The following is a release from KTM -

Chris Blais and Kellon Walch have been selected to compete in the 2006 Dakar Rally. They will spearhead America’s only factory-supported Dakar Rally team as part of the Red Bull/Repsol KTM U.S. Dakar Team. To prepare for this arduous event the two will contest the famed Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 on November 18-20, 2005 as solo entries.

Chris Blais, the likable Apple Valley resident will be contesting the Baja 1000 and then making a return to Dakar. The 23-year-old rider rode a smart and consistent race and placed ninth overall in last years’ Dakar and finished Top Rookie. This years’ Baja 1000 is arguably the toughest ever. The 709-mile event is extremely rough using many old Baja courses which have seen massive deterioration after years of competition.

“I definitely have my work cut out for me. This will be a good training exercise leading up to Dakar. I’m looking forward to taking the experience I gained in last years’ Dakar to make a run for a podium position,” said Blais.

Kellon Walch, the youngest member of the team made history last year as he was the only American to win a stage in the Dakar Rally. Hailing from Las Vegas, the 21-year-old will also contest the Baja 1000 solo. “We’ll be competing on bikes that are very similar to the Dakar rally bikes,” Walch said. “The seat time that we will log will put us in great position to get a good result in Dakar. This years’ Baja 1000 is very tough. I’m sure it will take everything I have just to make it to the finish.”

For 2006, Joe Barker will head up the Repsol/Red Bull Dakar team as team manager. Barker has been heavily involved in Dakar and Baja racing activities as he was the 2004 and 2005 Dakar Team Co-Manager. He has a strong off-road racing background and is looking forward to the future events.

“Thanks to the team leadership of Scot Harden during the past three years, we are in a good position to experience great success,” he said. “The combination of current USA team experience, the liaison with Jordi Arcarons’ Spanish Repsol-Red Bull Team, the KTM Factory Rally Department, and last but not least, our Sponsors, Red Bull and Repsol, we have the ingredients that will give us the best possible chance of great success. Jordi Arcarons is the most experienced and knowledgeable motorcycle team manager in Dakar Competition today. Additionally, we have young and very talented riders assisted by a passionate, experienced and cohesive support team. The team doctor, Dr. Johnathan Edwards and lead Mechanic, Matt Spencer, are experienced Dakar Veterans that will attend to every need of the riders to assure that the riders and bikes make it to Dakar in the best possible position.” Scot Harden, a Multi-time Baja Champion and 2004/05 Dakar participant and Team Manager for the U.S effort will act as a team advisor during the Baja 1000 and 2006 Dakar Rally.

“We set a goal last year to develop an American rider to win Dakar,” Harden said. “This is the second year of that plan. We have a strong team and expect to improve on our overall result.”

Dakar Rally News


Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.

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