The Dakar Race 2009 represents new challenges for teams. How different is it to prepare for the race in South America than for the equivalent in Africa?
In total I would say the preparation is more less the same. The biggest difference might be the schedule! With this year’s Dakar being held in South America we have to ship all the material approximately one month before the race starts. The first step will be to bring all the vehicles to Le Havre.
This is new territory for all riders. Does this wipe the slate clean and mean that there are really no favorites for the 2009 Dakar?
Most of the top riders have ridden before in South America. On paper, the favorites are the same as they were one year ago.
Who are the factory riders for KTM and do you expect riders like Marc Coma and Cyril Despres to be among the absolute favorites this year?
We have Cyril Despres, Marc Coma, Jordi Viladoms and Alain Duclot in the factory team. Many things are needed to win a race and these are not easy to calculate. On paper I would believe the top riders, the favourites, are the same as they were one year ago. For sure our team, our riders and our Rally Bikes are ready to race and always ready to win!
Describe how the preparations are made from the perspective of the factory riders.
The riders know that this Dakar will be very tough for them. They are making at lot of physical and mental preparation as well as countless hours on the bikes. So there are many different types of training – mental, physical, riding the bike and working with the team. It is also very important during preparation to use the rest days well. They will use these days to collect as much information as possible about the new terrain we will find in Argentina and Chile.
What kind of pressure is on the KTM factory team, given the fact that they have been so dominant in recent years?
It’s a kind of positive pressure for me and the team. We know we are ready and after all the hard preparation, we are looking forward to the start of the race. We will go there and work as hard as possible to reach our goals and to bring home the glory for KTM, our sponsors and of course our fans!
From a rider’s perspective, what do you expect will be the biggest differences in holding the race in South America as against the classic Africa race?
I think we will find most of what we would normally encounter in Africa and there will certainly be plenty of dunes and mountains – on Day 7 we will go up to 3250 m. The natural terrain during selective sections will be mostly on sand, soil or stones. The main difference will be the variety of terrain. We also have to pass over the Cordillere at 4000 m altitude!
Looking beyond the KTM factory team how important is this race for the KTM brand image as one of the world’s leading sports motorcycle manufacturers?
This are the Olympic games in the rally sport ! The 2009 Dakar at different location after the cancel the 2008 edition will be very interesting for many people global !! For KTM factory one of the biggest highlights every year. From the company side we are not only taking care about the factory team . There will start 235 competitors in the bikes category . More than 55% are on KTM product . To attend the biggest and most famous Rally in the world is for KTM obligatory and with the great success we had in the past and the way our team is working , we keep the level of the positive image high ! In the end of the day we have to sale bikes . Big part about image will be always results at races and how u act with customers ! In both parts we are one of the bests .
Alex what are your goals for the Dakar and the season 2009!
Obviously we are favorites for the final victory, so our first goal must be to achieve that ambition – a podium full of KTM factory riders would be nice! In total there will be 20 team members and on a more personal level my goal is to create a good atmosphere between everyone and get everybody safely to the end.