KTM launches "Legends of the Dakar" Motohall exhibition

A new exhibition dedicated to the Dakar Rally has been launched at the KTM Motohall, featuring 10 of KTM's famous rally bikes.

KTM Legends of the Dakar exhibition in KTM Motohall

KTM has launched a new section of its Motohall, the “Legends of the Dakar” exhibition, dedicated, of course, to the Dakar Rally and the Austrian brand’s own successes in the event.

The new exhibition celebrates KTM’s history in the Dakar which stretches back to 1994 when Heinz Kinigadner competed in the event for the third time. Kinigadner had made his debut at the Dakar in 1992, and before that had won two 250cc Motocross World Championships with KTM in 1984 and 1985, the latter by only two points ahead of Yamaha’s Jacky Vimond.

A seven-time Grand Prix winner in the motocross world, Kinigadner also laid the foundations for what became an unprecedented period of dominance at the Dakar for KTM, despite never reaching the finish of the rally in his seven starts, with his 1994 entry on a modified LC4 Enduro machine. 

A double-podium then came in 1996. Jordi Arcarons, who had previously taken podium finishes for Cagiva, finished second with KTM LC4 machinery to Yamaha's Edi Orioli in the '96 edition; and ahead of Carlos Sotelo, who also rode an LC4.

More podium finishes came in 1998 with Fabrizio Meoni and Andrew Haydon; and in 1999 with Thierry Magnaldi and Alfie Cox, but it was not until seven years after the Austrian brand’s debut that KTM won its first Dakar in 2001 with the aforementioned Meoni.

Meoni won again in 2002; but was a fundamental part of a tragic Dakar for KTM in 2005, when he died after crashing on the event, days after Jose Manuel Perez, also riding a KTM, died in hospital in Alicante, Spain, having been transferred there following a crash on the rally.

This tragedy came amidst the beginning of KTM’s domination of the Dakar. Following Meoni’s back-to-back wins in 2001 and 2002, KTM won again in 2003 with Richard Sainct, and in 2004 with Nani Roma. Then, victories for Cyril Despres in 2005 and 2007, 2010, and 2012 were punctuated by wins for Marc Coma in 2006, 2009, and 2011 (the 2008 Dakar was cancelled), the latter being the first win for the KTM 450 Rally.

Additionally, every podium-finishing bike at the Dakar was a KTM between 2001 and 2007. The LC4 660R was the most popular choice, but Meoni won in 2002 with an LC8 950R, and finished third with the same model the following year. By 2007, the 690 Rally had arrived, and it took two podium places on its debut, the LC4 660R taking its final podium spot that year in third place with the USA's Chris Blais.

More wins followed for Despres and Coma until 2015, when Toby Price would take the first of his Dakar wins in 2016. Price's second win in 2019 marked the end of an 18-year winning streak for KTM on the Dakar.

Honda would win in 2020 and 2021, before a KTM bike, painted in the red of GasGas, was taken to victory by Sam Sunderland in 2022 (his second win after 2017), and Kevin Benavides won for the second time in 2023, his first win with KTM.

Stefan Pierer, CEO Pierer Mobility AG, said: “There is no bigger adventure than the Dakar; the momentum and motivation it provided us back in those early years, which proved to be pivotal in the promotion of the KTM name and development of our motorcycles, has never wavered.”

Heinz Kinigadner, two-time Motocross World Champion and the rider who debuted KTM machinery at the Dakar, said: “To talk about the history of KTM and the Dakar really makes me a bit proud. Back when I started in 1994, I could not believe the media coverage - it was so much more than I got for my world titles, and I knew it could be good for the brand. While the style and professionalism of racing has changed since then, the fundamentals of the race remain the same. It’s a big adventure.”

Matthias Walkner, 2018 Dakar Winner, said: “There is no other race like it, and no feeling like winning it. I am so proud to have been an Austrian rider, on an Austrian bike with an Austrian sponsor and it is really cool that the KTM Motohall is telling these stories – especially those ones in history that we did not always get to know about in detail.”

Kevin Benavides, two-time and reigning Dakar champion, said: “Winning this year‘s Dakar was really the best feeling of my life. And now, to be a part of KTM‘s Legends of the Dakar makes me very proud. I am still overwhelmed, it‘s amazing.”

Find out more about the KTM Motohall on its dedicated webpage.

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