Paris-Dakar arch-rivals BMW and KTM have each made a major acquisition for next year’s rally – and each comes at the other’s expense. Frenchman Richard Sainct, who won the last two versions of the rally for BMW, has left the squad to ride for KTM, the Austrian manufacturer that has had early success in the last few rallies only to fall to mechanical woes. Meanwhile, Spaniard Joan Roma, who led this year’s rally until suffering a mechanical breakdown and handing the victory to Sainct, has been signed by German manufacturer BMW. Sainct, who comes to KTM along with his “water boy” Jean Brucy, signed on for two years.
With what has to be the two favorite riders swapping teams, and with both teams doing serious R&D work in an effort to assure the win, next year’s Dakar rally (which will follow the traditional route from Paris to Dakar) is impossible to predict.
Another candidate to consider for a possible win is American Jimmy Lewis, who will remain on the BMW twin in 2001. Lewis finished third last year, and says he could have gone much faster were it not for his tire inserts melting at high speeds. Next year’s rally isn’t expected to favor big bikes, but French legend Stephane Peterhansel won several times on the route while riding big bikes. Lewis leaves for Spain this weekend to test with BMW for the upcoming Dubai Rally.