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.
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.
of the motorcycle manufacturers hosting teams in the Dakar
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
"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.
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!"