KTM’s Baja 690 Debut

Kit Palmer | June 4, 2007

The following is from KTM:

A record of 500 competitors started in the 2007 Baja 500 race, which started and finished in Ensenada, Mexico in what was a true test for bike, riders and support staff.

After a short rollout in the Netherlands, there had been little time for concentrated test riding. Pre-race testing in Mexico was reduced to a single day after the KTM team equipment was held up in customs for a number of days. The delays also put enormous pressure on the support team to complete pre-race testing in the shortest possible time. And naturally, it was also a true test of the ability and endurance of KTM riders Chris Blais, Cyril Despres (pictured) and David Pearson. Cyril and David were competing in the Baja for the first time.

David opened the race for KTM and brought the Baja 690 into Pit 2 for repairs to the exhaust after 123 miles. He was in the lead by five minutes. Chris took over but after a harmless crash had to keep riding with a broken brake lever. The team quickly lost the time advantage, and added a little more for repairs at Pit 4. By now KTM was 15 minutes behind the leader. Only emergency repairs were made to the exhaust because a full repair would have cost too much time. A real attack on the leading bike was no longer possible.

Cyril Despres took over at the 297 mile mark and managed to make up time between pit stops 5 and 6, but the foot brake pedal broke during another crash, one in which Cyril made a close encounter with Mexican wildlife when he ran straight into a cactus. He rode on regardless and only got to pick out the 50 thorns after he crossed the line in a secure place finish.

Cyril also praised the practice of the radio link to riders to the helicopter overhead, which was twice able to warn him about local traffic on the track. “It is certainly very important for rider safety,” he said.

“The concept for the Baja 690 has proved its worth,” said KTM’s Hans Trunkenpolz at the conclusion of the race. “Now its time to make some modifications to the components and to conduct some hard tests for the next races like the Baja Aragon in Spain, the Las Vegas-Reno race and finally for taking part in the Baja 100 in November.”

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.