KTM says it will no longer be represented at the Dakar rally, as of late held in South America, either with an official factory team or a KTM-supported team following the organizing body's decision to allow only bikes with a maximum displacement of 450cc.
The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), organizers of the "South American Dakar" made the decision today, June 4. The new rule goes into effect for the next race, in January 2010.
While professionals and past champions who planned to ride larger machines will be allowed only on the smaller bikes in 2010, the ASO says amateurs planning to ride larger machines will be forced to use a "bridle" to limit performance "to the level of the 450cc."
Here's what else the ASO has to say: "For several years, more and more of the top bikers have won specials or finished in the leading ten overall positions using under 450cc bikes. Financially more accessible and more reliable than the older bikes of the previous generations and now more adapted to the demands of off-road rallies, the 450cc still have a deficit in performance that prevent them from reaching even higher ambitions. This difference will be totally erased for the 2011 Dakar, during which only bikes with engines under 450cc will be accepted."
KTM has enjoyed eight consecutive victories in the world-renowned rally event. A KTM communiqué suggests the ASO's change to the rules was designed to end the dominance of KTM and came without any advance warning.
"Every sport regulation needs changes and adjustments to new developments to retain an interest in it, but this also requires the appropriate lead times," says KTM Motor Sport Advisor Heinz Kinigadner. "We have the entire material for the 690 Rally motorcycles for our factory team as well as that for 50 customers' motorcycles in our storage facility ready to be constructed in June. Riders' contracts have been finalized and all the team members have been engaged."
Following the decision for the deployment of 450cc motorcycles, which KTM calls "unthinkably unsuitable" for use in long distance rallies, the OEM says it can no longer economically justify a commitment to be engaged in the Dakar in the future.
"The financial consequences that results from this decision are enormous," Kinigadner says. "Quite apart from this, we are shocked by the organizer's lack of loyalty above all, because of the huge efforts we made following the cancellation of the Dakar in 2008 by contributing to the new edition — even during a period of extreme economic crisis."
KTM riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres finished the rally in first and second places, respectively, at the 2009 South American Dakar.
—Submitted by Guido Ebert