The 2016 Dakar rally is fast approaching and is again serving as a reminder that long distance rally riders are by far the most mentally unstable athletes of the motorcycle world. Kicking off on three January 2016 the Dakar covers 9000 kilometres over 12 days and will take participants through some of the most uninhabitable areas of Bolivia and Argentina (full route map here). Interestingly, due to EL Niño weather patterns, Peru has declined to host any stages of 2016’s Dakar as their emergency services are on high alert due to forecast high winds and rain in the region.
KTM has won the Dakar 14 consecutive times as of 2015 so when they introduce their team for 2016 you can be pretty sure that the guys (and girl) who will feature in this video will make an appearance in the top 10 come the finish line. Interestingly Marc Coma who delivered KTM last year’s win won’t be competing in 2016, instead taking up a position as Sporting Director of the Rally (I suppose after winning it five times you’ve proved your point).
The 2016 KTM 450 RALLY has been described by Australian factory rider Toby Price as “10 steps ahead” of the bike he rode to third place last year. However it doesn’t matter how good the bike is, there are a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong during 9000 kilometres of the kind of riding featured in this video. According to Price it doesn’t matter how good the bike is, “it doesn’t guarantee I’m not going to smash it.”
In typical KTM fashion the 450 RALLY features exhausts by Akrapovik and suspension by WP. There are no stated power or weight figures for the bike but with the rules stipulating that the bikes carry 35 litres of fuel (in order to be able to travel up to 275 kilometres without re-fueling), three litres of drinking water and all the navigation gear, you’d imagine they would be well into the 200 kilogram territory fully loaded.
As part of the Dakar rules, motorcycles are limited to 450cc single cylinders and major parts such as the frame, engine (cylinder, cylinder head and engine cases) and swing arm must be standard parts freely available to the public. Interestingly the rules then go on to state that these major parts may be modified, with the exception of the engine cases. The 450cc single cylinder engine must also complete the entire 9000 kilometres with minimal maintenance (a time penalty is incurred if mechanics have to replace bottom-end components).
While the Dakar doesn’t get the coverage it deserves in Australia, it’s popularity in South America is exponential with competitors being literally swamped at almost every rest stop. If you are interested in catching up on the race come three January next year and you’re in Australia, check out SBS who does an admirable job of covering the highlights of these crazy individuals five days a week.