Anything short of a Dakar victory is a disappointment for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team. In 2001, Team Orange wrestled its first Dakar win from the competition. It wouldn’t relinquish its grip on the title for another 19 years. By then, Austrian rider Matthias Walkner already shot to the top of the Dakar field once, and Australian Toby Price notched two victories. That all changed in 2020, though.
Riding for Honda, Ricky Brabec stunned the rally world when he became the first American rider to win the World’s Toughest Race. In the process, he snapped KTM’s nearly two-decade Dakar run. If anyone believed that Honda’s winner’s circle return was just a case of good fortune, Kevin Benavides put those doubts to rest.
The then-Honda rider helped Big Red collect back-to-back titles in 2021. However, Benavides quickly joined the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team for the 2022 campaign. As fans built up the third consecutive showdown between the Honda and KTM, another dark horse, British rider Sam Sunderland, surprised the pundits when he brought home the gold for GasGas.
Of course, the Spanish off-road specialists now fall under KTM parent company Pierer Mobility Group. The family ties don’t end there either. Sam Sunderland won his first Dakar Rally in 2017 aboard a KTM 450 Rally. While GasGas leverages that same KTM-built steed for its 450 Rally model, Team Orange still can’t lay claim to Sunderland’s 2022 championship.
That leaves current Red Bull KTM riders Matthias Walkner, Toby Price, and Kevin Benavides with one option: reclaim the Dakar crown in 2023. If KTM’s latest YouTube video is any hint, the three former Dakar champs are pulling out all the stops to return the brand to its “rightful” spot. From testing and developing the KTM 450 Rally to training as a team to honing navigation skills, Price, Walkner, and Benavides are only in it to win it.
With less than a month before the first Dakar stages kick-off, we won’t have to wait long before the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team launches its latest offensive on the Dakar Rally.