The Dakar rally is by far one of the most grueling events in the world, testing the limits of man and machine. To win it takes courage, mental toughness and great navigation and strategy skills.
Off-road rallying, better known as rally raid, is arguably one of the most difficult motorsport disciplines and has existed on the fringes for most of its history. The Dakar Rally changed that somewhat, it has grown into a huge global event, attracting some of the biggest drivers on the planet and some of the biggest sponsors. Just finishing is the goal for most participants, a feat in itself, especially for privateers, but if you want to win you will have to push harder for longer than most can.
Hubert Auriol: 2
Auriol was one of the pioneers of the event, taking part in the very first event in 1979 and then winning it for the first time in 1981.
He won again in 1983 but after an accident in 1987 (when he was in the lead) decided to switch to cars in 1988. He made history in 1992 when he became the first to win the test both by bike and by car.
Gaston Rahier: 2
Having first made a name for himself in the motocross world, winning three 125 titles in the 1970s, he became a regular on the Dakar in the 1980s.
He won back-to-back titles in 1984 and 1985 driving BMW. He is still the only Belgian to win by bike.
Fabrice Meoni: 2
When he won his first Dakar in 2001, he could never have known that it would be nearly 20 years before another manufacturer climbed to the top. An Italian started something from an Austrian dynasty.
He returned the following year to what was to be the biggest displacement ever to have won the Dakar, the KTM LC8 950R was a beast. It was utterly impossible not to get stuck in the dunes, but somehow Meoni found a way, but KTM quickly returned to the lighter LC4 the following year.
Toby Price: 2
In recent years the motorcycle category has been the most contested event, in the last six years there has been only one rider to have won it more than once with 5 different winners since 2016 .
That runner is Toby Price, one of the sport’s most determined competitors, first winning in 2016 and then again, most significantly in 2019, when he finished the final two stages with a broken wrist.
Richard Saint: 3
When Sainct won their second Dakar in 2000, it would be the last victory for BMW, which had already gotten what they needed from the sport, or at least in terms of establishing their name as the first adventure bike.
Sainct (pictured left) would then return to KTM (having competed for them in the 90s) after BMW left as a factory team, joining the growing brigade of KTM drivers, he would drive an LC4 until the victory in 2003 for his third and last title. After finishing 2nd in 2004, he was tragically killed in a heavy crash while competing in the Pharaohs Rally later that year.
Edi Orioli: 4
Although he has won four titles, the two he won on a Cagiva Elefant will be what he will truly remember.
He will in all likelihood be the only Italian rider to have won the Dakar on an Italian-made motorcycle, an Italian motorcycle powered by the famous Pantah 900 v-twin Ducati engine. It’s also worth noting that the first victory was with a factory team, but the second victory over the Cagiva in 1994 was on the same bike but in private.
Cyril Neveu: 5
In 1979 he became the first champion, to prove that it was no fluke or a lack of competition he would dominate the event in the 80s.
At just 22 years old he was a young champion in an event that is historically dominated by more experienced runners, at the time no one had much experience with a concept like this, but as the sport evolved rapidly, he evolved with it, winning four more titles.
Cyril Despres: 5
Even if he must be remembered as one of the greats of the Dakar, an incident in 2012 made him hard to forget for the wrong reasons.
One of the themes of the Dakar is sportsmanship, helping competitors who fall or get stuck. After a runner helped him out of a mud hole, he chose not to reciprocate and won the event that year, but certainly not the hearts of the fans.
Marc Coma: 5
After his first event in 2002 riding Suzuki, Coma stayed with KTM for the rest of his career.
It was a period of great domination for the Austrian brand and Coma was the main benefactor, winning five titles along the way and then spending another 3 years as race director.
StÃ©phane Peterhansel: 14
It is difficult to understand how a man could have dominated such a difficult event as this as long as he did.
After dominating the 90s with Yamaha, winning 6 titles with them, he moved on to cars where he won 8 more titles. It is quite easy to understand why everyone calls him “Monsieur Dakar”.
The history of KTM dates back to 1934; at the time, it was a metalworking workshop founded by Hans Trunkenpolz.
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