• Jun 6th 2009 at 3:07PM
  • 14
Austrian motorcycle maker KTM stakes its reputation on the ability of its off-road motorcycles to tackle the toughest terrain on earth, and it's made a habit of proving these capabilities with both a factory team and a far-reaching privateer support program in the Dakar Rally each year. Up through 2009, that is – KTM has just announced that it's pulling out of next year's event.

The reason cited for the shocking decision is the French ASO's ruling that all motorcycles taking part in the Dakar race in 2010 must use engines displacing 450cc or smaller. KTM's entries all use engines displacing a little over 650cc and will therefore not qualify. Instead of waiting for next year to react, KTM "has decided to immediately accept the consequences and announces its withdrawal from the Dakar."

Whether this is nothing more than a case of sour grapes or an intentional move to limit KTM's chances of winning a ninth-consecutive victory at the Dakar Rally, it's disappointing to a whole bunch of fans with orange-colored blood running through their veins. For what it's worth, KTM says it will continue racing, just not in the Dakar. Make the jump to read KTM's official press release. Thanks for the tip, Mike!

[Source: KTM via Bikes in the Fast Lane | Photo: AlexCamPro]


The limiting of motorcycles with a displacement of 450 cc forces the long term dominator of the Dakar Rally to withdraw.

Following the announcement at a press conference on June 4, 2009 of the French "ASO" - the organisers of the "South American Dakar" that from 2010, only motorcycles with a maximum displacement of 450 cc will be permitted to compete, KTM, after eight consecutive victories, has decided to immediately accept the consequences and announces its withdrawal from the "Dakar".

The company will no longer be represented at the rally in South America either with an official factory team or a KTM-supported team. At the same time, KTM underlines that the company remains committed to rally sport and will now concentrate its efforts on the world championship and other important rallies.

The organiser's short term change to the rules, designed to end the dominance of KTM, and which comes without any advance warning, hits the KTM factory hard. Today, just six months before the start - and at a time when not only the factory team but also dozens of private teams are deep in preparations for this extremely complex rally, the immediate withdrawal of the worldwide market leader of offroad sports motorcycle is the only possible consequence.

"Every sport regulation needs changes and adjustments to new developments to retain an interest in it, but this also require the appropriate lead times. 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 finalised and all the team members have been engaged. The financial consequences that results from this decision are enormous. Quite apart from this, we are shocked by the organiser'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," said KTM Motor Sport Advisor and "Rally Legend" Heinz Kinigadner in a first statement.

Following the decision for the deployment of 450cc motorcycles, which are unthinkably unsuitable for use in long distance rallies, KTM can no longer economically justify a commitment to be engaged in the Dakar in the future. KTM Motor Sport Director Winfried Kerschhaggl: "Rally sport serves to prove the efficiency and stability of our large volume series single cylinder. There is no question that we will remain active in rally sport! Having said that, for KTM, the rally in South America is now history. We will now fully concentrate on the Rally World Championship and we will seek out alternatives. Maybe we will soon again see full KTM Rally engagement on African soil - back to the roots!"

With its commitment to rally sports, KTM naturally takes the obligations to its long term worldwide customers seriously because it is they who have decided to put their trust in the products and in the unique service of the Austrian company for rally sport by choosing KTM motorcycles.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't even keep up on motorcycle rallying and whatnot, but anytime you change the rules up just to knock the 1st place super badass player... shows a lot about the integrity of the race itself.

      Like i said, not too up on the events of the whole thing, seems like the right thing to do would be to say "hey - in 2 or 3 years, we are switching to smaller displacement", instead of pulling a fast switch-a-roo.

        • 6 Years Ago
        The ACO pulled similar stunts in sportscars to reign in the Audis. Audi sacked up and they're coming back for more. I would have liked to see KTM to do the same. To hell with discriminatory regulations imposed under the guise of "safety" or "environment," they do nothing but incur higher costs to the leading manufacturers. KTM could have build a 450 just to win it again and rub it in the faces of the ASO. For that reason alone.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Remeber when Mazda 787B won Le Mans in 1991?

        FIA banned rotary engines at the end of the season....
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm guessing they're changing the rules because they're not happy with the motorcycle deaths lately. Typically what happens is the motorcyclists are going very fast and hit a rut, doing a massive cartwheel endo.

        They've tried other things to slow the bikes down, none has worked.

        It is a little odd to make the switch on only 6 months notice though. But I find it kind of difficult to conclude it was solely to exclude KTM when KTM has a bike that meets the new regs they just refuse to factory support it.
      • 6 Years Ago
      the sad state of racing today to many rules and now its affecting motorcycles.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hopefully the governing body will reverse this decision. Instead of knocking KTM out of contention, the other manufacturers should step up to the challenge.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I don't get it. KTM has a bunch of factory bikes under 450cc's that could be a platform for a Dakar bike. In a way I kind of like this rule...small displacement dual-sports are the unloved sector of the motorcycle industry and the Dakar helps bring some excitement and development.

      I love my dual-sport. I can take off from my house, carve up some mountain roads by the ocean, hit up some dirt trails inland, commute to work and do some mischief later that night. It's more fun than any car could be and it cost me two thousand bucks.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Have you seen these Dakar races? they include a sh*t load of cars ranging from all types of engines to cars sizes, pickup trucks, prototypes, 4 door SUV, 2 Door SUVs some buggies to full size trucks with 6 wheels drives. To go ahead and single out and all of a sudden put a cap on engines sizes for Motos is with out a doubt a direct target to eliminate the KTM's. Sure KTM has smaller engines which if they choose they could compete with but to know you got singled out by the organization why would anybody want to compete in such organization...
        • 6 Years Ago
        KTM claims that 450cc is insufficient for that kind of endurance racing, and therefore not worth the effort to develop. Also, their most popular bikes are their LC4 690 series on which their Dakar racers are based.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Stupid rule, BUT if you think about it KTM is probably still better off than any other manufacturer, anyway. I wonder if anybody will support a factory team.
      • 6 Years Ago
      They should enter a modified X-Bow.
      • 6 Years Ago
      wouldnt something likkkkeeee an air restrictor be a better temporary fix? or limit fuel tank size so they detuned motors?

      Seems many better options
      • 6 Years Ago
      They should have made different classes for different engine sizes
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