The KTM Rally Team are about to launch an attack on the first ever "Dakar Series" Central Europe Rally which sweeps almost 2700 km through Hungary and Romania starting in Budapest on April 19 and finishing at Hungary's Lake Balaton on April 26, 2008. Organizers had planned to stage the first Dakar Series in 2009 but the last minute cancellation of the Dakar Classic in January 2008 for security reasons prompted them to accelerate plans for the Central Europe Rally. The event goes some of the way towards reversing the disappointment of professional teams and amateurs who were denied the chance to test themselves in the Dakar.
Seven Stages and two countries, the rally is in seven stages with 1092 km of special stages and 1579 km of road sections starting in Budapest before sweeping east for a loop into northern Romania before returning to Hungary to finish at what is one of Europe' biggest lakes. Organizers had planned to hold more of the rally distance in Romania but recent bad weather including heavy snow, forced significant changes to the course.KTM Rally Team manager Hans Trunkenpolz underlined that the organizers had already achieved much in the extremely short preparation period. He said the KTM Factory Rally Team, including riders of the caliber of Dakar winners Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, were committed to delivering a solid performance in the new event.
Interview with Hans Trunkenpolz, KTM Rally Team Manager
What is the initial situation with this new event?
The stages are significantly shorter than those in Africa for which our Rally Replica bike was developed, so the full tank capacity will not be needed. Our top riders will also not be called upon to test their full physical endurance on these shorter stages so the sprinters among the rally and Enduro riders will have a good chance to be on the podium.
Also, the terrain, which apparently includes lots of narrow tracks and curves means we will not be able to take advantage of the speed and the power of our rally bikes. Riders on bikes with less displacement will have the advantage here.
What does this mean for the KTM Rally Team?
Our Rally Team will tackle these new challenges on our Rally bike. They won't be switching over to a lighter type of offroad bike from our offroad program. We are confident that the world's best rally riders in the KTM Rally Team will be able to fight for victory even under unusual conditions. KTM is putting Cyril Despres and Marc Coma on a prototype RALLY LIGHT bike, which with its reduced tank capacity, narrower cladding and a somewhat modified geometry should suit these new conditions.
What should we understand by the term "Rally Light Version"?
For a long time now we have been thinking of developing a module for the Rally Replica that would allow it to be converted to better suit rallies with shorter distances between refueling stops. The cancellation of the Dakar and this short term confrontation with very different conditions has brought this development forward. We've immediately put it into practice so we do not lose our competitive edge. According to the KTM philosophy, if this RALLY LIGHT kit that is being tested by the factory team comes out positively then any Rally Replica owner will be able to buy it.
One important advantage of this new development is that a rider can vary his machine between standard and light during the rally. If the day calls for relatively easy reach then he can use the light version; if there are longer distances between refueling stops then he can use the standard version. This should ensure that KTM continues to be the dominant brand in rally sport. When this kit will be availab le depends on what modifications we have to make after the Central Europe Rally, but it should be on the market in time for the planned Dakar replacement rally in January 2009.
Hans Trunkenpolz concluded by saying the Central Europe Rally will be of a very high standard. "It's going to be tight all the way but we will very much miss the special challenges of the long stretches in Africa," he said.