DAKAR 2020: A CAPTIVATING RACE OVER SOME OF THE MOST INCREDIBLE TERRAIN
As the dust settles on the 2020 Dakar Rally, which marked a new chapter for the event at a new location in Saudi Arabia, we at the KTM Blog have been taking a look through the breath-taking images from this year’s race.
The Dakar Rally is known as one of the most notoriously difficult races on the planet; covering a total distance of over 8,000km with around 5,000 of those being timed specials, the 12-stage event is incredibly tough yet iconic, as riders from all over the world take on the challenge to journey and compete over some of the world’s most incredible terrain.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team endured a challenging race this year, although Australian-ace Toby Price continued his podium record for all Dakar races he’s completed with an impressive third place overall. 2018 Dakar champion Matthias Walkner from Austria finished fifth overall after a tough first week hampered his potential, with Argentinian racer Luciano Benavides earning his best finish yet in sixth aboard his KTM 450 RALLY.
Whilst we reflect on the race that has captivated the world in the opening part of the year, we welcome you to look through some of the best images of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team in action during Dakar 2020.
Matthias Walkner creates a wall of dust as he battles stage two of the 2020 Dakar Rally.
Sam Sunderland tackles the tricky terrain and navigation on Dakar stage two.
Luciano Benavides enjoyed his best Dakar finish yet with sixth overall after finishing inside the top 10 for all but one stage of the race.
Matthias Walkner loads in his roadbook ahead of stage four of the rally.
Toby Price navigates the sandy terrain at speed on his way to winning stage five of the Dakar.
Matthias Walkner took a top three finish on a very fast stage Dakar stage six.
Toby Price is followed by the helicopter capturing him in action during stage six of the race.
Luciano Benavides contemplates his possibilities during the Dakar 2020 rest day.
Toby Price the Bivouac Barber – a little downtime on rest day during the Dakar.
Stage 7 is one many riders will wish to forget due to the passing of a fellow competitor. Matthias Walkner tackles the difficult Saudi Arabian dunes.
Luciano Benavides tries to keep the power down aboard his KTM 450 RALLY on the changing terrain during Dakar stage nine.
After a grueling race Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price takes his fifth podium from six Dakar starts.
HOW DO YOU GET READY FOR A MOTOGP™ BIKE?
In a matter of a few weeks, Brad Binder will be able to answer the question that many race fans regularly have: what does it feel like to pin a MotoGP™ factory bike?! The South African chats about three ways in which he’ll get set for the challenge…
Brad Binder – PC @SebasRomero
Red Bull KTM MotoGP™ teams will field two rookies in 2020: Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona with the combined age of 43 years. Binder comes into the factory squad with a Moto3™ world championship and fifteen Grand Prix victories in two categories to his name including five wins in Moto2™ last year.
The South African has earned his MotoGP™ shot thanks to his results, attitude and attacking riding style; something that paddock insiders seem to think will suit him well on the RC16 and a motorcycle that Pol Espargaró aggressively throttled to 100 world championship points in 2019.
Brad Binder – PC @LukasLeitner
Binder first threw his leg over the KTM Grand Prix bike at the summer test in the Czech Republic. The laps he made at the Brno circuit were like a preview for what he might have in store for 2020. At the Valencia and Jerez MotoGP™ tests in November the new #33 was able to deepen his appreciation for the 350kmph missile.
Already an eight season ‘veteran’ of FIM world championship competition, Binder, who works between bases in Dubai and Spain, identified three areas in which he’s been focussing on to face the increase of speed, power and the best racers in the world.
Brad Binder – PC@LukasLeitner
A PHYSICAL PRESENCE
“I had my first taste of MotoGP™ at Brno last summer and I realized straight away that it is a lot harder on the forearms and also your heart rate goes a bit harder than in Moto2™. I think generally it is something that will be a lot more physical but also something you get used to.”
“I’d like to try and pick up a bit more muscle, and a bit more power for the new season can only help. Body weight is obviously an important factor in Moto3™ and Moto2™ but I can honestly say that I struggle to gain weight. I think it has a lot to do with the amount of cardio I do but also how much I eat. Normally my heaviest point comes when I start riding in February: I want to start the season like that because when races go on I start to lose it.”
Brad Binder – PC@LukasLeitner
“I don’t worry about training that much because it is something I take very seriously, and I do it very hard. I love cycling. I don’t do some of the insane mileage like the other riders, but I enjoy getting out on the bicycle and will mix it up between road and the enduro bicycle. You can do downhill loops and still peddle back to the top. I’m doing just as much if not more than anyone else and I know physically I’m very lucky because I’ve always felt just as strong at the end of the races, more than my competitors from what I see on the track. For sure this year will be a different story! There you are with the elite guys I suppose.”
I’ve worked with a few different trainers and lately I’ve been using the same guy that trained other MotoGP riders and have learned a good few pointers. I want to learn as much as I can from everybody and make a program that suits me. I’m sure there is room to improve. I’ve spoken to Pit [Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director] about working with Aldon Baker [famed South African Supercross/motocross trainer] and I think we’ll get around to it at some point. I did go to the Red Bull diagnostic training center recently with the other guys [riders] and that was an eye-opener. It is impressive how they can tailor special plans to the smallest detail.”
Brad Binder – PC @LukasLeitner
A CHANGE OF TECHNIQUE
“I just need to ride the thing a bit more!”
“Brno was very much a ‘get your feet wet’ situation. I have a lot to learn but I don’t want to think about it too much. I always believe that if you over-think things or have expectations that end up not existing then it’s only negative. Better to try and then work out what you need to do and to change.”
Brad Binder – PC @SebasRomero
“MotoGP™ will mean keeping an open mind. Taking it one day at a time. You can almost try and ‘jump-start’ situations but then you can also go a bit mad. In 2019 I made big improvements and my riding was much better. Moto2™ was hard at the beginning and that was mainly because of my arm; it was buggered for six months basically. Once it started to feel normal again then I started to find my way.”
“I’m sure electronics will be a big factor and getting my head around all that stuff. Learning to find set-up and how to save the tire; that’s not something you have to worry about too much in Moto2™. It is all-guns-blazing from lap one until the end. We had more electronic options in Moto2™ last year but, to be honest, I don’t know too much about them: I turned them off!”
Pit Beirer & Brad Binder – PC @SebasRomero
MINDFUL OF THE MINDSET
“First of all, I don’t want to repeat what I did in the past: trying to make everything happen at once. That’s how I ended up hurting myself, by pushing for too much too soon. We are working through everything in testing and I need to take advantage of it.”
“I know I’ll be starting nearer the back of the grid, especially compared to what I achieved in Moto2™, but that’s definitely not where I am going to end up. I believe that if you work at something hard enough then there is every chance you will improve and that is how I have been throughout my career. I’ve never started by being the fastest guy in the beginning…but I got there in the end.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m a patient guy – by any means – but I do believe that you have to aim at progression. If you are just looking at results then it can send you mad, but if you just try and tick off little things every single day then you’ll end up getting there. In a way it is quite simple: ride the bike and tell them what I think and I guess the team does the rest. For sure it will be a hundred times more technical…but I just want to try and keep it simple to do my job.”
Brad Binder – PC @SebasRomero
“I’m excited about being on track with those riders we all know about. I think it will be awesome. I remember shouting at the TV for Rossi when I was a little kid, way before I knew what MotoGP™ was just because my Dad cheering him on…so to line-up against legends of the sport will be an incredible feeling.”
“I’m quite an easy-going guy so I don’t think the extra duties of being a factory rider will bother me too much. I know there will be extra attention and back home is pretty insane. When I travel back to South Africa I always have a solid week of media work every day but it has to be done suppose!”
THE HOT SEAT – RENE HOFER INTERVIEW
In 2020 seventeen-year old Rene Hofer will be the first Austrian this century to represent the most decorated team in MXGP. What’s it like to feel the full glare of orange?
Rene Hofer – PC @RayArcher
Red Bull KTM will field the best motocross line-up of all-time in 2020. The combination of Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado means a total of fifteen world titles in the MXGP class. In MX2 2019 Rookie of the Year Tom Vialle is already touted as one of the pre-season championship favorites after seven podiums and 4th place in his maiden term during 2019. Converting this quartet into a quintet is Rene Hofer. The teenager has FIM Junior, 125cc and European Championship honors all in orange (and was leading EMX125 in 2018 before a season-ending injury) but compared to all the clout and success of his teammates Hofer has a unique narrative.
“He’s a local!” smiles Team Manager and Team Technical Co-ordinator Dirk Gruebel. “The best motocross rider from Austria at the moment and the best since [2018 Dakar winner] Matthias Walkner who tried MX2 and ended up being good in the old MX3 class. There will be a spotlight on Rene but we think it is nice to have a guy from the country where the headquarters is. In terms of pressure, we don’t know how it will be for him…”
Rene Hofer – PC @ReneHofer Instagram
Red Bull KTM has fielded the leading riders from Italy, France, Holland, Germany, South Africa, Spain and Latvia in recent years, and there is now a special link to the Mattighofen factory and Munderfing race workshop. Hofer earned his shot after just one season in the EMX250 European Championship (the feeder series to Grand Prix) thanks to two factors. Firstly, two eye-catching MX2 wildcards where he not only scored points but also the ability to break into the top ten with a seventh place overall in the Grand Prix of Italy. Secondly, the immediate impact of 2020 teammate Vialle. The eighteen-year-old Frenchman had not excelled in EMX and was considered as a ‘gamble’ and investment by the factory and the race team for 2019. Vialle’s skills and mentality (and the crew’s work) meant he was able to forge an outstanding campaign. So, why can’t Hofer achieve a similar effect?
“Tom had a couple of moto wins in EMX in 2018, Rene didn’t reach the same results in 2019 but was consistent and then he also scored points in the Czech Republic Grand Prix as well as a top ten finish in Italy; that was really good and maybe too good because you don’t want riders to think ‘this is too easy’,” Gruebel says. “We’ll approach 2020 as we did with Tom this year: Rene is a newcomer to the class. From the outside, he might not have the same style as Jorge and Tom but he has a big heart and he is putting in the hours. He wants to be here. He will do good.”
2019 – Rene Hofer – PC @RayArcher
Hofer, from Linz, might have the right passport to generate sizeable interest in the corridors of Mattighofen but once ‘across the border’ of the race team that status carries more weight. “The opportunity to have an Austrian [in the race team] doesn’t happen very often so if it’s there then we try to grab it,” says KTM Offroad VP Robert Jonas. “I would definitely not say it is easier for him though by virtue of the fact he is Austrian.”
Jonas should know. The former 125cc star was the last home-grown rider to come within the sphere of the works set-up and the sought-after SX technology at the end of the 1990s. Jonas suffered a serious knee injury before he could really show what he could do on the world stage in the first year of the new millennium. It happened two years before Hofer was even born. “I remember a little bit how it was,” he recalls. “At the final round of the Austrian Championship In ’99 I won the title and on the Sunday evening the manager responsible for the Austrian riders at that time received a phone call from Mr. Pierer [Pierer Mobility CEO] with the information that I would have a spot in the factory team. For me, it was a surprise and I was not counting on that opportunity. For sure I was thinking and working towards it…but it was a big surprise.”
“I don’t think that is quite so much the case for Rene,” he reflects. “He was closer because of some good form in the European Championship [six top-five results from the eight rounds in 2019] and due to Jeffrey [Herlings] being injured he had the chance to be with us under the tent and to smell the factory team environment.”
2019 – Rene Hofer – PC @RayArcher
“It is a big opportunity and for sure a big challenge,” Jonas adds, “but I feel he also deserves it because he made some good progress. He surprised us with his two GP opportunities this year. He didn’t get those results for free because he didn’t have the best starts and worked his way through.”
It is Hofer’s mindset and commitment that has strengthened his case with KTM race management and earned the total belief and conviction of people like Motocross Manager Joel Smets and former KTM Junior Team Manager Didi Lacher, whose judgment is highly valued in the Munderfing Race HQ.
“He doesn’t give up. He always finishes the races and there are no complaints about circumstances,” assesses Gruebel. “He knows when he has made a mistake. I see him training hard. He is not shining in the sand races yet, but it was the same with Tom; the more time they spend in Belgium – there are not too many sand tracks in Austria – the more they improve and that will happen with Rene.”
“He is a guy that can perform when he has to and you need to have that,” stresses Jonas. “He has a lot of work ahead, but I think he has a good chance to make it.”
True to cliché, Hofer is the archetypal ‘old head on young shoulders’ and is aware that his 2020 is more than just a dream slot with the best factory team in the FIM World Championship paddock. “My phone was blowing up when I got confirmation,” he grins. “For me, it is such a big thing, and for some other people too, but I try to go smoothly with it.”
“Tom had an unbelievable season this year, and this is not ‘usual’ [as a rookie],” he claims. “But it will be a learning year and I hope to get some results and confidence.”
Rene Hofer – PC @RayArcher
Hofer has yet to race in a major international meeting away from European shores. The twenty-date MXGP calendar will be a vast education for an aspiring athlete that is still in school (“officially I’m in year 12 so just one more and I have the possibility to leave when I’m eighteen but we’ll decide this in January”). “Traveling, cultures, overseas, food, time zones: I’m not used to this…. but Tom coped fine so I’m sure I can,” he says.
Aside from the attention, the setting and the pressure, Hofer will also have to gain a full appreciation and understanding of the demands of MX2. “Well, there is much more riding time compared to EMX, which means getting used to the track,” he explains. “The starts are also so much more difficult. All the guys are super-close together and the braking points are much later. I need to get used to this a bit more. The speed is not too different, and you can see riders like [Roan] Van de Moosdijk or [Alberto] Forato have the pace to run near the top five. The starts are even more important in MX2 than EMX. Overall it is so much different in terms of intensity.”
Intense is probably a fitting word for the experience that lays ahead for Hofer. But yet more spoils for Red Bull KTM with a native flavor might taste that little bit sweeter.
AN EXCLUSIVE SNEAK PEEK AT THE BEAST PROTOTYPE
When everyone was expecting KTM to unveil the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R prototype, the leading European motorcycle manufacturer surprised the world by pulling the covers off the production version of the 2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R at EICMA 2019. With no one seeing the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R prototype in the flesh, 10 orange blooded fans had the unique opportunity to get face to face with THE BEAST prototype.
The week prior to EICMA, KTM ran a social media competition asking fans to comment with a picture with them and their DUKE. KTM social media platforms were flooded with an overwhelming number of interest and many great images being shared.
Five lucky winners and an orange bleeder friend were invited to fly to Austria and were given the opportunity to be the first to get face to face with THE BEAST prototype.
Saturday 16 November saw 10 anticipated DUKE fans arrive at the home of KTM at the KTM Motohall. Cameras where ready and anxious faces walked into the private viewing room known as the RC16 arena, where they were welcomed by two BEASTS lurking and ready to pounce on center stage!
A high intensity READY TO RACE video captivated everyone’s attention and then the moment of reveal saw jaw-dropping action with the ready cameras rolling frantically.
After an in-depth run-through of some of the many changes and benefits from the KTM team, the lucky few had the opportunity to sit, touch and make use of this time to ask any in-depth questions they had.
The hardest task was to pull the winners away from THE BEAST. Once all was in focus and drool was wiped away, the participants could proceed to take a guided tour of the KTM Motohall, where special attention was given on the 25 years of DUKE and the progression of the range.
Gift bags were handed out with a custom-made t-Shirt and even a signed knee slider from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing star Pol Espargaro. It wasn’t long and each winner had their shirt on and ready to pose with THE BEAST!
The evening was concluded with a team dinner at The Garage Restaurant, here the lucky 10 got to enjoy some of the best Austrian cuisines in true KTM style. Surrounded by KTM memorabilia from yesteryears and even a KTM RC16 hanging from the wall made this the perfect setting to end the night.
Sunday morning saw all SNEAK PEEK winners streaming through the KTM Motohall door to get a second tour done before the live viewing of the final round at Valencia of the MotoGP™ season.
With KTM flag and cap in hand, our winners cheered on Red Bull KTM Ajo racer Brad Binder to his third victory in a row in the Moto2 class and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro achieved a top 10 in the premier class onboard his KTM RC16 machine.
“First of all, thank you for this weekend and this opportunity you offered me,” commented Quentin Harroch.“The visit to the KTM Motohall was just exceptional. And to be among the first to see THE BEAST prototype was just out of the ordinary. It was just a magical weekend! Well, of course, it makes me love the KTM brand even more than it already did! I can’t wait to order my new KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R.”
“It was just an amazing weekend for us! The welcome that we received and all little attention to details … everything was great!” commented Yohann Girard. “I can’t thank KTM enough for the privilege to be the first to see the KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R Prototype, and this at the home of KTM in the KTM Motohall.”
With smiles and many memorable memories made we send our winners on their way.
Photos: @lissimorephoto / KTM
THE EXPERIENCE OF RALLY – HEINZ KINIGADNER TALKS DAKAR AND OASIS RALLY
Heinz Kinigadner is passionate about motorsport. A two-time Motocross World Champion, the former Austrian racer has played a pivotal role in the development of KTM’s highly successful rally project, which has enjoyed 18 consecutive wins at one of the most notoriously difficult races on the planet – the Dakar Rally. ‘Kini’ is well-known for his involvement with KTM Motorsports, as well as important charitable initiatives such as ‘Wings for Life’. Kini also enjoys passing on the possibilities for riding and exploring incredible places onto KTM’s customers with the OASIS Rally, which has been running since the 1990s.
On a very rainy, wet day at the Motocross of Nations, we caught up with Kini (who was there supporting KTM’s racers and the Austrian team) to talk dirt biking, rally riding and to explain about a special opportunity for KTM Adventure riders at the Oasis Rally.
“First of all, I have a passion for motorcycles in general, motorsport in general, but still for me motocross is my real sport.” Kini began.
“Rally and enduro are all part of the adventure. It’s something you can do for the rest of your life because motocross can be limited on a high level (when it comes to the body). I started doing the long-distance rallies in the beginning of the 90s – I did a championship in Spain, and later on I started doing some smaller rallies in Northern Africa.”
“When I was doing the Motocross World Championship these guys doing enduro or rally, they were seen as the ones who couldn’t really do motocross. For us it wasn’t interesting (laughs), but then if you have been once in Northern Africa in the Sahara Desert, it’s difficult to explain to somebody who has never been there how amazing it is. Especially to someone like me; a Tirolian who is used to high mountains and small valleys, the endless desert where you can go as far as you have fuel to take you is just immense. If you’ve done it once, you’ll always want to go back,” said Kinigadner.
Kini won two world motocross titles in the 1980’s and took part in his first Dakar, which took a route from Paris, France to Cape Town, South Africa, in 1992. The Austrian racer completed around six days of the near two-week long race, when unfortunately his bike broke – “it wasn’t a KTM,” Kini laughs when recalling the experience. Despite his previous concept of what rally racing was all about, Kinigadner soon realized that the media attention for the Dakar was not comparable to motocross, as the global interest was simply huge – people wanted to know about the areas traveled, they wanted to see the incredible images that were received from these races and that’s when Kini began pushing for KTM to go to the big rallies. He knew it would bring a lot of global exposure. Kini explained that over the years rally has changed a lot – but the interest remains. Now the sporting side of Dakar is really competitive – with riders racing down to the minutes. It’s taken seriously, the athletes are on a high level, although with the incredible locations the world continues to watch and marvel at what is reported from these extraordinary events.
“In 1994 I prepared the first KTM team for Dakar. It was a real, real adventure. Now, the Dakar is much more a racing sport than in my time – when I raced we had no GPS, it was incredibly difficult to navigate. We had to start in Libya and I had to start first because I won the prologue. There was 100km where the roadbook said follow compass direction 180 and then you will find a few trees in the middle of the desert. I arrived there and I found no trees. The problem was when you opened the throttle on the bike the compass was turning around and being a few km left or right was quite easy. Then I started to search for the right place and I easily covered 20km more – I knew I would run out of fuel if I didn’t find the correct place soon. It was completely different compared to today; they are really fighting for the seconds and minutes. Whereas before gaining or losing an hour in a day was normal,” explained Kinigadner.
“Today riding and driving in normal life and racing has become more and more driven by electronics, in fact maybe one day there is more autonomous riding, but I believe there is still a lot of room for adventure. I believe the wish of the human is for us to want to do something by ourselves and it won’t change when it comes to going on an adventure. In fact, we have known this for a long time and in the middle of the 90’s we began a rally in Northern Africa – the Oasis rally, which is a rally for beginners,” said Kinigadner
“It doesn’t matter how fit you are, it doesn’t matter if it’s your first rally, or your first time in Africa – we try to make it so that everyone has fun there. It makes rally riding accessible, so KTM customers get to feel the experience of rally. The difference to other rally events is that if you’re not fit enough to ride every day, then you can ride every second day. We are there with spare parts, we usually have a KTM Factory racer with us talking about their experiences, we have medical cover and we have trackers there so we can ensure everyone’s safety. It’s a great opportunity for those with Adventure bikes to ride in a rally situation, but still with a comfortable safety net around them.”
Kinigadner explains that the idea is for KTM customers can bring their bike – such as a KTM EXC or one of the new KTM 790 Adventure R – to take part in this exceptional experience. They can bring their bike to Kinigadner’s dealership in Tyrol, Austria, and everything is handled from there (some European dealers are willing to organize bike shipment, and support is available from the organizers for groups to ship their bikes together to Tyrol). The bikes are then transported to the Island of Djerba, Tunisia and the riders are fully accommodated from arrival – staying in the desert, in comfortable hotels where everything is included.
“Where we are based you can go 1500km and that’s just in the desert. However, if you’d prefer to stay within viewing distance of the hotel, then you can go and play for hours in the dunes. It’s very adaptable to a rider’s experience – if you have a technical problem, or an issue, then in 20 minutes you can walk back to the hotel. Each day we create a roadbook – it’s around 150km per day and we’ve spent a lot of time creating something that people will enjoy. If somebody doesn’t want to do the roadbook, they don’t have to do it. We have an opening up vehicle and a following vehicle each day – so a rider can follow the group with the follow-up vehicle and we also plan some exits from the route so if they’ve had enough, they can head back to the hotel. It’s about enjoying the experience and doing as much or as little as you like,” said Kini.
“At the next OASIS Rally we’ll also run a twin-cylinder guided tour. In Tunisia there’s a lot of interesting places like where they filmed Star Wars and we will visit them on the guided tour. They have more distance to travel than the other group, maybe around 160km, but there are some asphalt roads included as well. We try to combine the groups as much as possible – single cylinders are using the roadbook and the others are guided. They will see some incredible things, and they can truly enjoy their KTM Adventure bikes in the perfect surroundings for the bike.”
For more information visit: www.kini.at