As the Dakar gets ever nearer, KTM keeps pushing the limits with its main weapon: The 450 Rally.
No other manufacturer has been more successful in the Dakar Rally than KTM. The Austrian factory has won the last 13 editions. However, KTM is not resting on its laurels.
In recent years, the Dakar changed radically when many people began to advocate a cut in performance which was implemented in 2010.
At the beginning, the rule applied only to the front runners, but was then applied to all the two-wheeled participants.
The rule was quite clear: a 450cc maximum capacity limit for all motorcycles. This change came about for both safety and ecological reasons, and with this modification new manufacturers tried their luck in the Dakar Rally.
The reduction in engine capacity was a great challenge for all the marques involved. It is no easy task finishing the world’s toughest rally with a smaller engine.
“Previous to the Dakar we did a lot of tests with the engine. It was vital to get the maximum performance but without compromising the reliability. It was like walking on the edge of a sword,” said Marc Coma.
On top of that, ASO – the company responsible for the Dakar – imposed a new handicap. Changing the engine would result in a penalty: the first engine 15 minutes, the second 45, the third and any more after that two hours each.
Since making its debut in 2011, the KTM 450 Rally has been the bike to beat. Coma took his second win in the Dakar that year, and, in subsequent Dakars, victory went to his team-mate, Cyril Despres.
So the rider was different, but the bike remained the same: the KTM 450 Rally.
The Austrian company didn’t stop working and introduced fuel injection and a new, more compact and agile chassis which shaved off a great deal of weight.
The sports and R&D departments joined efforts to design a brand new motorcycle. The objective was clear: to make a winning bike so the Red Bull KTM Factory Team could continue its unbelievable success in the Dakar Rally.
“We worked very hard and in the end we improved many aspects of the bike. The new model was smaller and lighter, but the main development came from the rear suspension,” explained Coma.
The rear shock absorber was too short.It worked great is some stages
, but in others it was quite difficult to find the right settings.”
The KTM 450 Rally 2014 made its debut in the Rally of Morocco. There, Marc continued to work on the bike, fixing some small problems and always with the idea of getting ready for the greatest challenge of all – the Dakar.
“We will keep improving the bike step by step, without doing radical changes,” Marc Coma told RedBull.com.
The KTM engineers want to take the 450cc engine to the limit…
“We’re aiming for the best power/weight ratio possible. I don’t know what we will achieve, but with KTM anything is possible,” concluded the Dakar champion.