at the Baker’s Factory as well? Thoughts on entering that program?
“Yeah, I’ve grown up seeing how he has been able to ‘transform’ guys and his record with different riders is definitely proven. For me it is another strong part of the whole KTM setup. I have an opportunity that really involves the whole package. I think it will be different for me but I’m excited about that.”

And having Marvin as a teammate?
“A great rider, and one that is at the top of his game right now. I’m be trying to learn as much as I can from him and it will also be interesting and nice to have a teammate like that because many times [in past teams] I’ve been the only guy. It will be nice for motivation or to be able to talk and bounce ideas around.”

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Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Budds Creek (USA) 2018 © Simon Cudby

It’s been a tough introduction for you to the 450s recently. Will this chance invigorate the motivation to be one of the very top names in the sport once again?
“I had a special run in the Lites but then have struggled for two years on the bigger bikes because of different stuff. At times I showed good speed but things didn’t really click for some reason. It will be kinda cool to come up on the radar again. I know there will be people interested in what I do on the KTM and quite some attention but I will be putting in the work and doing everything to come into the year as strong as I can be. With everything around me I know I have put myself in the best possible position for winning on the track again. I had a very comfortable feeling with the guys and on the bike from the very first moments – almost a ‘night and day’ feeling actually – and that just gives you confidence.”

So, when will people first see you in orange?
“Well, the announcement is made and we might race at the Monster Cup in Vegas if I’m feeling ready and we’re all prepared. I won’t be doing any overseas races this year. The plan is to ‘stick to the plan’ and focus on getting ready with the bike for Anaheim 1. I don’t want anything to take me away from that or the work with Aldon.”

Photos: KISKA, Inc. | Simon Cudby


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Home sweet home

Posted in People, Racing

Open any MXGP rider’s agenda, and you’ll find out most of them will have marked their home race with exclamation marks; it’s the one race they look forward to most. Riding in front of a home crowd is something special. But, might there be more to it? We caught up with the two Dutch KTM factory riders and a sports psychologist to find out more about the effects of a home race.

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Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions

“If you think about it a bit longer, it is kind of weird,” Glenn Coldenhoff claims. “When you race in your home country you get a sensation you’re able to dig deeper. Even when it’s technically no different than any other Grand Prix, of which there are plenty more.” With both Valkenswaard and Assen currently on the calendar, the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider is a fortunate one. Italian riders are the only ones who have it better with three races on home soil. Coldenhoff really does believe there’s an advantage to riding ‘at home’. “At Valkenswaard you don’t hear the fans so much, but it’s the waving hands that spur you on. Assen has a massive grandstand that makes the whole track feel compact and you can really hear the fans trackside. That boosts your performance, but not in a way you could ever possibly measure. I mean, in the end I want to do well in Spain or Italy too; in that respect it makes no difference.” Possible advantages aside, the two-time GP winner can’t come up with any sort of disadvantage. “If I’d have to point a single thing out, it would be the media attention. It’s always a little bit more crowded, a bit busier, riding at home.”

Jeffrey Herlings has the same sense as his compatriot and teammate of how home races provide a special vibe. “It adds urgency to doing well; you want to give the fans what they came to see”, the newly crowned MXGP World Champion explains. “And of course, it does put a little bit of extra pressure on. Take Valkenswaard for instance. I had won the GP there seven times in a row. With that streak in mind, I’ve become pretty much obliged to go out and win it again. If you then fail to do so [Herlings finished second in 2017] you’re going to feel like you’ve fallen short.”

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Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions

Controlling emotions
Though both Coldenhoff and Herlings mine mostly positive energy from the home races, it in no way guarantees good results in front of the home crowd. Sports psychologist Afke van de Wouw has been working with individual athletes and professional teams for years, giving her a clear picture of high level sports, and where and how the mental aspect comes into play. To find out if there is such a thing as home advantage, Van de Wouw feels it is important not to overlook context. She believes it’s essential to look at the big picture. “It’s not uncommon to look at the mental and physical aspects separately, but that’s where things go tend to go amiss,” Van de Wouw says. “To be able to control your emotions, you need energy. When the body fatigues, it directly affects the ability to keep your feelings in check.” To make things even more complicated, you’re going to have to take into account how the athlete deals with certain given situations. In short; how does an MXGP rider channel the pressure put on by racing in front of a home crowd? “You have to look not so much at the results, but the way things are done to come to said results. I always like using the penalty in soccer scenario for this. Research has shown that a team captain – not rarely an older, more experienced player – is far more likely to miss than a younger player encountering the same stressful game situation. You would think the experienced team captain has seen it all, giving him the edge; he knows exactly what he has to do to make it work. Home advantage falls in the same category. It can boost your confidence, but certain athletes don’t handle the pressure too well, with negative thoughts spiraling out of control as a result. They start thinking about how all eyes are on them, each and every person trackside spurring them on – expecting them to do well. It really depends on the athlete’s mental strength to work with or around the challenges of the given situation.”

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Afke van de Wouw © Dre Schouwenberg

Mental resilience
Glenn Coldenhoff knows all about it. A home race might just be a nightmare for an athlete. Last year Coldenhoff hit a rough patch in race two on the artificial Assen track, but he wasn’t going to let it get to him. “I had managed to secure podium positions in Assen the two years before, so I arrived at the track full of confidence. You do put pressure on yourself, urging yourself on to do well, knowing you can do well, too. The second heat didn’t work out, at all. I crashed, sending my bike into one of the VIP hospitalities. At any other track that would’ve been the end of it; I probably would’ve left my bike trackside right then and there. I was in some serious pain, but I felt like I had to fight through it, for the fans that had come to see some good racing. Fans we’re going crazy, even though I was dead last. Won’t say I wasn’t disappointed, but my mind the only thing left to do was to carry on.”

Every athlete possesses mental resilience; the ability to bounce back. Sports psychologist Van de Wouw says about 40% of that is genetic. “The genetic building blocks you get from your father and mother make up a certain physique and character. Are you a glass half full or half empty kind of person? That outlook is pretty much predetermined, but there’s some gains to be made with training.”

Most athletes focus their training on physical strength and stamina, but there’s more to be gained with the use of psychology. Van de Wouw: “Trial and error teaches you to deal with the mental side of high level sportsmanship, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Most athletes tend to ignore that side of their training for far too long. A trainer that supports and instructs them on how to become stronger physically and technically; every single athlete has at least one of those. Only when they start to suffer mentally, they turn to psychology.”

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Glenn Coldenhoff (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions

Home crowd success
It isn’t until an athlete hits rock bottom psychologically, when they knock on the door of a sports psychologist. “I ask tons of athletes the same question; what percentage of your performance boils down to the psychological factors in play? Most of them feel it’s well over fifty percent, but when asked how much of their time spent training is focused on training mental skills, most of them admit it’s near zero. It’s the weirdest thing, because they are aware of the importance of being focused and dealing with adversity, but they don’t seem to know that mental skills are just as trainable as physical skills.”

The same goes for home races. It is far from a given that an athlete would perform better at a game, match, or race in their home country. “Nerves might be a part of it, potentially blocking the rider – keeping him from performing at his best. Everything might go exactly to plan during training, but when the time for the actual race comes, the results don’t show. It is often the pressure of feeling obliged to do well in front of your own audience that wreaks havoc on a rider’s chances to actually get the results he set out to obtain.”

By applying the right methods an athlete can develop his mental resilience. Sports psychologist Afke van de Wouw thinks it’s of the utmost importance personal trainers and coaches expand their own skillset to further develop their trainees’ mental strength. “I schedule regular talks with individual athletes, but I’m not around constantly. A trainer or coach is capable of influencing the athlete a lot more. When said trainer constantly underlines where things are going amiss, the rider might develop a negative self-image. How a training schedule is set up plays a big part in this. Take small steps, set small goals. That way you’re approaching training from a positive point of view, because even though the successes itself are smaller, they are more frequent. That positive approach boosts confidence, allowing the athlete to build his performance from there.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions

Positive effect
Strangely enough, the advantage gained from a home race can also affect an adversary. Coldenhoff – in this case being the aforementioned adversary – knows exactly how that works. “Say, you’re racing in France, chasing down a French rider. He’ll be cheered on by his home crowd, which in turn spurs me on to show I’m not affected by him racing at home; I’ll be more driven to pass him.” It’s just one example of psychological warfare coming from the stands. Obviously, riders are constantly trying to get into their opponents’ heads, too, but on occasion that can seriously backfire. Van de Wouw: “Olympic swimming champion Inge de Bruijn once told about an opponent who tried to break her mentally by spitting in De Bruijn’s lane just before they were about to be sent off. Having something like that happen to you, can rattle an athlete. In Inge’s case it gave her an edge, converting the negative energy to teach her opponent who’s boss.”

The positive outcomes of a home race will also come into play at the oncoming MX of Nations. Though you hardly get the chance to race in front of your home crowd at the yearly MX of Nations, it does have a same sort of vibe around it this time; for Coldenhoff and Herlings it might as well be a home Grand Prix. “I really feel that strongly, because I really feel Dutch. So, it’s an enormous honor to represent my country. That gives me something extra, like a home race would,” Herlings underlines. Coldenhoff shares the same special feeling, going into the annual MX of Nations races. “Those races are something else, something I really enjoy being a part of, being allowed to represent the colors of my home country. Especially since our team has been very strong over the past years, we’ve seen a rise in excitement among Dutch MX fans.”

The Dutch team is yet to get their name on the victor’s trophy at the MX of Nations, but 2019 might be the year the Dutch team can put their home advantage to good use. Next year will see the MX of Nations run at the artificial track at the Assen TT circuit. Coldenhoff: “It’s a wonderful chance for us, having the MX of Nations at home. Winning is in the cards anyway, but at Assen we’ll have an edge over the other countries. But still, even when you get to race an event as big as that in front of your home crowd, you’re still going to have to make it work. You get no guarantees in this sport; you don’t ‘just’ win the MX of Nations. One small error and you’re on the back foot. From there it gets neigh on impossible to secure a place on the top step of the rostrum. In any case, we have all the right parts in our team to secure the first Dutch MX of Nations victory, on home soil.”

Assen (NED) 2018 © Shot Up Productions

Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions | Dre Schouwenberg


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New champ on the block

Posted in People, Racing

He just had to score four more points this weekend at the last Grand Prix of the year, but Jorge Prado can already call himself the new MX2 World Champion. An injury forced title-contender Pauls Jonass to undergo an operation and prevented his chances of defending the MX2 crown in Imola, Italy. Just before this unexpected turn, we sat down with the Spanish Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider to fire a few questions in his direction.

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Jorge Prado (ESP) Teutschenthal (GER) 2018 © Ray Archer

Jorge Prado experienced a perfect weekend in Assen and the battle in MX2 seemed to have been decided. In the far north of the Netherlands, reigning world champion Pauls Jonass had the opportunity to reduce his 24-point deficit, but an injury sustained at the Grand Prix of Turkey, a crash in the first moto in Assen and finally the surgery made it impossible for the 21 year-old Latvian to defend his MX2 world championship title. The crown is passed to a talented young man from Lugo, Spain.

Jorge Prado has been recognized for many years as a major motocross talent, and that’s no surprise. At just 17 years of age, the Spaniard’s well stocked trophy cabinet already contains several important prizes. So it doesn’t feel strange for him to be world champion; after all, at the tender age of 10, he won the world championship title in the 65cc class. And he didn’t stop there: in 2015 he also claimed victory in the EMX125. The route to major success doesn’t seem far away for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider. After making his Grand Prix début in 2016, it was only a year later, during the fifth race weekend of the season, that he managed to secure his first victory. A MX2 world championship title fits perfectly in the success story of Prado. To get to know the new world champion a little better, we sat together with him while he talked openly about the MX2 title, his native country Spain, and his dreams for the future.

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Had you expected Pauls Jonass to perform less strongly in Assen?
“To be honest, no. Jonass is always a strong opponent and he’s also an extremely good sand rider. Plus, he knows what it’s like to win in Assen, so I definitely had to take him into account. In any case, it could still have gone any way in the championship, but in the end it turned out perfect for me with a double moto win. Before I went to Assen, I was feeling the pressure. Before the start of the first moto, I was really nervous. It also felt different to usual, because you know this is about the world championship. Fortunately, I got everything under control and I won the first moto. Once I was on the bike, I didn’t feel any stress. With Jonass’ lesser result, some of the pressure was taken off me, which meant I felt a bit more relaxed riding the second moto.”

You’ve already been world champion, in the juniors. Do you feel the same kind of pressure now?
“It’s definitely comparable, but this title is a bit more significant of course.”

Last year you were seventh in the final ranking, and now you are world champion. A huge step forwards. Is that purely down to the experience, that you’re now getting better results?
“The problem was that I wasn’t consistent enough. I won three GPs and was really often in the top five, but scored zero points in the eight motos. Last year I was still at school, while participating in the Motocross World Championship at the same time. There were a lot of competitions and training sessions on the program, but I also wanted to do as well as possible at school. That didn’t really work. Sometimes I was really, really exhausted, which made it difficult to train well and maintain focus. I was sleeping less, so I also wasn’t getting enough rest. It was really difficult, both mentally and physically.”

And that’s no longer the situation this year?
“Correct. That’s why, at the start of the season, I also had the idea that I could go for the world championship. I trained really hard in the winter, but two months before the first GP, I got injured. I was back on the bike just two weeks before the competition in Argentina. But I still knew I had a chance of winning the title.”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Lommel (BEL) 2018 © Ray Archer

And now the time has come, your first MX2 title!
“It’s the reason why my whole family moved to Belgium, to realize my dream. We wanted to end up exactly here, so that I had the opportunity to win a world title. It’s great that my dream came true.”

It’s been a considerable sacrifice for you and your family, leaving your home for your dream.
“It definitely hasn’t been easy, because the rest of the family still lives in Spain. My mum and dad also had to put aside their work to come to Belgium. So they made a lot of sacrifices to embark on this adventure. We’ve lived in Lommel for six years now, that’s also where I went to school. I also speak Dutch now, as well as Spanish and English. I think we’ve adjusted reasonably well to this new situation. In the beginning it was difficult of course, but now we seem to be doing well.”

What things were the most difficult to adjust to?
“Almost everything is different, so it takes a while before you start to feel a little bit at home. But now, we’ve even taken on Belgian habits. Such as the time that we eat. Nowadays we have lunch at twelve o’clock, while in Spain that’s much later. The same applies to the evening meal. We used to eat at around nine o’clock, but now it’s more like seven o’clock. But sometimes also half past seven or eight o’clock. Still more like Spanish times [laughs]. We still eat a very Mediterranean diet, only it’s difficult to eat fish in Belgium. And I do really love fish.”

Do you sometimes miss Spain?
“Of course, I still feel 100% Spanish. But I’m really happy in Belgium, I feel at home here. Of course, I don’t know for sure, but I think the same applies to my parents.”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) KTM 250 SX-F Semarang (INA) 2018 © Ray Archer

Now we’re talking about your native country, that’s where your love of motocross began of course. How exactly did you discover the sport?
“I was born and raised in Lugo, a city in Galicia with a population of around 100,000. Fifteen minutes away from our house was a motocross circuit, but that was the only one for miles around. Motocross isn’t that popular there. My first experience of the sport was with trials riding, from the age of three. My father used to ride and I always loved watching. So eventually, I got a trials bike and started riding myself. When I was six I switched to a motocross bike. I enjoyed that even more.”

You were successful in motocross pretty quickly. Who was your trainer in Spain?
“My father, nobody else. He’s only ever ridden at an amateur level himself, but I think he was still able to give me useful tips. If you see where I am now, that must have been the case, right? We’re always together, my father is there at all the training sessions and races. Recently I’ve been training a lot with Tony Cairoli. That’s really important for me, because I receive a lot of tips from him. It’s difficult to say exactly what those are, but he has a huge amount of experience of course. So, he helps me both on and off the track. For example, how to handle fans and the media.”

Is it true that you also once tried your hand at road racing?
“Yes, in 2011 I went to see Sete Gibernau [former MotoGP rider]. He has his own circuit and he invited me to come and ride there. It was fun to try and I even had the opportunity to ride Moto3. But I enjoyed motocross a lot more, so I kept on doing that.”

Marc Marquez also started out in motocross, but eventually switched to road racing. That branch of motorsport gets a lot of attention in Spain. Is there still room left for you in the newspapers and magazines?
“A little, but not a great deal. Perhaps this will change a bit with the world title. But there’s still a lot of work to be done to increase the popularity of motocross in Spain. Of course, it has also to do with the fact that there are hardly any Spanish riders competing at the top level. If that changes, motocross will get more media coverage. I hope I can help the sport to grow in my country. That children will be inspired and also want to try motocross. That would really make me proud.”

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Jesus Prado (ESP) & Jorge Prado (ESP) Afyon (TUR) 2018 © Ray Archer

Would you like to actively work on that, on raising the sport in Spain to a higher level?
“Yes, that definitely appeals to me, but first I have to accomplish my true goal. And that is the MXGP title. Perhaps after that I can think more about my role in raising the level of motocross in Spain. So at this moment in time, I’m not yet focused on that. And I’m still young, so all kinds of things could still happen.”

Who were your idols when you were a young kid?
“In the beginning, I had three. First and foremost it was Valentino Rossi, while Adam Raga was my hero in trials. I also had a favorite in motocross: Ricky Carmichael. Later, that changed again. I became more a fan of Marc Marquez, Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and Ken Roczen.”

Back to the present. In an earlier interview you mentioned that, after winning the MX2 title, you’d like to go to the U.S. to race there. Is that still the case?
“For the next five years I’m staying here, because whatever happens I want to make the switch to the MXGP. And I’m going to try to win the world championship, as I want to be the world´s best motocross rider. Keep going until that goal has been accomplished, that’s my plan right now. And to achieve that, I have to find a way to beat Jeffrey and Tony, in my opinion the best riders at the moment. That’s also the reason I want to stay in the Motocross World Championship. So, going to the U.S. has been put on the back burner for the time being.”

But still not completely out of your mind?
“I feel really good in the De Carli setup, and so I don’t feel the need to go to the US. If you’d asked me the same question last year, I would have answered differently. My aspiration for the AMA Supercross was a lot stronger at that time. But not anymore, because the switch to Italy has really been great for me. I have everything I need, so I’m definitely not planning to embark on a complete change at this point. What the future holds, I cannot know of course. I could still decide to make the move. I’m still young, so I can still turn my focus to the US in a few years’ time. In that respect, anything is possible.”

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Jorge Prado (ESP) Sevlievo (BUL) 2018 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


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It´s new. It´s READY TO RACE. Introducing the KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA MY2019.

There are not many things more READY TO RACE than the KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA and this dune-eating, rally-bashing, Dakar-loving race machine has been re-designed from the ground up. Almost identical to the KTM 450 RALLY factory bike that took KTM to its 17th consecutive Dakar victory earlier this year with Matthias Walkner, this bike is the ultimate machine for those racing in rally competition.

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KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA MY2019 © KTM

The MY2019 KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA has a completely new chassis that has been re-designed to improve mass centralization, bringing the weight to the center and lower in the bike for more agility and stability over the previous model. A new swingarm, linkage and shock absorber with a new air filter box, fuel tanks and seat provide a range of improvements, especially in overall weight distribution. A shorter and lower Akrapovič exhaust continues with the mass centralization focus, which has been a key point of evolution in the new generation, while the bike is fitted with WP XACT PRO 48mm closed cartridge Cone Valve suspension, along with its high-quality Brembo brakes, a carbon navigational tower with new bodywork that encompasses sophisticated ergonomics and aerodynamics that make the bike more refined than ever. With a new 450cc fuel-injection engine with increased power thanks to a new cylinder head, and a new transmission that has been developed and tested in the severest of conditions, the MY2019 KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA is ready for anything when it comes to the perils of the Dakar.

With only marginal differences to its factory counterpart, the KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA is made in limited numbers and developed by the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team. 75 units will be produced this year and all units have already been reserved before production – probably thanks to the high-quality components, innovation and the satisfaction of knowing during development the bike has been tested in anger by the likes of Dakar winners Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Walkner.

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KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA MY2019 © KTM

“The all-new KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA is based on our already-successful new factory machine that we began racing at the end of last year, which was specifically developed to win the Dakar. With the latest generation, our goal and focus was to develop a bike around the style of our current factory riders, who required something with more comfort, more agility and improved stability,” said KTM Factory Rally Team Leader, Stefan Huber (who is a guru of all things rally and rally development).

“We looked for an improvement in handling, a lower weight, as well as a bike that also meets the demands of the conditions and intensity that we now find at Dakar. The KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA machine is almost identical to those raced by our athletes, and is available for customers to get the opportunity to own and ride a really premium, purpose-developed rally machine with high-quality components and maximum innovation. It’s been truly revised from the ground up, and we are looking forward to seeing these bikes being raced by our customers.”

Take a look at this thing of beauty. We might not all want to endure the extremes of Dakar with its freezing high-altitude mountainous stages, comprised with gnarly hard pack, desert and dunes in 50 degree temperatures over 1000’s of kilometers, but we’re pretty sure this would be a cool bike to own.

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KTM 450 RALLY REPLICA MY2019 © KTM

Photos: KTM


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Can and Deniz Öncü: The winning twins

Posted in People, Racing

Having the same last name on the screen of their respective KTM RC 250 Rs is the only giveaway of this duo being twins. Brothers Can and Deniz look nothing alike, making it obvious they are not identical twins – they’re fraternal twins.

Deniz is short in stature, barely makes the scales tip to forty kilos, and if you didn’t know any better you’d say he’s quite a bit younger than his brother Can. But since they’re twins, they couldn’t be too far apart age wise; they both celebrated their fifteenth birthday at the end of July. Can is easy to pick out of a crowd, or to distinguish from his brother, obviously. Can is quite a bit taller than Deniz and unlike his ‘little brother’ Can has a lot of bushy hair to stuff into his crash helmet.

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Deniz & Can Öncü (TUR) Assen (NED) 2018 © Guus van Goethem

Apart from their physical differences, they share one unmistakable resemblance; they have a feisty right wrist. Can and Deniz are taking the GP paddock by storm, showing impressive talent and even more potential by shaking up the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup – the Grand Prix’ talent class. Both Turks are currently racing their second season in the class, taking their fellow rookies hostage with their unmistakable potential for future greatness.

Recently Can underlined his prowess by taking the Rookies championship title prematurely at the Misano GP round. And Deniz isn’t out for the count yet, either, with a chance to finish second in the championship during the final round at Aragon (September 21-23). This season Can looks to be the man to beat of the two, but make no mistake; Deniz took the Asia Talent Cup – an Asian counterpart of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup – title last year, so he’s no slouch.

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Can Öncü (TUR) Assen (NED) 2018 © Guus van Goethem

On the prowl
Despite their obvious talent, the Turkish brothers have remained off the radar of most motorcycle racing fans, but you can be sure that’s all about to change. The duo is set to move into the Moto3 World Championship rather sooner than later. FIM even changed its regulations to allow Can to move into Moto3 next year. The 2018 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup champ would otherwise not be eligible to enter the GP championship, as he’ll only be fifteen when next season kicks off in March. The FIM added an exemption to allow the Rookies Cup champion to be allowed a starting license at fifteen years old, as they have also allowed the Moto3 Junior World Championship winner to progress a year ahead of his peers. The twins from Alanya have a long road ahead of them, but they’re both on the prowl to reel in a successful career in motorsports, and so far things are going really well for the duo.

MotoGPTM is still quite far away for the youngsters, but in working towards that goal the two Turks will always have the experience of Kenan Sofuoglu to build on. As their mentor, Sofuoglu – a five-time World Supersport 600 champion – is working tirelessly to help the Öncü brothers to achieve success. Not just personal success, either. Sofuoglu is the poster boy of Turkish motorcycle racing culture and, as such, has been going above and beyond to outline Turkey as a racing nation. To figure out where the Öncü twins fit into this masterplan, we sat down with Can and Deniz to get to know them. Always good to pick the brain of young and talented riders like them, who have their minds firmly set on making it into MotoGPTM in a couple of seasons time.

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Deniz Öncü (TUR) Assen (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

How did you end up in motorsports?
Can: “We used to go to our father’s office every now and then, and we would pass a place along the way that had two minibikes out in front. We would dream of riding those two bikes together. When we were four years old, we got our first bikes. It was unbelievable! Our father had bought them for us. In the beginning we only rode the bikes for fun, finishing the day off with a barbecue. At some point a friend of ours suggested we should enter a race. Deniz couldn’t partake because he was injured at the time, but I could. I won the race first time out, lapping the number two twice.”
Deniz: “Not a word of a lie. He really did win it by a huge margin.”

Did your father race at some point?
Deniz: “No, he never did. Let’s put it this way; he was the fastest superbike rider in the streets … but actual racing – no, he did not.”

Do a lot of kids ride in Turkey?
Deniz: “They do. Not like in Spain, though. The problem is they don’t train enough to really master racing. We do. We get up at six in the morning every single day to work out. The other kids simply don’t. They get up at around eight or nine, then get breakfast and head to school. Then when they get back from school, they play videogames. If they are into sports, they’ll mostly do that during the weekends. When that’s your approach, you’re never going to make the improvements you need.”

What road did you follow before you came to the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup?
Can: “We started out doing motocross after which we switched to supermoto. Four years ago, we made the switch to road racing in the Turkish NSF100 Cup and R3 Cup. From there we made it into the Asia Talent Cup and since last year we’ve been racing in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup as well.”

What made you switch to road racing over staying in motocross or supermoto?
Can: “Two reasons, actually. The first being speed. The higher the speed, the bigger the rush. And safety was a factor, too. If you crash in motocross, you’re always bound to break something. In road racing that isn’t as big of a concern. We wear a lot of protection and going off usually means you literally slide off, usually quite innocently. Highsiders, however; that’s a different story.”

So you don’t do motocross anymore because of the risk of getting injured?
Deniz: “Yes, it’s just too dangerous. We race almost every two to three weeks, and if you were to break something on a motocross bike, you’re out for a while. That would cost you so many points for the championship and sitting at home doesn’t gain you any more experience. We do on occasion ride supermoto in the winter. Purely to work on drifting the bike and improving our balance on the bike. In the summer we focus on working out in the gym, running, and cycling.”

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Can & Deniz Öncü (TUR) KTM RC 250 R Assen (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

Does Turkey offer you enough circuits to train at?
Can: “Unfortunately it doesn’t and that’s a big problem. Istanbul Park is the only track in Turkey that could host a GP and we aren’t even allowed to race there because it’s constantly rented out to car drivers. Kenan Sofuoglu does have a small track we train at sometimes.”

Speaking of Kenan; isn’t he the man that persuaded you to switch to road racing?
Can: “That’s right. About four years ago he pushed us into road racing. Mostly because of safety concerns, but it turned out to be a good choice to make the switch.”
Deniz: “Kenan still coaches us. We can call him whenever we have a problem, any problem. He is a good friend of ours and he always sends us his best wishes before a race. And – as a five-time world champion – we can learn so much from him. He really is a hero of ours, like he is to many Turks.”

There’s also a young Turk in the World Superbike paddock, Toprak Razgatlioğlu. Are there any others we should keep an eye out for?
Can: “Not at this time. No-one is training hard enough to make it big in Turkey. Of course I hope more guys can make it to the world championship level, but for the time being that just isn’t the case.”

It seems working hard is the key to success for you, right? It must be quite hard to keep that up for young guys like yourselves.
Can: “Luckily we have our father to support us. He’s constantly pushing us to be as good as we can be. Even when we don’t want to, hahaha. He makes us work to be at one hundred percent all of the time.”

Can you still rival each other on track even though you’re twins?
Deniz: “Of course we can. He might be my brother, but I’ll always try to beat him. That goes both ways. And on track we also help each other when we can. If my lap times are lacking, Can gives me pointers, and I will help him whenever he needs it.”
Can: “I really want to win, but if that is not within reach and Deniz beats me, I can still be happy in the end. It also motivates me to be better next time out, so I can beat him.”
Deniz: “And when he does, I’ll be ready to beat Can the next time. It’s a great motivation for both of us, allowing us to grow and work our way up to a higher level.”

You both have completely different physiques; what sort of effect does that have on the bike?
Deniz: “Everyone always thinks I’m at an advantage because of my weight and length, but it’s the exact opposite, actually. My brother weighs about sixty kilos, the bike weighs eighty kilos. Because of that, he doesn’t have to add weight to the bike in order to make the rider plus bike minimum weight. I have to stick on twenty kilos of ballast somewhere because I only weigh forty kilos. That is never an advantage, because where are you going to put all that weight? Plus, if you’re a bit heavier, it allows you to work the bike more. Extra weight usually adds a bit of extra muscle too.”

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Deniz Öncü (TUR) KTM RC 250 R Assen (NED) 2018 © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions

It’s pretty obvious you guys like motorsports, but what else do you enjoy?
Can: “We really like BMX riding. Not too competitively though, because we don’t want to crash. It’s mostly for training and a bit of fun. We don’t enter in races either. We also swim a lot, because it’s both training as well as a way to relax. Personally, I’m not too much into running, but my brother thinks it’s the greatest thing in the world. I think he likes it best because he can really ‘kill’ me at running, but then I’m faster on a bicycle. That’s why I like it.”

It seems you really do everything together.
Can: “We do. We even share a bedroom. We’re together 24 hours a day.”

Will that change in five years when you might both have girlfriends?
Deniz: “Don’t know, but for now we’re not thinking about girlfriends. It’s just bikes. That’s what our entire world is about.”

You’re both riding the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup and the Moto3 Junior World Championship this season. In both classes you’re riding KTM; is there a big difference between the bikes?
Can: “The Red Bull KTM Ajo bike is completely different from the Rookies bike. That KTM allows you to change and adjust pretty much everything. That makes the bike way easier to ride than the KTM we run in the Rookies Cup. But then you can also get the adjustments wrong, because there’s just so much you can change. Luckily, we have a very good team behind us that always has plenty of data at hand to sort things out. We learn to set up the bike better each time out, which will be a big advantage when we progress in our careers.”

Wouldn’t that be the ultimate dream end goal; the two of you as the riders for the KTM factory racing team in MotoGPTM?
Deniz: “That would absolutely be great, but we don’t get to hung up on dreams like that. We set small and achievable goals; that way we can be proud of our achievements much quicker. When you set a goal you probably won’t be able to achieve, it can only go badly. So for now our entire focus is on the next step; and that’s Moto3.”
Can: “But yes, it would be a dream to form a single MotoGPTM team as twins. That is something we would both really like.”

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Deniz & Can Öncü (TUR) Assen (NED) 2018 © Guus van Goethem

Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions | Guus van Goethem


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Interview of the Month: The words of a master – Herlings talks mammoth 2018

One week after his 24th birthday Jeffrey Herlings blew out the candle on an utterly dominant MXGP season so we collected a few exclusive words with the world’s fastest dirtbike racer.

2018 is just four numbers among a thick ledger of other digits for Red Bull KTM’s newest World Champion (and just his second season in the premier class of the FIM Motocross World Championship) Jeffrey Herlings. His first title with the KTM 450 SX-F was secured in Assen last weekend and crowned a season of emphatic achievement; only the training accident that led to collarbone surgery and his absence from round eleven in Italy in June remains the sole blot on a peachy copybook.

Talking about the commitment to defeat the world’s best – including nine times No.1 and teammate Tony Cairoli (runner-up in 2018) – and the effort into construction of a record-breaking campaign Herlings gave us the low-down.

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Argentina and the last lap victory by passing Tony: it seemed to set the tone for the season. Did you feel like it was a big statement at the time?
“I came into Argentina with high expectations but I also did not know what to expect. On Saturday I was really nervous. I think I was fastest in Timed Practice but then in the Qualification Heat Tony passed me on the third-fourth lap and I wanted to fight back but went down. I was seventh or eighth and I wasn’t riding well. I had two bad starts on Sunday and things were not really going my way but in that second moto I started picking off riders like Desalle and Van Horebeek and then with seven-eight minutes to go it was only Tony in front of me but with a serious gap. To close that gap to the reigning world champion at the first round was something special. To then take the lead on the last lap was a way of making a statement. I was saying: “I’m here for the big picture”.”

Was that the perfect start? How much did it help your confidence?
“It gave me a boost. Every year you come out of the winter period and you never really know what will happen. Some riders do the Italian championship and some riders look to other races but [the first Grand Prix] is the first time where everything really comes together, and with all the top guys. I think everybody wants to make some sort of statement at the first round. I came home from Argentina and thought ‘Ok, good …’ but also thought ‘nineteen rounds to go, must stay fit, must stay healthy’. Obviously, my confidence grew during the season with more and more wins. It was pretty amazing what we have achieved this year and to win so many motos and overall GPs, despite missing a round, I don’t think many people have done that.”

You’ve only dropped something like 17 points all season, which is incredible …
“Yes, I had a couple of second places and a third but to race 36 motos and win 31 of them is pretty cool.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) & Tony Cairoli (ITA) KTM 450 SX-F Neuquen (ARG) 2018 © Ray Archer

What was the secret to beating a nine times world champion and a force of consistency like Tony Cairoli?
“At the beginning of 2017 I did not take the MXGP class that seriously or behave in the way I should because I was not ‘all-in’ and was still going out with friends and doing things that I should normally be doing at my age! I realized quickly that to win in MXGP you have to go for it 110% and be totally committed to the sport from the moment you wake up until the minute you go to bed for ten months of the year. That’s’ what I did this time. The key to winning was making sure that ‘nothing was left on the table’. I watched out for anything and everything: my food, the training, the travelling, resting, testing. Everything had to click together as well as the people around me. It was necessary to beat a great champion like Tony. We raced 18 times together and I beat him 17 times: I think it is not pure luck any more.”

You said you lived like a “monk” to make the results happen – great quote – but that must carry quite a cost …
“If that’s what it takes to win then I have to do it. It was something I milled since the beginning of last winter. Maybe if I was somewhere in between the commitment of 2018 and 2017 then I could still win but I wanted to make sure I gave the maximum and make sure it was enough to win. I’d rather do that for a short number of years and try to collect titles and win races and GPs instead of going easy for fifteen years and maybe not winning much at all. I prefer to go all-out and shorter.”

It has been a season of dreams, real domination. How can you beat it or muster motivation to go again or try to repeat it?
“As a kid I always wanted to win a premier class world championship. MX2 is a world title … but it is nothing compared to this and what I had to do for it. I felt that in MX2 – especially the last years – people would think “Herlings is here, which means he is either going to win or probably go to the hospital’. This time it was against the hard guys, the heavy-hitters, like Tony, [Tim] Gajser, [Romain] Febvre and those that have been taking titles. I really wanted to beat Tony at his best and I don’t think he was at his best this year but he was close. I’ve seen races from him a few years back and also close-up now and personally I don’t think he has been riding as well as he is now and to beat him straight-up? Pretty cool. I have been studying and watching him for a number of years and I’ve always thought ‘I want to beat that guy …’ and to do it for the championship is something really nice.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Sevlievo (BUL) 2018 © Ray Archer

One negative is that you’ve made it look easy, almost like an MX2 campaign. You’ve said repeatedly that the level is so high but it must be tricky to make people believe that …
“Yeah, it is difficult. People might see it like MX2, but if I look back now then MX2 was a bit like for ‘children’ whereas this [MXGP] is like for the big boys. Winning an MX2 championship is still not easy – believe me – there were still some amazing riders there. The level of MX2 might not be the same as it was in the past now, but everybody looks at it in a different way and from their own perspective. I think the MXGP class is one of the ‘heaviest’ it has ever been; there are multiple world champions in the class and a lot of GP winners. Even now there are some top riders who are struggling to find a ride for 2019. It is a very tough class so that’s why you have to go all-out and put all of your heart into it. Some people might see that and some might not but I’m sure that most in the sport and the industry will.”

What about the emotion of a day like Assen?
“When I woke up in the morning I felt ‘today’s the day’ and I had all the flashbacks of getting up and doing the routine: getting on the road bike, going into the gym … all the ten months of hard work and dedication went down to this day when it was most likely going to happen. My mum and I had tears in our eyes this morning. It was definitely emotional and going into the last lap I knew I was world championship because I’d lapped up to 7th-8th and everything went through my head of what we’d done this year and in the past. I was a big fan of Tony back in 2004 and then he won in Lierop I thought ‘one day I want to be like those guys’ and here we are fourteen years later fighting the biggest racers in the world and I have won the biggest championship I could possibly win.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM 450 SX-F Assen (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

You’ve credited the team and said the KTM 450 SX-F has been almost perfect. Is there much to improve with the bike because you have an unbeatable package at the moment?
“Well, we have some new things [to come] and the competition is always working to get closer. I think they are really pushing to take the crown away from KTM. This year the team will again have MXGP and MX2 championship and the group also took the Supercross title as well as the 250 West. I think the other manufacturers are looking and trying to stand up to beat us. We have to improve. If we stop development then we won’t be number one any more. We have things to test: something on the engine and also with the chassis to keeping working and to try to be better. Up until now the package has been really good … but if you look at the bikes ten years ago then they were great but compared to now they are pretty crappy! Our 2018 bike is awesome now but again in ten years it will be something that’s not good enough. Development never stops.”

How will you treat yourself in the coming weeks and do you have any other ambitions?
“The plan after the Motocross of Nations is to not ride for about six weeks: I asked for some time off! Obviously, there are still some [promo] things I need to do but that’s my job and I love to do them as part of the marketing but I asked not to ride the bike for a few weeks and finally be able to hang out with some friends and have a holiday. Even small things like when friends go out for fast food and I have to have a salad: scrap that! I want to enjoy a little bit of being a normal 24-year-old kid. We have to make a lot of sacrifices [as a rider] and that’s what I do to try and win. KTM are really supportive of that; they see how hard I have worked and understand wanting a few weeks away from it. I think it is also necessary: I have to recharge the battery if I want to win next year and do it all over again. I don’t really have any burning challenge away from the bike. I just want that normality that I have to avoid during the year! Halfway through November we’ll start the preparation for next year.”

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Jeffrey Herlings (NED) & Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team (NED) 2018 © Ray Archer

Photos: Ray Archer


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