KTM uses motocross know-how to beat Honda

From 2001 to 2019, KTM launched an incredible series of 18 consecutive Dakar victories that spanned the African and South American era of the legendary event. But since the 2020 rally raid moved to Saudi Arabia, Honda has taken two of two wins.

Those defeats have changed the approach of KTM to head for the 2022 Dakar with a three-man factory line-up consisting of Toby Price, Mathias Walkner and Kevin Benavides, who defected from Honda after his win in 2021.

“The idea was to make a motorcycle that was easier to handle,” 2018 Dakar Champion Walkner told Motorsport.com. “The bike should also be easier to ride over stony, rough gravel roads and over dunes. Nevertheless, in terms of stability, nothing should be lost.

“The conditions in Saudi Arabia are new and we had a harder time than in South America. Honda seems to be coping better with that.”

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The heart of the revised 450 Rally is a new steel frame, which is based on the design of KTM motocross motorcycles – a complete change in philosophy.

Work was also carried out on the swing arm, the linkage, the WP dampers and many other technical details, and various configurations and setups were tested throughout the year.

“It came from my side to push towards the motocross frame,” explains Walkner. “My basic idea was that the motocross department at KTM had become huge. There is so much know-how in there.

“As a ‘small’ rally department, we have to find out and test everything ourselves. There is often a lack of time and also not enough human resources. But with motocross you can fall back on so much experience because you have already tested and tried 99 percent of things at least once.

“I tested this frame for the first time in March 2020. Then we kept adding new components and changing things. Unfortunately, everything has been delayed and drawn out due to the coronavirus.

“The biggest change is primarily the frame. the [fuel] Tanks are also very different. You always try to position the mass in such a way that the center of gravity is as central as possible and as far down as possible. The front tank is much bigger and the rear one a bit smaller. “

Walkner became FIM Cross-Country World Champion for the second time in 2021, but that success was not achieved with the new bike that will debut at the Dakar – and the decision for the updated 450 rally was made too late.

“KTM gave me the choice of riding the old or the new bike,” adds the Austrian. “The last test was at the beginning of December. The decision had to be made beforehand, because the bikes were to be shipped to Saudi Arabia in November.

“The decision was difficult, but in retrospect I’m happy. We did 10 long and extreme days of testing with all possible setups and configurations. Now I’m happy that it works so well. “

“We took some things back because we lacked some test time. But we will have some of them in the 2022 [Cross-Country] Rally season just in time for Dakar 2023. “

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