It’s here, 11 months of waiting are over as the 2016 Dakar Rally is about to begin.
Growing bigger and bigger year on year, the Dakar Rally has become the ‘must do’ event for all the major motorcycle manufacturers. KTM, Honda, Yamaha, Sherco and now Husqvarna have all weighed into the 2016 edition of the race.
And for the first time since 2004, the fight for the top step of the podium is wide open. With both Cyril Despres and Marc Coma out of the reckoning we’re guaranteed a first time winner when the race ends in Rosario, Argentina on January 16th.
But who will it be and what bike will they be on? We’ll have to wait 9,000 kilometres to find out, but here’s a quick look at the machinery the factory teams have on offer.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Make no mistake about it, KTM are the Daddies of the Dakar Rally. With 14 consecutive wins they’ve owned this race since Fabrizio Meoni gave them their debut win in 2001 with the LC4 660R.
However, 2016 marks the first time since 2002 they start the rally without a proven race winner. Armed with Toby Price, Matthias Walkner, Jordi Villadoms, rookie Antoine Meo plus Laia Sanz, can KTM make it win #15 with their KTM 450 Rally?
Honda are the biggest challengers to KTM’s Dakar crown. They’ve put everything they’ve got into their CRF450 Rally project and claiming that top step of the podium is their only focus.
One of the most exotic pieces of machinery in the paddock, the CRF450 Rally is every inch the factory racer and every inch a match for KTM.
Joan Barreda and Paulo Goncalves are Honda’s hope for glory. Barreda led almost half of the rally in 2015 and Gonclaves was runner-up. Backing them up are Michael Metge, Paolo Ceci and Ricky Brabec.
Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team
2016 Yamalube Yamaha Official Rally Team riders Hélder Rodrigues and Alessandro Botturi have already pushed the limits of the WR450F and taken it to the top spot of the podium.
They finished respectively first and second in the Rally of Tunisia, Botturi won the Merzouga Rally and Rodrigues placed third in the Rally of Sardinia.
While it may look more of an enduro bike than its rivals, the 2016 WR450F Rally does look promising.
Flying quietly in under the radar are Sherco Racing with their RTR 450 Rally. Stage winners in 2015, Sherco have a formidable package in their new 450 engine.
Joan Pedrero and Alain Duclos are their main guys.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
Husqvarna are the new kids on the block for 2016. Although essentially a rebranded KTM, it’s pretty cool to see them step up to the plate.
They're fronted by the very experienced Ruben Faria, rising Chilean star Pablo Quintanilla and of course Pela Renet.
The Dakar Rally begins on January 2 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Photos: Robert Lynn/Jonty Edmunds/Future7Media, Sherco Racing