KTM, with its dynamic team of Cyril Despres, David Pearson, Quinn Cody and Shane Esposito and with the rich experience of team manager Chris Blais, have come away from their first ever entry in the legendary Baja 1000 with a third place podium.
The race, in its 40th year and considered to be one of the most challenging in the world of motor sport, took competitors through the Mexican Baja Peninsular in a true "survival of the fittest" dash to the finish.
The Baja 1000 in 2007 was a great race premier for KTM's 690 Baja machine. The 690 Baja first saw action earlier this year in the smaller version, the Baja 500, piloted by Chris Blais, Cyril Despres and David Pearson. David Pearson and Quinn Cody then rode the 690 Baja then in the Desert Classic Vegas to Reno, taking the bike through another vigorous test.
"We want to congratulate our riders and the team on a great third place in this very tough race - 1.296 miles (2086 km) in 24 hours!" said Winfried Kerschhaggl, director of KTM's motor racing activities. "It was a real achievement for the team and for the KTM 690 Baja for the first time we entered this race."
"That was an incredibly tough race," said KTM's rally boss Hans Trunkenpolz after the team's first time in the classic. "From a technical perspective the 690 Baja came through the race with flying colours."
Despres, a veteran of the world's most challenging events and winner of the famous Dakar said: "Now I really understand why this race is such a legend. The huge distances, the atmosphere, the amazing scenery, the night riding, the team spirit - it really is a unique event...
The team was well on target at the 300 mile mark at just eight minutes behind the leaders. They then lost 25 minutes during David Pearson's second run when a tyre lost its bead. Light was fading when Cyril took over again and he navigated his way to the next pit stop with the aid of a torch. A rear puncture at the 570 mile mark meant Cyril had to complete 60 miles standing on the pegs to put as much weight as possible on the bib mousse-equipped front wheel. Luckily he escaped serous damage to himself or the bike when the rear hit a hole while he was traveling at around 100 kph.
"Shane's (Esposito) run passed off without incident and with Quinn (Cody) on the bike we were just 5 minutes behind the second placed Honda," Cyril said. But coming into the pit, Quinn hit a hole just 400 meters from the pit stop, which ironically had been dug out by revelling spectators. Shaken up by the crash, Quinn had to hand over to Cyril, who stepped in to ride part of the course that he did not know. It was then up to David to make the final dash to the finish line.
The KTM riders and the 690 Baja underlined that KTM is always "Ready to Race in the most extreme conditions. Because of the incidents during the race, David Pearson had to ride 570 miles (917.3 km), while Cyril had to fight his way through thick fog between the 1050 and 1150 milestones (160 km), at times even without goggles, which had broken.
The race, celebrating its 40th anniversary was according to Baja veteran Larry Roessler, one of the most successful participants of all time, "the hardest" he has ever experienced. Reviewing the race, the KTM team are already looking ahead to 2008 and planning modifications and improvements to the 690 Baja machine.
Despres paid tribute to team manager Chris Blais, the Austrian factory mechanics and the 60 other team members who manned the 21 pits spread out along the route, a sentiment that was underlined by Trunkenpolz at the conclusion of the 2007 Baja 1000.