KTM Looks Back At The Dakar

Paul Carruthers | January 15, 2006

The following release is from KTM…

“Finally, I made it all the way to Dakar safe and sound. I’m so happy right now!” exclaimed an elated Chris Blais #9 from the comfort of his Dakar, Senegal hotel. “There’s nothing like coming off the trail and seeing this place. It was such a relief. Today my goal was to get to Dakar and maintain my position. There was a lot of confusion on the course and most riders were not navigating very well at all. There was a lot of confusion out there. Despres lost a lot of time because of this and Gio Sala, who started the day ahead of me by over 20 minutes, fell off the pace quite a bit. He ended up in 50th place but he’s still just over 6 minutes ahead of me. Looks like he’ll be 3rd on the podium tomorrow.”

STREET SIGNS- Among the tactics that Blais credits his strong 6th place stage 14 finish with is partnering with fellow American, Jonah Street on this last timed portion of the 2006 Dakar. “Jonah and I saw what was happening early in the special test and realized that our best move was to ride together and try to keep each other on course. We scouted around for a while and carefully retraced the route. Eventually, we got back on course, picked up the waypoint and immediately saw a pair of tracks which turned out to belong to Fretigne and Coma. After that we just gassed it to Dakar.”

After 15 days of competition [one day of rest last Sunday] Blais relishes thoughts of hot showers, soft mattresses and the creature comforts we all take for granted. Thoughts of seeing his wife Patty again and boarding a plane for California Monday morning are still a dream. But for now, this California Kid will have to make due with tomorrow’s ceremonial parade lap around Lac Rose and a healthy dose of post-Dakar partying.

DOCTOR’S ORDERS – “Doc [Dr. Jonathan Edwards, US team physician] just bought me a hamburger and fries and I can’t explain how good it tasted to me. I craved a burger for so many days and he came through for me, again.”

“Everything went great for me during this rally,” reflected Blais. “My mechanic Matt Spencer kept my KTM [660 Rallye] going perfectly every day and the entire Red Bull KTM US Dakar team really pulled together to make my finish possible. We have a fantastic team and everyone was responsible for me being here now.”

With his second Dakar Rally behind him, Blais joins a rare fraternity of off-road racers tough enough and smart enough to stay focused for the entire event. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of motorcyclists are capable of a few days of Dakar intense racing just a handful possess what it takes to do . Not only has the 25-year-old completed both of attempts at the mother of all endurance events, he’s finished both of them within the top 10. Most Dakar entrants would give an arm and a leg to say they’d ridden, and survived, every stage of the Dakar. This should serve as solid proof that Blais’ 9th place finish a year ago was no fluke and a manifestation of things to come.

JOE BARKER Red Bull KTM US Dakar team manager – “What a relief! We’re finally in Dakar! Chris has arrived safely and he’s solidly in 4th place overall. [Giovanni] Sala is still about 6 and a 1/2 minutes ahead of Chris but how can begrudge a warrior like Gio from standing on the podium in Dakar? Thanks to our great sponsors Red Bull, KTM, Repsol, Michelin and others, our dream of putting an American on the podium in Dakar is closer than ever before. Can’t wait until next year but now it’s time to celebrate!”

STAGE FRIGHT – Today started with substantial difficulties for Dakar’s long running veterans, not the least of whom was 2005 defending champ, Cyril Despres #1. Miscues and bad judgment resulted in him struggling to stay on course and losing time to front running heir apparent Marc Coma of the Repsol KTM team.

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.