January 22, 2007 The world’s most dangerous sporting event is always full of surprises and this year the Dakar Rally continued to write remarkable scripts for its competitors. There was some predictability in that two more competitors died this year - Elmer Symons and Eric Aubijoux – maintaining the average of two competitor deaths a year, with the spectator death toll indeterminate. There’s another given about the motorcycle section of the competition and that’s that KTM will win - the Austrian brand filled the first four spots and 23 of the first 30 finishers. The winner was Frenchman Cyril Despres (Gauloisses KTM) who finished more than half an hour in front of the field. Despres’ win was unexpected as 2005 winner and the dominant rider of the last year, Marc Coma, had led Despres by 52 minutes with just one timed stage remaining of the 8686 kilometre event, after leading the field since January 9. Sadly for Coma, he crashed and could take no further part in the event. Coma and Despres rode identical 72 bhp KTM 690 Rally machines, built specially for the event and competing for the first time.
Despres and Coma are arch rivals and ironically the situation was the reverse what happened in 2006. Despres seemed set to win when he crashed and broke his collarbone, letting Coma take the 2006 title and glory. KTM factory teammate David Casteu was second with American rider Chris Blais (Red Bull KTM) in third place, 52 minutes behind the leader.
Dakar retained its reputation as the world’s toughest rally eliminating the remaining five KTM factory riders. Although they were knocked out by various crashes, thankfully all escaped very serious injury. This was a testament to the effectiveness of the new KTM Neck Brace protection system that all KTM factory riders wore for the first time in the Dakar 2007.