As everyone is getting ready to start the new year, the KTM factory riders are going through the preparations for the upcoming 2017 Dakar Rally. That’s right, it’s that time of year again and the race that many people feel to be the most extreme offroad race in the world is scheduled to kick off January 2nd.
This will be the 38th running of the Dakar Rally and just as a reminder, it’s a race that’s usually at least five or six times longer than the Baja 1000! This year the course is said to be right around 9,000km or 5,592 miles long, but it has been as long as 10,000km in the past. Even though it’s a shorter distance this year, race organizers are promising that this will be one of the toughest races to date. Competitors will set off from Asunction, Paraguay on January 2nd and will travel through Bolivia and into Argentina where they will finish in Buenos Aires on January 14th. That’s twelve straight days of some of the most hardcore racing on the planet!
All sorts of vehicles compete in this race; from massive trucks that are essentially four-wheel drive versions of the semi-truck we see here in the states, to motorcycles, quads, cars and more. The cars, however, are not really cars, they’re actually a lot closer to the trophy trucks we see competing at events like the Mint 400 and Baja races. It’s the guys that ride the motorcycles though that have caught our attention.
KTM has been the dominating force to be reckoned with in the bike class having won every single race since 2001. That’s 15 straight wins in a row and the team is bound and determined to pick up that 16th title this year. Leading the KTM factory team is Toby Price, who won the 2016 race, and he’ll be accompanied by Sam Sunderland, Matthias Walkner (who had to bow out last year after he fractured his leg) and last but not least female rider Laia Sanz, who will be competing in her sixth Dakar. Antoine Meo is also on the team but had to sit out this year due to having surgery on his wrist.
The bikes and quads are going to have an exceptionally tough time this year, especially when in Bolivia because the temperatures are said to be close to freezing. At least the cars and trucks are somewhat protected from the elements. But then again, a few days after dealing with the cold, they’ll be back in the desert heat once they get into parts of Argentina. Organizers of the event wanted to make things even more challenging by limiting the functions of the GPS systems given to the riders so they’ll have to rely on the good only fashioned technology of a compass to navigate thousands of miles of unmarked terrain. Maybe they wanted to pay a slight homage to the races of old before GPS devices were available. Either way, it’s looking like the 2017 Dakar is going to be one for the record books and we wish the KTM team, as well as all other competitors, the best of luck.
Here’s an in-depth look at what separates a Dakar bike from a regular motorcycle.