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LONG LIVE THE DUKE! CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF KTM DUKE HISTORY – PART 1

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Dementor

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1.1994-Duke1-1024x708.jpg

LONG LIVE THE DUKE! CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF KTM DUKE HISTORY – PART 1

Celebrating 25 years from the release of the very first KTM 620 DUKE back in 1994, we take a closer look at the impressive history of KTM’s iconic single-cylinder machine through the last quarter of a century.

1.1994-Duke1-800x553.jpg

KTM 620 DUKE MY1994 @ KTM

With KTM starting its journey as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1953, visitors at the KTM Motohall will find three milestones in the brand’s 66-year-long history on display in Mattighofen. Alongside the R 100 [1953] and the Penton Six Day 125 [1968] – which kickstarted KTM’s rise into becoming the world’s leader for off-road bikes – visitors at the KTM Motohall can admire the model year 1994 KTM 620 DUKE, KTM’s first road bike with a 4-stroke engine.

After the former KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau AG became insolvent, KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH was launched in January 1992. The new company was keen to learn from the mistakes of the past when, at times, over 40 different types of machine had been in production at the same time, from bicycles to numerous different mopeds right through to off-road bikes. With this in mind, KTM focused in particular on the ultra-modern LC4 engine, a liquid-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke engine, making it the envy of its Japanese competitors. The concept was simple: stick to just the essentials and build a high-performance and high-quality machine around the potent single-cylinder engine that was already winning in top level enduro competition.

Even the E-starter was left out to begin with. Of course, it was clear that KTM would not be able to survive in the long term with just the Hard Enduro and a small range of 2-stroke Enduros and e-start bikes, so the developers soon started thinking about a road bike, also powered by the LC4 engine. At the time, supermotard replicas were vastly popular: these were easy-to-handle motorcycles based on Enduros, but with 17-inch road wheels—the term “supermoto” was still unknown at this point. Riding these fun bikes along windy lanes could drive the riders of significantly larger motorcycles to distraction. A bike like this—practically a go kart on two wheels—was a logical choice as there was already a suitable vehicle to base it on in the KTM 620 ENDURO.

2.1993_Terminator-800x499.jpg

Terminator prototype @ KTM

KTM designer Gerald Kiska’s initial design still bore the now-long-forgotten project name “Terminator”. Nonetheless, it was nearly impossible to tell that this bike was based on the Hard Enduro. A striking front fairing with ellipsoid double headlights combined with an orange-metallic paint job gave the DUKE its unique appearance. With 50 hp, the KTM 620 DUKE was the most powerful single-cylinder on the market at the time.

There is also a nice story behind the name. Two weeks before the presentation, the exhibition bike still needed a distinctive name. Project Manager Wolfgang Felber recalls that he was on his way to the executive floor with a list of different suggestions when he ran into Kalman Cseh, who was responsible for these matters, on the stairs. Cseh liked the suggestion “Duke” right away; not so much due to its reference to legendary racer, Geoff Duke—who was almost unstoppable in the 1950s on his Norton single-cylinder bikes—but more for its royal connotations. Ultimately, the stickers designed by the graphic designers did include the English multiple world championship winner’s nickname, “The Duke”, so he was indeed honored after all.

3.1995-Duke-2nd-edit-800x527.jpg

KTM 620 DUKE MY1995 @ KTM

The DUKE—today often called DUKE I to distinguish it from later models—was only available each year in a limited run and in a certain color: orange in 1994, black in 1995, yellow in 1996, black again in 1997 and the “last edition” in 1998, which already had the larger 640-cc engine, was orange once again. So, exclusivity was also included in the price.

After this, between 1999 and 2006, the KTM 640 DUKE II was built, still considered by many to be another two-wheeled piece of art. Gerald Kiska had perfected the edge design familiar from the automotive sector for motorcycles and since then all KTM motorcycles have borne Kiska’s angular lettering. And long before anyone in the automotive industry had thought of LED headlights, the KTM 640 DUKE II was the only motorcycle recognizable as a KTM just from a glance in the mirror. This was due to its two ellipsoid headlights, one on top of the other, a unique styling element in the motorcycle sector.

For many years after the “original DUKE”, there weren’t even any KTM bikes with two headlights, let alone with two of them positioned one on top of the other. With slender cast aluminum wheels and two silencers directly underneath the seat, it was no longer possible to tell that this bike was based on an Enduro. As with the first DUKE before, the DUKE II was available in a different color each year. Titanium, orpheus black, arctic white, chili red and lime green were just a few of the options. The DUKE II also remained rather exclusive, not least due to its elevated price.

8.2008_690Duke3_white-800x520.jpg

KTM 690 DUKE MY2008 @ KTM

The highlight at the 2006 INTERMOT 2006 motorcycle show was the polarizing KTM 690 SUPERMOTO, which was to be the forerunner to a whole range of sporty KTM single-cylinders. The completely redesigned single-cylinder with electronic fuel injection reached 63 hp, meaning KTM could still boast the ‘blue ribbon’ of the most powerful single-cylinders among its portfolio.

The third generation of the DUKE, which followed in 2008, was different to its two predecessor models in that it bore no similarity to an Enduro, either visually or technically, but had been designed from scratch as a road bike. Highlights included the steel tube frame, a cast swingarm and above all the short silencer underneath the engine, as previously featured on the KTM RC8 superbike. In 2010, the KTM 690 DUKE R followed, upgraded with a host of KTM PowerParts and easily recognizable thanks to its orange frame, a feature of all KTM R models.

9.2010_Duke3-R-800x658.jpg

KTM 690 DUKE MY2010 @ KTM

A successor to the KTM 690 DUKE III then came in 2012, with space for a passenger and long-distance capability. The engine now had a full 690-cc capacity, so the DUKE retained its status as the most powerful single-cylinder engine available. The KTM 690 DUKE R was considerably more sporty in terms of its look, tuning, and seat position.

The current version of the KTM 690 DUKE has been around since 2016. With an advanced electronic engine management system and a second balancer shaft, the 690 LC4 engine offers a level of sophistication previously unseen in a single-cylinder engine, while delivering an impressive 73 hp.

What began 25 years ago with a now legendary cult classic continues today with the KTM 690 DUKE, with its modern styling and state-of-the-art technology. All this means that the DUKE has remained the most powerful series-production single-cylinder motorcycle for a quarter of a century.

Long Live the DUKE!

12.209419_KTM-690-DUKE-MY-2018-800x533.j

KTM 690 DUKE MY2018 @ KTM

The very first KTM 620 DUKE and some of the most iconic DUKE models ever produced can be viewed at the KTM Motohall.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our special feature celebrating 25 years of KTM DUKE history.

1993 KTM 620 DUKE prototype @ KTM

Images: KTM, Kiska


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    • De Dementor
      LONG LIVE THE DUKE! CELEBRATING 25 YEARS OF KTM DUKE HISTORY – PART 1
      Celebrating 25 years from the release of the very first KTM 620 DUKE back in 1994, we take a closer look at the impressive history of KTM’s iconic single-cylinder machine through the last quarter of a century.
      KTM 620 DUKE MY1994 @ KTM
      With KTM starting its journey as a motorcycle manufacturer in 1953, visitors at the KTM Motohall will find three milestones in the brand’s 66-year-long history on display in Mattighofen. Alongside the R 100 [1953] and the Penton Six Day 125 [1968] – which kickstarted KTM’s rise into becoming the world’s leader for off-road bikes – visitors at the KTM Motohall can admire the model year 1994 KTM 620 DUKE, KTM’s first road bike with a 4-stroke engine.
      After the former KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau AG became insolvent, KTM Sportmotorcycle GmbH was launched in January 1992. The new company was keen to learn from the mistakes of the past when, at times, over 40 different types of machine had been in production at the same time, from bicycles to numerous different mopeds right through to off-road bikes. With this in mind, KTM focused in particular on the ultra-modern LC4 engine, a liquid-cooled single-cylinder 4-stroke engine, making it the envy of its Japanese competitors. The concept was simple: stick to just the essentials and build a high-performance and high-quality machine around the potent single-cylinder engine that was already winning in top level enduro competition.
      Even the E-starter was left out to begin with. Of course, it was clear that KTM would not be able to survive in the long term with just the Hard Enduro and a small range of 2-stroke Enduros and e-start bikes, so the developers soon started thinking about a road bike, also powered by the LC4 engine. At the time, supermotard replicas were vastly popular: these were easy-to-handle motorcycles based on Enduros, but with 17-inch road wheels—the term “supermoto” was still unknown at this point. Riding these fun bikes along windy lanes could drive the riders of significantly larger motorcycles to distraction. A bike like this—practically a go kart on two wheels—was a logical choice as there was already a suitable vehicle to base it on in the KTM 620 ENDURO.
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      KTM designer Gerald Kiska’s initial design still bore the now-long-forgotten project name “Terminator”. Nonetheless, it was nearly impossible to tell that this bike was based on the Hard Enduro. A striking front fairing with ellipsoid double headlights combined with an orange-metallic paint job gave the DUKE its unique appearance. With 50 hp, the KTM 620 DUKE was the most powerful single-cylinder on the market at the time.
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      KTM 620 DUKE MY1995 @ KTM
      The DUKE—today often called DUKE I to distinguish it from later models—was only available each year in a limited run and in a certain color: orange in 1994, black in 1995, yellow in 1996, black again in 1997 and the “last edition” in 1998, which already had the larger 640-cc engine, was orange once again. So, exclusivity was also included in the price.
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      The third generation of the DUKE, which followed in 2008, was different to its two predecessor models in that it bore no similarity to an Enduro, either visually or technically, but had been designed from scratch as a road bike. Highlights included the steel tube frame, a cast swingarm and above all the short silencer underneath the engine, as previously featured on the KTM RC8 superbike. In 2010, the KTM 690 DUKE R followed, upgraded with a host of KTM PowerParts and easily recognizable thanks to its orange frame, a feature of all KTM R models.
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      A successor to the KTM 690 DUKE III then came in 2012, with space for a passenger and long-distance capability. The engine now had a full 690-cc capacity, so the DUKE retained its status as the most powerful single-cylinder engine available. The KTM 690 DUKE R was considerably more sporty in terms of its look, tuning, and seat position.
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      What began 25 years ago with a now legendary cult classic continues today with the KTM 690 DUKE, with its modern styling and state-of-the-art technology. All this means that the DUKE has remained the most powerful series-production single-cylinder motorcycle for a quarter of a century.
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      KTM 690 DUKE MY2018 @ KTM
      The very first KTM 620 DUKE and some of the most iconic DUKE models ever produced can be viewed at the KTM Motohall.
      Stay tuned for Part 2 of our special feature celebrating 25 years of KTM DUKE history.
      1993 KTM 620 DUKE prototype @ KTM
      Images: KTM, Kiska
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      The start of it all.
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      @ Sonderling.be
      As far as the eye can see…
      “One of the most impressive moments was driving across the plains of Mongolia. Empty plains stretch as far as the eye can see and suddenly our dirt track splits in different directions. Not into two, but into something akin to a river delta. Every track winds its way through valleys and across hills, with loose sand or rocks and with lots of elevation. But at the end, all tracks come together and meet. This leads to an unbelievable feeling of freedom while riding. Every rider can choose their track knowing that we will meet several kilometers later.”
      “After 41 days of travelling, we left Ulan Ude and headed towards Vladivostok, the end of the second stage of our journey. From that day onward, we raced the Trans-Siberian train all the way to Vladivostok. Coming around a bend and getting a magnificent view of the legendary train disappearing into a tunnel beneath the mountain makes you feel almost insignificant.”
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      Life changing experiences.
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      “During the night an avalanche of snow blocked the upper part of the pass and made it impossible to cross. Upon driving down, we encountered another avalanche below us, this time rocks and mud. Mother Nature had her way, and we got to spend an extra 4 hours driving up and down the pass while waiting for the locals to clear our way.”
      “No matter how much time we spent searching for info online in advance, nothing could prepare us for the experience of traveling through remote areas. When riding through Russia, for example, we were staggered to come across a piece of Canada sooner into the trip than expected.”
      @ Sonderling.be
      “The Altai region in the South-Eastern part of Western Siberia will forever hold a special place in my heart. Every turn showed a new view of far sights into valleys and snowcapped mountaintops and the rivers were as icy blue as the ones in Canada or Alaska. Combine that with the twists and turns of the Altai and you see why the ‘Golden Mountains of Altai’ is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
      “But perhaps the most unexpected experience we’ve had so far was completely unrelated to the motorcycle-aspect of our journey. Upon running into some technical difficulties with one of my companion’s bike, we were taken in by two different families in a small village in the middle of Siberia.”
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      The KTM 790 ADVENTURE
      “For me the KTM 790 ADVENTURE is the ideal bike for this long trip. It packs a punch that is incomparable to any other bike in the middle-weight class I’ve ridden. When turning the throttle, the response is immediate and so is the adrenaline rush.”
      “By selecting any of the different ride modes I can adjust the throttle response quite nicely. With the right response from the engine, it is an absolute joy to ride in any kind of terrain. Combine that with the ABS configuration and you get a great travel machine that can take you safely and with fun over any terrain.”
      “Thanks to the smooth engine mapping and the smooth twin-cylinder engine, the power delivery feels almost linear while shifting through the gears. Through long stretches of asphalt in Russia or gravel and rocky paths in Mongolia, the 790 ADVENTURE has been a blast to ride.”
      At the time of writing, Lien is exploring the endless dirt roads of North America. You may follow Lien’s trip around the world via her profile on Instagram or through her travelling blog.
      @ Sonderling.be
      Photos: Sonderling.be
    • De Dementor
      FAMILY MATTERS: BUILDING A WINNING FOUNDATION BASED ON FAMILY BONDS
      Achieving racing success comes down to many factors and building fast bikes is just one of them; it’s the people and their skills that help form a solid set-up. Becoming aware of that years ago, KTM is focused on making every single person in their team feel at home. It’s all about being part of the family, figuratively or – in some cases – literally…
      Brad & Darryn Binder @ Guus van Goethem
      With KTM’s home race at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg taking place during the second weekend of August, we got to see how much of a family KTM is. From the massive orange colored grandstand to the plethora of KTM race bikes in the paddock, KTM proved it’s currently enjoying a solid representation in the global Grand Prix scene.
      Apart from the MotoE™ class, there’s at least one ‘orange’ bike on every single starting grid; from the Red Bull Rookies Cup right up to MotoGP™. It’s safe to say that this fact alone makes KTM one big family. That sense of togetherness gets even more profound for three specific duos in the paddock…
      Philipp & Peter Öttl @ Guus van Goethem
      Philipp and Peter Öttl
      “Three o’clock on the dot, we would always head out to grandma’s to drink coffee. As a kid I would watch old videos of my dad racing,” Philipp Öttl says. Though the current Red Bull KTM Tech3 Moto2™ rider never actually saw his dad race in a Grand Prix, the 23-year-old knows how impressive his father’s racing skills were in the lighter classes back in the day.
      During his career Öttl senior collected a total of five Grand Prix victories, both in the 80cc as well as the 125cc class. Later on, Peter Öttl would share his racing experience with son Philipp, in an attempt to help the latter reach the highest possible in motorcycle racing. “When he was just a kid, Philipp would mostly race motocross and supermoto. When he decided to switch to road racing, I was quite surprised. He started out on minibikes at age ten or eleven, only to make the switch to the ADAC Junior Cup the next season. I could really apply what I had learned over the years in helping him – it turned out quite well. Getting on in racing didn’t seem to cost him much effort.”
      Philipp adds: “In 2008 we went minibike racing and just four seasons down the road I entered my first Grand Prix. Looking back on it now, I think we made a very progressive climb in results in my career.” The quick rise up the ranks is the result of Peter and Philipp working closely together. However, starting this season, things have changed.
      Philipp currently competes in Moto2™ for the Tech3 squad. Peter, in the meantime, is in charge of the Sterilgarda Max Racing Team in Moto3™. “It really is a completely different situation compared to previous seasons, but to be fair, it does not feel like much has changed,” Philipp explains. “Obviously we see each other in the paddock all the time and when things go wrong, I can still go to my old man for advice.” Peter nods.
      “Together we’ve achieved some great things in the past. Where Philipp is now, it’s all down to the details. I feel like it’s no longer necessary to work together as closely as we used to. Of course, as a father, it’s hard to let go. In the end I feel like it’s good for him. Carrying on without me there is the next step in his development as a rider. He’s his own man now.”
      Philipp Oettl @ Gold&Goose
      Good mix of traits
      Öttl senior and Öttl junior obviously are blood related, and it shows – sharing certain character traits. Peter explains: “I really recognize things I do in Philipp, too. He’s got his head firmly on his shoulders and won’t shun hard work; I was just like that at his age. I’m glad he’s not a carbon copy of me, though; he’s clearly got a bit of his mother’s character, too. If you’d ask me, that gives him a good mix of genetic traits.”
      Racing nowadays is hard to compare to how things went back in Peter’s GP racing days. The 54-year-old German observes an obvious difference between racing now and how it went down back in the nineties, when he himself was successful. “The bikes are much more equal today, putting the responsibility to get results firmly into the hands of the rider. In my day you had to have a works bike in order to even be able to make a claim. That was the main reason for me to stick to racing 125’s. In the 125cc class I had a good bike to race; moving up to the 250 class would have seen me on a production racer. Of course, I contemplated a step up, but in the end I couldn’t find any conclusive reasons to follow through. Being competitive was far more important to me than moving up through the ranks, purely for sake of moving up. And don’t forget; 125 racing was very popular back then. Certainly, among German race fans.”
      Philipp Oettl @ Gold&Goose
      While the nature of racing changes over time, the goal most racers hope to achieve does not. Winning is always on the mind of a racer. Both men from Bad Reichenhall in Germany know the euphoric sensation of taking the checkered flag first. Peter managed to claim five Grand Prix victories, with his son finally finishing a world championship race in first place last year.
      At Jerez he managed to outperform Marco Bezzecchi – who would go on to become the Moto3™ runner-up that year – in a thrilling finale on Spanish soil. “It’s hard to describe the feeling. You really have to experience it to know. When you win your first race, it feels like all the hard work put in all those years pays off. Like an explosion of emotion; something I found very special to share with my father.” Peter: “Of course I never forgot how that first win feels; it doesn’t compare one bit to coming third or even second. Podium finishes are great, but winning a race… That’s ten times better.”
      Brad & Darryn Binder @ Guus van Goethem
      Brad and Darryn Binder
      They’re clearly having to adjust being sat next to each other for an interview. It’s not that often that there’s a request to interview them both at the same time, although the South African brothers have been racing in the World Championship for a couple of years now. They even competed together in Moto3™, during 2015 and 2016. But that wasn’t the first time the Binders went head to head in the same racing class.
      “We started out racing go karts,” 21-year-old Darryn explains. The youngest of the two continues: “Well, when I say we, I mean I started out in go kart racing. Brad wanted a motocross bike, and my dad gave him one, but he hardly rode it. After watching me race on four wheels, he wanted to have a go too.” Brad managed to win the championship in one of the talent classes, with Darryn following suit a year after. But it wasn’t long before race bikes started to come into play. “We were both really passionate about go kart racing for a while, but we started to grow out of it – we wanted to race bikes instead.”
      Both brothers made their way onto the GP stage through the Red Bull Rookies Cup – Grand Prix racing’s talent pool. It would become a venture into the unknown for the Binders, seeing as no-one in their vicinity had made it to a level like that before. “When we were younger, our father would race in local championships, but he was already quite old when he started racing. I think he must’ve been about 27 when he first raced,” Darryn says.
      The conversation takes an interesting turn, when Brad stops his little brother from continuing. “Are you kidding? Have you been drinking? He had me when he was 27, so he had to have started out racing even later. I reckon he must’ve been well into his thirties.” Regardless of father Trevor’s age when he made his racing debut, he did manage to inspire Brad and Darryn to follow in his racing footsteps. Brad: “From an early age, we we’re constantly surrounded by bikes, and as we grew older the bikes simply got bigger.”
      Brad Binder @ Gold&Goose
      Training together
      During the season, the brothers reside in Spain. It serves the two with quite a few advantages. “Being South African, it isn’t easy to go and race in the World Championship, simply because the level of road racing back home is hardly worth mentioning. Moving to Europe, it really helped knowing we were in this together,” Darryn believes.
      “And obviously we get to train together, too. Brad and I share a passion for cycling, but we’re also very competitive. Everything turns into a competition for us – I’ll always try to beat him. Starting the final climb when we’re out cycling, I usually keep my cards close to the chest – saving energy. When Brad suggests taking it easy for the climb, that’s my cue to push. And when I do, Brad immediately picks up the pace, too – and then we have a race.” Brad adds: “At least it helps motivate us to keep pushing. Sharing your training time also makes it a lot more fun. Going at it alone would get old fast. Same goes for living alone and traveling alone.”
      Darryn Binder & Gold&Goose
      Their focus on racing paid off in 2016, as it would be an excellent season for Brad. The elder of the two Binders claimed the Moto3™ World Championship title that year. “That really was something special,” he states. “Every single rider on the world stage, sets himself the goal of becoming world champion. It greatly improves your chances of making it to MotoGP. It definitely was the best year in my career.”
      When his brother claimed the title, Darryn was right there with him, mainly because at the time they were both racing in Moto3™. “I remember that race so well. Aragon was a terrible race for me, but after finishing the race, I looked at the big screens right away – to see if Brad had collected enough points to take title. It was such an amazing day; I could not have been happier for him.”
      Zonta & Jurgen van den Goorbergh @ Guus van Goethem
      Zonta and Jurgen van den Goorbergh
      This season, 13-year-old Zonta van den Goorbergh walks the paddock grounds. Son of former MotoGP™ rider Jurgen, Zonta managed to claim a ride in the Red Bull Rookies Cup. “Last year he made his debut in the European Talent Cup. With that experience, we felt the timing was right to sign him up for the Red Bull Rookies Cup qualifiers. If Zonta hadn’t raced in the ETC, we probably wouldn’t have even considered to step up. To our surprise he got the ticket for the 2019 season.”
      Father Jurgen, without a shadow of doubt, is very proud of how far his son has managed to come considering his age. However, the former racer is also very much aware there’s a long way to go if Zonta wishes to achieve his goal. Zonta: “I want to race in MotoGP; that’s what I’m aiming for. I’m sure it won’t happen overnight, though. It will take a lot of work and effort to make it, but I am more than willing to do whatever it takes.”
      The talented Dutchman has been introduced to motorsports at a young age, though at first only at the motocross track. “When I was three years old I got my first electric trials motorcycle, but I wanted more speed. Trials and speed don’t mix; that’s why we got into motocross. Two years ago, I made the transfer to road racing.” His background in trials and motocross gave Zonta an edge in adapting to his new home in road racing.
      With his father sharing his experience, undoubtedly that helped the youngster. “If Zonta had stayed in motocross, my own racing experience wouldn’t have been as effective as it is now. Had he intended to work his way up in motocross, we would’ve had to find a trainer with MX experience. Now, however, I can train him myself.”
      Zonta van den Goorbergh @ Shot Up Productions
      Taking revenge
      Jurgen’s own career and the experience gained over the years, shall help Zonta excel. The 49-year-old Dutchman has more under his belt than just racing in MotoGP™, since he has also competed at the Dakar Rally. “It’s not just tips and tricks in racing itself I can help Zonta with. Having my last name opens doors for him as well. People remember me from when I used to race and my contacts from back in the day pay dividends for Zonta now. It smoothens out a few bumps in the road to the top.”
      Having developed a keen eye for talent over the years, Jurgen knows putting in the effort early is of the utmost importance for Zonta. “I could do another Dakar if I’d wanted, but focusing on my son’s career is my priority now. That way we won’t look back later, thinking we could’ve done better; thinking we should’ve put in more energy and time into Zonta’s career. No should’ve, would’ve, could’ves here.”
      Though there’s still a long way to go before Zonta makes it to MotoGP™, the 13-year-old can already look back at battling Marc Marquez. The talented youngster took part in the Allianz Junior Motor Camp in 2017; an event organized by the seven-time world champ. “His brother Alex was also on hand to help. That was an amazing experience. I almost beat Marc in the dirt track event. In the end, he managed to overtake me on the inside, carrying a little bit more speed to the line. I hope to be able to take revenge for that in a few years’ time.”
      Zonta & Jurgen van den Goorbergh @ Guus van Goethem
      Photos: Guus van Goethem, Shot Up Productions, Gold&Goose
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