Ex­actly what does it take to win the world’s tough­est race?

Motorcycle News (UK) - - THIS WEEK - By Jonathan Pear­son MCN CON­TRIB­U­TOR

Hav­ing won the Dakar Rally ev­ery year since 2001, KTM’S record at the world’s big­gest off-road event is with­out ri­val in re­cent times. The Aus­trian man­u­fac­turer shows no sign of let­ting that record slip in 2017 with reign­ing cham­pion Toby Price heading a team that in­cludes Bri­tish star Sam Sun­der­land, who nar­rowly missed out on the 2016 World Ral­lies Cham­pi­onship ti­tle and is aim­ing for his first elu­sive Dakar fin­ish. Ahead of this year’s Dakar and on the back of the KTM Fac­tory Team’s fi­nal prepa­ra­tion test­ing in Spain, MCN took a ride on the in­cred­i­ble 450 Fac­tory Rally bikes and got to grips with that most cru­cial of as­pects in Rally rac­ing, nav­i­ga­tion by road­book.

Full-fac­tory blast

What can we tell you about rid­ing a full-fac­tory Dakar bike? Is it on par with rid­ing Rossi’s Yamaha M1? Eas­ily. Just as Rossi’s bike feels ut­terly tuned to its task of rid­ing around a race­track, so the KTM 450 Fac­tory Rally bike is a poised, pur­pose­ful, bal­anced and in­cred­i­bly ca­pa­ble off-road ma­chine.

By its very na­ture a Rally bike is su­per-ver­sa­tile and ca­pa­ble of so much more than sim­ply go­ing fast around a track. By that mea­sure, and this is a know­ingly bold claim, the Rally is a bet­ter bike than Rossi’s M1.

How can we make such a claim? Sim­ply be­cause KTM’S Rally bike can do ev­ery­thing any bike ever needs to. Slow-speed tri­als-like rid­ing? Check. Tech­ni­cal en­duro rid­ing? Easy. Can it bust out a mo­tocross track ses­sion too? No prob­lem. How about rid­ing on the road? Nat­u­rally, how far shall we go?

Our test took in dry, rocky and loose trails, ten­ta­tively learn­ing nav­i­ga­tion

skills in the foothills of Montser­rat. Rid­ing the bike is the easy bit, such is the re­laxed feel of KTM’S Rally bike that it takes mere sec­onds to feel at home. Sk­il­fully nav­i­gat­ing my­self the wrong way up a nar­row farm track, too nar- row for a U-turn, I gave it a quick spin around my foot like I would on any dirt bike and we were away again in the blink of an eye. Can you imag­ine hav­ing the kind of con­fi­dence to do a rolling burnout on Rossi’s bike? That’s how con­fi­dence in­spir­ing the 450 Fac­tory Rally is.

Stand­ing up on the wide foot­pegs, with per­fectly set-up WP sus­pen­sion and ex­plor­ing a beau­ti­fully broad 450cc en­gine puts you ut­terly at ease with rid­ing con­fi­dently at any speed. It’s like an ad­ven­ture bike and an en­duro bike all rolled into one – which prob­a­bly makes this the best ad­ven­ture bike ever. Con­tin­ued over

‘ The KTM 450 Fac­tory Rally is a bet­ter bike than Rossi’s YZR-M1’ Jonathan Pear­son

For a Dakar bike, this is a mi­nor in­con­ve­nience rather than an ob­sta­cle

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