Nicola Dutto: “Always looking ahead”
Never will he stop trying new things. A horrific crash left Nicola Dutto bound to a wheelchair, but even with that setback in mind, he’s still out to achieve his goals. His next challenge will be kicking off on January 7, 2019. That’s the day he’ll start the Dakar Rally.
© Francesca Gasperi
Certain dates are etched in the mind. A beautiful memory like your wedding day, the birth of a child, or perhaps even the first time you swung a leg over a new motorcycle; your mind archives the day for you, so you can come back to that specific memory on its annual anniversary. Dark days unfortunately follow the same routine. One man that knows all about it, is Nicola Dutto (48). March 20, 2010 is one of those dates; one that will stick by him until the day he dies. On that day fate took a turn for the worse, when he experienced that which all racers fear. It was during that year’s Italian Baja in Pordenone that left Dutto paralyzed from the waist down. “The last thing I remember is kicking the bike up a gear from fourth into fifth. What happened right after, I don’t know. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes, wanting to get back on the bike. But I couldn’t get up.” Spectators quickly gathered round the fallen Italian, in an attempt to help him up. “I told them right away not to touch me, because they were moving in to take my helmet off. I needed medical assistance above all, quick too.” Some of Dutto’s spinal vertebrae could not handle the impact of the crash and cracked as a result. There was no way around it at this stage; the Italian Baja specialist knew pretty quickly he was paralyzed. “But that wasn’t even my main concern at the time, because the doctor that had rushed to the scene pointed out I was still critically hurt, since my heart wasn’t functioning properly and the blow had also reduced my lung capacity to around twenty percent of normal.”
Fourteen weeks of nothing
Nine hours of surgery later, Nicola Dutto spends an additional five days in the ICU. Two weeks later, he’s moved to a rehabilitation clinic near his home town of Beinette. “All the broken bones had to heal, which meant I had fourteen weeks of doing absolutely nothing to look forward to. The staff would lift me off the bed with a sheet, so they could put me in an electric wheelchair.” Because he was basically bedridden at this point, with rehab waiting for him once the broken bones had healed, he had quite a bit of time to ponder the whole situation. “Thinking about it all at the time, it’s really difficult to try and see the light,” he admits in all honesty. “I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t shed a tear. Once I started to figure out what the consequences meant, I cried a lot. It’s like someone pushed a button. The one moment you’re out there racing and the next you’re confined to a bed, without functioning legs.” Dark clouds had been gathering over Nicola’s head, but he was fortunate to have Elena Foi by his side. The couple had met at a party at Scorpion Bay, six months before Nicola’s life-changing accident. “We’d only known each other for a little while at that point, and the first thing Nicola told me when he woke up after surgery was “You don’t have to stay with me.” Naturally I wanted nothing else but to be there for him, even though I didn’t know what was going to happen at all.” Elena lives in Brescia, almost three hours from Turin, where Nicola was treated in the rehab clinic; traveling back and forth as often as she could. “We lived three hundred kilometers apart, so that was problematic, especially since I had a job and two daughters to raise. I lost my job in the end, unfortunately, but my parents couldn’t have been more supportive. It was a tough period, but Nicola’s recovery was going well and after nine months he could return home. After that my daughters and I moved in with Nicola.”
© Francesca Gasperi
The sole Italian
Before his accident, Nicola Dutto earned a living racing professionally. It wasn’t until Dutto was nineteen he started racing, but that did not stop him from building quite a career in a relatively short period of time. After moderate success riding enduros, the Italian shifted his focus to Baja races. Cross-country races with arrowed out routes seemed to be his forte. “A friend of mine pointed out this particular new sort of racing. In Spain the sport had taken flight and I just fell in love with the game. Eventually I moved to Spain and lived there for six years, just to put all my time into the Baja.” Dutto regularly competed with Dakar hotshots like Marc Coma, Isidre Esteve Pujol, and Nani Roma. Back in the day he was something special, being the sole Italian in a field full of Spaniards. In Italy they held only some fast enduro races, but nothing like a ‘real’ Baja. Dutto managed to make a name for himself in the sport, eventually taking the European Baja title in both 2008 and 2009.
Dutto’s beloved sport first came to be on the Mexican Baja California peninsula, and in 2010 he had intended to race the legendary Baja 1000 race there too. Unfortunately, that never happened that year, but – believe it or not – despite his injuries and his time rehabilitating, Dutto’s name was back on the entry list the year after, as a buggy racer this time. “My crash had ruined my chances of racing a motorcycle in Baja, but my rehabilitation gave me time to reconsider my options. In the end I decided on racing the Baja 1000 in the buggy class, together with Elena.” The Italian couple’s adventure ended with them stuck in the Mexican desert, after a transmission belt got fried. “The problem was aggravated because we just couldn’t replace the belt on site. The belt was behind my seat, so it was impossible to get to. We waited for assistance in that riverbed all night. I had made up my mind right then and there; this never again. Four wheels mean trouble. So, I needed to get myself back on two wheels.”
© Francesca Gasperi
Three-time AMA motocross national champ Doug Henry inspired Dutto to follow in his footsteps. After the Italian saw the roll cage Henry had used on his bike, he started to work on building his own version. “Motorcycle racing is the pivot point of my life, although getting back on a motorcycle after my crash had seemed impossible until then. I had thought about trying my hand as a race organizer, because it was still the world I wanted to be a part of. Riding bikes again myself? No, that had never crossed my mind in the beginning.” After seeing Doug Henry all that changed, and the Italian was back on a bike soon after. Thinking about that day immediately puts a smile on Dutto’s face. “I felt like such an idiot getting back on a bike again. I was terrified too. We had mounted sort of like training wheels to the bike and at first I went completely pale at the thought of actually riding it. What had I gotten myself into. But a few hundred meters in, I found my balance again. I was certain then I was going to ride again.” After those first tentative steps back on a bike, Dutto enrolled in a Baja race. Just four months down the road, Dutto scored a 24th place in the Baja Aragon. “I had really intended for it to be a fun ride with friends. Just cruising through the mountains, but I couldn’t deny I wanted to get back in the sport. I needed to get in touch with some of my Spanish friends.”
With motorcycle racing back on the cards, the Dakar Rally soon came up for Dutto, too. “Before my accident Bajas had been my main focus, but since it, I’ve been seeing new opportunities everywhere I look. Like the Dakar. It was never a dream for me like it is for most, but to me racing the Dakar is like taking part in the Olympics. Three years ago, while watching the race on TV, I thought to myself why not do the Dakar?”
© Francesca Gasperi
How adversaries became ghost riders
Despite his handicap, Nicola Dutto is no different than other potential contestants, in that he has to qualify to be allowed to take part in the world’s toughest race. He did so last year when he finished the OliLibya Rally. Every competitor needs a team to even have a shot at finishing a race, but for the Italian having capable people around him is beyond crucial. During rally raids the KTM rider is accompanied by so-called ghost riders. These ghost riders go by the name of Pablo Toral, Victor Rivera, and Julian Villarrubia. “We will start the Dakar Rally as a four-person team. One rider will ride in front, because I can’t just stop to have a look around, to see where I’m supposed to be going. He guides me onto the right trails up a dune for instance. He’s also the one to ‘catch’ me when I have to stop for fuel or when I reach the finish line. The other two riders follow in my wake. In case something goes wrong, they’ll be there to pick me up. As I’m tied to the motorcycle it’s important having the two of them, because it’s not just the bike they’re picking up, but the roll cage and myself with it. For me it is even more important than it is for ‘normal’ riders to have a team I can rely on; it has to feel like a family. I am fortunate to have three incredible ghost riders – guys I’ve known for a very long time. They used to be my adversaries in the Spanish Bajas!”
© Francesca Gasperi
Since Dutto is paralyzed from the waist down, he needs more than just his three ghost riders with him; the bike needed quite a bit of work as well. His KTM 450 EXC-F has undergone a transformation to allow the Italian to be comfortable on the bike. Dutto uses an electronically controlled shifter as well as an automatic Rekluse clutch. The rear brake master cylinder has been moved to the handlebars, too. His legs are secured and guarded by a framework. Other important parts on Dutto’s unique KTM are the Vicair seat and back support with a three-point harness attached. “Comparing my current Dakar bike to the bike I first built to get back on two wheels, you could say a lot has changed. On the old bike the roll cage was pretty big and bulky, where on my new bike it’s brought back to a very minimalist design. It allowed us to shed quite a bit of weight from the bike, which helps controlling the motorcycle. It’s also worth noting the engine of the KTM enduro is a lot better, too. Engine characteristics and the fact it has a six-speed gearbox is perfect for me.” Obviously, Nicola had to adapt his riding to the new situation. In his own words, it now feels like normal riding without using his legs. “It’s pretty difficult explaining how I have to ride a bike now. It is a very involved manner of riding, and it has taken a lot of time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Working on getting the suspension to work for me was interesting, because I’m unable to stand up to take the blows anymore.”
© Francesca Gasperi
The best example
The paraplegia has led Nicola Dutto through a deep and dark place, but his eyes were always on the light shimmering on the horizon. He couldn´t be happier he decided to approach his rehabilitation as only a professional athlete would. “I put in the hours of training, with the clinic staff telling me I was mad. Instead of going for just an hour of required physical therapy, I pushed on. If I could, I would try two or even three hours. That sped up progress drastically. I still felt like a professional athlete, even without functioning legs. Preparing for the Dakar Rally I’m back in that zone again.”
His entry in the Dakar Rally is the best example of Dutto’s will to enjoy life – especially since he can combine life with motorsports again. “I consider myself a happy man, not just because I’m still alive, but also because there’s still so many projects left to do for me. In 2013 my good friend Kurt Caselli lost his life. That was hard to swallow, but at the same time it made me more determined in making the most out of life. Look, the accident left me with two options. I could’ve looked back, thinking about the time when I could still walk, but that wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere. I decided to take the second option, because when I’m on a bike or when I’m skiing – another passion of mine – I’m always looking ahead. And that is how I’m living life with my paraplegia, too.”
© Francesca Gasperi
Want to follow Nicola Dutto during the upcoming Dakar Rally? Check out his social media pages:
Photos: Francesca Gasperi
Interview of the Month: Toby Price – Bouncing back from injury and his journey to the 2018 Rally World ChampionshipDe Dementor
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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!
Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY 2018 © Sebas Romero
Photos: Sebas Romero | Marcin Kin | PhotosDakar.com | Rally Zone
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 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.”
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.”
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 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.
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.”
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
#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.
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.
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.
KTM 790 ADVENTURE R MY2019 © KISKA/F. Lackner
Photos: KTM | KISKA/F. Lackner
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.
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