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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.”


PC @RayArcher

“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.


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      Oliveira is ready for the challenge of 2021 following the tests in Losail, Qatar
      PC @PolarityPhotoIncidentally this is not the first time that a Red Bull KTM Factory team have had a Portuguese and a South African in the same line-up. In 2008 Rui Gonçalves and Tyla Rattray were steering works KTM 250 SX-Fs in the MX2 class of the FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship and – promisingly – Rattray would go on claim the title that year. Gonçalves would be MX2 runner-up in 2009.
      Binder took his and KTM’s first MotoGP victory at only his third race in the premier class, which took place in the Czech Republic
      PC @PolarityPhoto4. The KTM RC16 crossed the finish line first at Brno on Sunday, August 9th 2020 for the Grand Prix české republiky. The win meant KTM became the first manufacturer to triumph in Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP categories and equalled Yamaha for wins in the most amount of classes: Red Bull KTM also won in the 125 and 250cc divisions in the ‘00s. Binder’s Czech feat was a milestone for the company and the first time KTM had led a lap in MotoGP. They would have many more by the end of the season. Moto3 – and the original KTM RC4 that won the championship at the first attempt in 2012 – helped towards the thinking and the creation of the KTM RC16; still the sole motorcycle on the grid to use a steel chassis and WP Suspension.
      KTM has lost its ‘concessions’ for development due to the Austrian manufacturer’s excellent results in 2020
      PC @PolarityPhoto5. 2021 will be a curious campaign for Red Bull KTM. For the first time the brand has lost their ‘concessions’ as a result of their excellent results in 2020. This means a cap on testing and modifications permitted during the year. The engine development freeze agreed by the manufacturers causes the beating heart of the KTM RC16 – which can make more than 345kmph – to remain largely untouched from 2020 to 2021. The effects of the global pandemic forced five-days of pre-season testing to take place at the Losail International Circuit which is the scene of the opening back-to-back races of the calendar. KTM riders accrued more than a thousand laps in the 35 hours of permitted track time. Oliveira and Binder regularly haunted the top 10 of the results sheets as they worked through suspension upgrades, different aerodynamic forms and electronics.
      Oliveira under the lights of Losail, home to the opening round of 2021
      PC @PolarityPhotoThe diversity of Losail was a challenge as hot, late afternoons turn to dusk and then cooler evening humidity forces adjustments and alterations to keep the speed through the flowing turns. The team were not only working for rounds 1 and 2 but for settings that have to be homologated for the duration of 2021 before the first ‘red light’ disappears. Nobody said MotoGP was a pressure-less environment!
      Binder completes laps in the Qatar sunset with his KTM RC16
      PC @PolarityPhoto
    • De Dementor
      Posted in Riding By: Paolo Cattaneo @paolocattaneophoto
      If bikers get their adrenaline rush by exploring new paths and pushing beyond limits, for me the effort to quench the endless thirst for adventure saw me cross more than 40 countries while clocking 200,000 km aboard my KTM 1190 ADVENTURE over the past six years. Across four continents and after many border crossings, here’s five of my best places to ride a bike in this world.
      The end of the Carretera Austral makes you reflect about the beauty of Nature, after seeing 1300 km of some of its best work (Chile).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoIn many ways, all of us Adventure riders are the new generation of explorers. The world is our playground, ready to be discovered, and our bikes our trustworthy steeds. We get our adrenaline rush by exploring new paths, by adventuring through dangers, by pushing their limits, in search of the perfect ride.
      That’s what 200,000 km in 6 years of travelling through 4 continents, more than 40 countries on a KTM 1190 ADVENTURE looks like on a map.
      PC @PaoloCattaneoAfter loads and loads of hours spent on the saddle, it’s hard to pinpoint which one was the best ride for me. There have been so many great adventures on my KTM, so it’s impossible to simply choose one. Thus, here are my five favorites:
      #1 Carretera Austral, Chile – South America
      No doubt, this is probably one of the most famous roads in the world for bikers. Ruta 7 or Carretera Austral is a 1,300 km stretch of road that goes from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, in the very south part of Chile. This track is basically a paradise for any Adventure rider or photographer. The road is 50% paved and 50% gravel, perfectly doable with a fully loaded motorcycle and a set of 70/30 tires. 
      Impossible not to stop, take a break on my KTM 1190 ADVENTURE and gaze at the horizon on the Carretera Austral (Chile).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoWhat makes this road unique, and probably one of the most spectacular in the world, is the fact that it stretches right in the middle of the beautiful fjords of Patagonia and the majestic Andes, peaking over 5,000 m above sea level. When I got to ride this amazing piece of land on earth, it was autumn and, despite the sometimes-freezing temperatures, the colors were incredible.
      That was probably the best natural spectacle I’ve witnessed in my life. Snow peaked mountains, trees in shades of red, orange and bright yellow, turquoise lakes and the most lavish green vegetation. The dangers in this part of the world are mostly related to two factors; first the weather conditions that could become quite extreme, and also the sketchy oncoming traffic. Being directly on the coast, the road gets often quite narrow and wet too. Regardless, Carretera Austral is an absolute must for all bikers. 
      First few km into the Eduardo Avaroa National Park and the first white lagoon already appears in the distance (Bolivia).
      PC @PaoloCattaneo#2 Eduardo Avaroa National Park, Bolivia – South America
      This national park sits in between San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, and the famous Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia, the largest salt flat in the world. The park is absolutely unique and became quite popular between tourists for its colorful lagoons.
      There are mainly two issues to overcome while riding through EANP on a bike: one is fuel – no gas station for more than 500 km – and second is the altitude. The park sits at 4,500 m so breathing and sleeping become difficult. I remember I started panicking at a certain point because I was running low on fuel and I wasn’t even at the halfway point. With low oxygen levels and the panicking, my riding was consequently compromised. Even with the extra gallon of fuel I had with me, I realized I wouldn’t have been able to reach Uyuni.
      At 4,300 m above sea level this landscape is out of this world. Red lagoon with pink flamingos in the distance (Bolivia).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoIt started to get late and I got lost few times, as there are no clear roads or signs to follow. When I was at the halfway point, right near the red Lagoon, I only had 50 km range left in my tank; the freezing winds and the altitude were already wearing me down (at night it gets easily -10°C). Luckily a 4×4 filled with tourists passed by and I was able to buy 10 more liters of fuel from them. They also pointed me to a hut nearby where I could spend the night, sheltered from the winds. What an adventure! Hands down this is probably one of the most spectacular and challenging places on the planet to ride motorcycles.
      The majestic Huascaran National Park (Peru), peaking at 6,700 m of altitude. The view from up here and the lack of oxygen makes one lightheaded.
      PC @PaoloCattaneo#3 San Luis – Santa, Peru – South America
      This road, that goes from the small town of San Luis, behind the 5,300 m high mountains of the Huascaran National Park, to the infamous Cañon del Pat, is somehow my favorite in the whole Peru. The riding through the NP is rough for its climates and terrain, as it easily reaches over 4,000 m above sea level. The climb up to the pass is rather challenging but absolutely magical, culminating at the top of the mountain, overlooking the mind-blowing canyon filled with turquoise lagoons. 
      No room for mistakes in the Cañon del Pato road (Peru).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoOnce reached the valley, the offroad section ends and the fun begins. This part is known for the infamous Cañon del Pat Road, a two-way road the w of a small car, with pitch black tunnels, carved inside the mountains, and 80m canyon with no barrier on one side. The thrilling factor comes from the sketchy tarmac, with chunks missing on the cliff side.
      Swallowed by nature at its finest. Riding up and down some of the deepest canyons in the world (Peru).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoWhat was shocking for me was the speed of oncoming traffic, which were mostly mining trucks and locals, driving their vehicles like maniacs on suck sketchy road. Needless to say that I got close so many times to a head-on collision and to fall into the canyon. This is, without a doubt, one of those roads you don’t want to talk to your mom about.
      A modern “knight” and his iron steed (Scotland).
      PC @PaoloCattaneo#4 NC 500, Scotland – Europe
      On the old continent there are many roads that are worth a mention. Every country has its long list of mountain passes, coastal roads or sketchy offroad tracks with incredible views. But I believe that somehow Scotland deserves to enter this list for many reasons. First of all for the uniqueness of its 500 miles of incredible coastal road. Secondly for the fact that it’s one of the few countries in Europe that allows free camping.
      Scotland leaves one speechless for it’s pristine landscapes and white sand beaches. Water is only 6-7°C unfortunately.
      PC @PaoloCattaneoNC 500 is somehow famous also for its unpredictable weather and its strong winds. Also, the roads can become very narrow and with barely any safety net on both sides. Head-on collisions are quite frequent since lots of campers and tourists tend to come in this part of the world for leisure or holidays.
      500 miles of these kind of turns and colors in Scotland.
      PC @PaoloCattaneoI remember being completely mesmerized by riding through the beautiful Scottish Highlands, gazing at ancient medieval castles, nestled in pristine fjords – the famous ‘lochs’. It truly felt like going back in those times when knights and swords used to rule the lands. Those mystical hills and freezing waters made men and women tough. And riders humble and proud.
      #5 Gibb River Road, WA – Australia
      It’s no secret that Australia has a special place in my heart, since my trip around the world by motorcycle started from there. I rode around the whole continent and indeed there have been many highlights, like Tasmania – the motorcycle lovers’ destination.
      Crossing Pentecost River with my unstoppable KTM 1190 ADVENTURE (Australia).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoBeing mostly a flat and inhospitable island, the adventurous part of riding down under comes from unconventional sources. The most adventurous ride I had was through the famous Gibb River Road. This part of Western Australia, called Kimberley, is one of the most remote of the whole continent. The challenging part comes from being comfortable with ourselves. I spend days basically being alone surrounded by nothing but dust.
      Bell Gorge. A 300 million years old natural pool in the middle of the desert (Australia).
      PC @PaoloCattaneoThere’s only one roadhouse in the very middle of the 1,200 km track. The rest is dust, sharp rocks and sand. Temperatures vary between 34°C to 43°C all year long. There are three river crossings to reach the end of it. The rivers are infested with crocodiles and poisonous snakes. The road is popular, for some weird reasons, also for road trains – famous Australian trucks with 4/5 trailers attached – which can lift a red dust cloud that completely obliterates everything that gets struck by it. Not particularly good for motorcyclists, as you can imagine!
      1,500 km of this in 35°C heat could break some people’s spirit…
      PC @PaoloCattaneoThe road is mostly made of sharp rocks. When I rode through it, a rock literally sliced my front tubeless tire, snapping two of the steel wires inside of it, after only 120 km. I had to use three tire plugs to fix the puncture and some cable ties to keep the plugs in place.
      The world is out there waiting to be explored.
      You just have to #GoAdventure!