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Motorcycle competitors race away as Dakar Rally leaves Buenos Aires

January 3rd, 2009

A group of riders and drivers in motorcycles, cars and trucks set across the toughest terrain in an organized race and face a grueling schedule as the famed Dakar Rally kicked off in South America this morning.

Hundreds of thousands of people overwhelmed downtown Buenos Aires yesterday to catch a glimpse of the over 500 vehicles which will compete in the first Dakar Rally to be held in South America. Rally organizers announced that 500,000 people crammed the parade route which took place around the city's center.

The Dakar Rally kicked off from the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, marking the first time the famed Paris to Dakar race has been held outside Africa. Last year, the rally was cancelled after Mauritian terrorists threatened to attack the event leading organizers to arrange the current route of Argentina and Chile. The 30th Dakar Rally features 177 cars, 217 motorcycles, 81 trucks and 25 quad bikes with drivers from 49 countries spread over 530 competitors.

The adventure began back in 1977, when Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice Rally. Saved from the sands in extremis, he returned to France still in thrall to this landscape and promising himself he would share his fascination with as many people as possible. He proceeded to come up with a route starting in Europe, continuing to Algiers and crossing Agadez before eventually finishing at Dakar.

The founder coined a motto for his inspiration: “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.” Courtesy of his great conviction and that modicum of madness peculiar to all great ideas, the plan quickly became a reality. Since then, the Paris-Dakar, a unique event sparked by the spirit of adventure, open to all riders and carrying a message of friendship between all men, has never failed to challenge, surprise and excite.

Over the course of almost thirty years, it has generated innumerable sporting and human stories.

One of the motorcycle manufacturers hosting teams in the Dakar is KTM. The last minute cancellation on the eve of the 2008 Dakar left teams and organizers bitterly disappointed. While everyone admitted the cancellation was necessary as security could no longer be guaranteed in some of the countries of Africa, it also meant that a year of dedicated preparation had all been for nothing. Or was it? Now those same participants, including the KTM factory team are facing the inaugural 2009 Dakar in South America with renewed passion and determination.

"This is the real "Olympic Games "of rally sport and because the 2009 Dakar will be at a completely different location it will surely generate a lot of global interest," said KTM team manager Alex Doringer. "It is always one of the biggest highlights every year for the KTM factory. From the point of view of the company, we don't just take care of the factory team. There are 235 competitors starting in the bikes category and more than 55% will be riding KTM machines."

Onboard the single cylinder, four-stroke KTM 690 Rally motorcycle for the KTM Factory Team will be previous Dakar winners Cyril Despres of France (Red Bull KTM) and Spaniard Marc Coma (Repsol KTM) who are not only each other's toughest rivals but also go into the race as the favourites. They are joined by Jordi Viladoms of Spain (Repsol KTM) and Frenchman Alain Duclos (Kaestle KTM).

"Even though a lot of things will change it is reasonable to expect that Marc will continue to be my principle rival," Despres said during preparation. "Wherever we race in the world it is usually between me and him and I can't see that being any different. That's fine by me. We always fight clean and have tremendous respect for each other."

Coma too is quietly confident: "We have a new Dakar in 2009 and this also means new deserts. But I am confident that it will also be great and that it will have the same kind of Dakar spirit. That means it will be hard and there will be risks to take."

"To be at the biggest and most famous rally in the world is obligatory for KTM," said team manager Doringer. "We have enjoyed a lot of success in the past and with the way our team is working we can keep the positive image level very high. At the end of the day it is about selling bikes and a lot of it is about our image, how we perform in races and how we interact with our customers. I think we are one of the best in all of these things."

Stage One of the Dakar 2009 begins in Buenos Aires on Saturday January 3, 2009. Teams and riders will then be running on full gas until the completion of Stage 14 back in the Argentinean capital on January 17, 2009. KTM factory riders Despres (pictured right) and Coma, as the world's elite riders, are expected to be at the front of the field, but this is a brand new chapter in the history of the race.

Lavinge, Director of the Dakar says: "Competitors who participate in this exceptional edition will have the opportunity to explore hew horizons on the grandiose territories offered them." The KTM factory team is "Ready to Race" in the first ever South American Dakar, to meet the challenges of those grandiose territories and are determined, once again, to make Orange the event's dominant color.

"Obviously we are favorites for the final victory," said Doringer. "So our first goal must be to achieve that ambition - a podium full of KTM factory riders would be nice!"


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