KTM To Line Up Two Factory Teams At 2016 Dakar Rally
The 2016 Dakar Rally is getting more and more interesting. A day after Husqvarna announced its plan to return to the endurance rally race, its parent company, KTM, dropped its own bombshell, announcing that it will have two factory racing teams lining up at the start of the competition.
The first of the two teams is the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Rally Team, which will be made up of four riders. Serving as team leader will be Dakar veteran Jordi Villadoms, who came in 2nd in the motorcycles class in the 2014 staging of the race. Villadoms will be joined in the team by Toby Price, Sam Sunderland and Matthias Walkner. Noticeable by his absence is Marc Coma, the five-time Dakar champion who, incidentally, is also the defending champ of the motorcycle class. Coma retired from the competition after winning the 2015 race so it appears that KTM has laid the groundwork of transitioning from the Coma era to field a balanced team of grizzled Dakar veterans with young, up-and-coming riders.
That’s exactly the sentiment KTM Racing Department chief Pit Beirer shared when he revealed the team’s plans moving forward. According to Beirer, the team has been planning this transition for the past three years and with the lineup KTM has assembled, Beirer expressed confidence that the team will continue to be a contender well past Coma’s exit from active competition.
A second factory team will also be entered in next year’s race. While the name of this team hasn’t been announced, Beirer did say that it will be made up of Pablo Quintanilla, multiple Enduro world champion Antoine Meo, and female Dakar rider Laia Sanz.
And if that’s not enough, KTM also announced that a satellite team, KTM Warsaw Motorrally, will also compete in the 2016 race. The Polish-based squad will by run Marek Dabrowski with the rider lineup scheduled to be announced soon.
The 2016 Dakar Rally will begin on January 3, 2016 in Lima, Peru and will run until January 16, 2016 at the finish line in Rosario, Argentina.
Continue reading to read more about KTM’s two new factory teams that will compete at the 2016 Dakar Rally.
Why it matters
Marc Coma’s decision to retire from active competition and take up the position of Sporting Director for the Dakar Rally was a huge blow for KTM. But like the champion that it is, the Austrian outfit managed to rebound quite well with an imposing lineup that includes a steady mix of Dakar veterans and young hotshots who have made names for themselves in other rally and enduro series.
It was expected that Villadoms would take Coma’s place as the standard-bearer for one of KTM’s factory teams. Even the inclusion of guys like Sam Sunderland and Toby Price were expected. Both have raced for KTM in the past and in the case of Price, his debut season came at the most recent Dakar Rally and he made a good showing for himself, winning Stage 12 of the race on his way to finishing 3rd overall in the motorcycle class.
That said, some notable names will be racing for KTM’s Dakar Rally team for the first time. Antoine Meo, in particular, will be making his Dakar Rally debut in 2016 after a six-year stint in the World Enduro Championship that included four straight titles, the last two of which came with KTM.
Then there’s 13-time world champion trial, three-time enduro world champion, and 2015 Dakar Rally female champion Laia Sanz, who signed with the team in April 2015 after a successful career with Honda. As part of her new contract with KTM, Sanz will be racing for the team in the 2016 and 2017 stagings of the Dakar Rally, the 2015, 2016, and 2017 World Women’s Enduro championships, the X-Games, and a handful of rounds in the World Rally Championship.
Needless to say, KTM has filled its Dakar Rally lineup quite well ever since it found out that Marc Coma has traded his race suit for a business variety.