KTM Motorsports has announced some big changes to its rally program for the rest of the 2013 season. For one, the team will now ride under the Red Bull Factory Racing name while undergoing one very important rider change.
One of the biggest news is that rally icon Cyril Despres is no longer with the team. The five-time Dakar Rally winner, who has for so long been associated with KTM, will be taking on new ventures elsewhere. KTM said in a release that "...when a rider of the high caliber of Despres indicated that he wanted to move on and face new challenges that the company had to respect his wish."
"His exemplary achievements are recognized throughout the world of motorsports and he will always be a part of the history of our company,” said Pit Beier, the head of KTM Motorsports, of Despres. “We thank him for his contribution and I join with everyone at KTM Motorsports and our entire company to wish him well for his chosen future."
Despres has not yet indicated what that future will be, though most believe he will join the factory Honda team.
Just as big of news is that American Kurt Caselli will step in for Despres, joining three-time Dakar winner Marc Coma and Ruben Faria, second in this year's Dakar Rally and Despres’ long time “water boy.” Making up the factory team will be Francesco "Chaleco" Lopez, the Chilean who finished third in this year's Dakar Rally.
"Just as we always look to the future by constantly developing our rally bikes, we must also do that same with the structure of our factory team," said Beier. "It is essential to evolve, to engage new talent and have the kind of balance and harmony essential for the smooth operation of the team in extreme circumstances like the Dakar Rally. We want to capitalize on the immense experience and talent of riders like Marc Coma, but also need to take advantage of those of ambitious up-and-coming riders like Caselli, Faria and Lopez."
Coma, who did not ride this year's Dakar Rally because of a shoulder injury, is preparing to defend his World Championship Cross Country Rally title starting with the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, April 4-11.
Caselli, a two-time AMA Hare & Hound National Champion and multi-time ISDE gold medalist, competed in the 2013 Dakar Rally for the first time when he was recruited at the last minute to fill in for the injured Coma. Caselli won two stages and showed much promise. In the past, Caselli has said that he would like to further his off-road racing career by getting into Rally racing.
Beier concluded by saying, "We must invest in new talent, just as we invest in new technology and I am confident that with the new team structure we will continue to play a dominant role in rally sport."