Dakar Dazed II - the return! Part 1: Project LC4-50
As the dust continues to settle over the behemoth that was the Dakar 2013 coverage here on ADVrider, I thought I might pick over a few of the comments that caught my eye during this year’s extensive coverage...
I think the overriding opinion this year is that despite early reservations, the 450cc capacity cap introduced in recent years has succeeded in bringing new manufacturers and riders into the event, elevated team strategy to another level, and ultimately made the racing closer than ever!
However, while this is very exciting up at the sharp end, watching the factory teams and riders swapping minutes and seconds in an ever changing role call of stage wins, as each years passes, perhaps the relevance of the event is slowly being eroded in a sea of hi-tech, hi-priced and utterly focused machines... and the trickle-down ‘race it Sunday sell it Monday’ ethos of old really no longer applies... I’m certainly not holding my breath for a street-legal ‘adventure’ bike based on anything like the factory race bikes from any of the major players anytime soon...
That is not to say it may not have an effect on development - if anything the Dakar this year has alleviated many of the fears that a 450cc engine could grenade at any point - with a number of the top riders finishing on a single engine (albeit some of them didn’t start with that same one!), and none of them were particularly nursing them for the duration...
But still, that is a huge gamble, whether you are a factory rider at the top of the field, or equally a privateer who has mortgaged everything to make the start. I recall a friend and multiple-Dakar finisher said to me “You do whatever it takes to get that finisher’s medal, because that is all you are ever going to get...” - and certainly for me, taking on the Dakar is not just about being there, but being able to endure everything it can throw at you and ultimately beating the odds to finish.
Despite the number of finishes on a single engine this year, what was perhaps telling was the fact there were very few riders entered in the actual ‘Marathon’ class... almost everyone took at least one spare engine, even if it was ‘just incase’, and by the number of 15 minute penalties by day 10, it was clear many engines had been changed, if only as a precaution.
This of course makes an already considerable financial outlay even tougher on those privateer riders racing in the bottom half of the pack - I’m not talking about the hard-core racers, more those riders who still see the Dakar as the ultimate test of endurance - of both rider and machine.
And ultimately, here on ADVrider especially, it is those riders to which we still have the strongest affinity - the Luis Belausteguis, the Manuel Luccheses, and the Craig Bounds’ - who, having taken one step forward buy investing in a factory race bike, then took a huge leap backwards in taking on the almost insurmountable task of racing it alone in Malle Moto! Without these riders, the Dakar would be just another rally race... what makes the Dakar is diversity of the entry list, the motivation and the varied approach to a common goal - for them it’s not about beating other riders, it’s about beating the Dakar itself.
At the other end of the privateer scale of course, we have Lyndon Poskett’s EPIC performance this year... His text-book approach to not only getting a solid finish, but actually far exceeding our (and even his own!) expectations by producing what can only be described as a stellar performance for a Dakar rookie!
Not only is he a talented and accomplished racer, but I believe it is his background and achievements in [typically solo] adventure riding, that allowed him to so comprehensively plan his campaign, and to execute it so efficiently. Choosing the de-facto race bike, a top UK assistance team and insisting on his own personal mechanic all paid dividends, and allowed him to fully concentrate on not just finishing, but achieving an impressive result. However, I’m sure Lyndon will tell you, that medal came at a considerable financial cost - something most of us could not even contemplate spending on ‘just one race’ - even if it happens to be THE one race!
I know that feeling. Those of you who followed my 2011 Dakar campaign will recall just what it takes to make the start line, and how devastating it can be to have your campaign cut short by an injury (a bloody big crash!).
I don’t regret a moment of it, and to be honest I don’t think there is anything I would have done any differently - I considered I had a strong and reliable bike (which I had prepared myself), an experienced independent assistance crew, and was both physically and mental prepared for what I was about to undertake. It’s just that shit happens sometimes, and you have to get over it.
As it turned out, it has taken me a year longer to reach the position where I am confident I can return to the Dakar Rally. I had hoped that 2013 would be the year - but despite having my entry accepted, the delay in getting the metalwork removed from my leg (I was advised it was best not to race with it still in place, as it would have been really complicated if I had suffered a similar injury), meant I was not in a position to raise enough funds to cover my assistance costs last year.
However, in the best tradition of a silver lining - deferring until 2014 has opened up a fantastic opportunity which not only appeals to me from a engineering and ethical point of view, but will allow me to return to the Dakar Rally with the full support of a talented and enthusiastic team, together with whom I am involved in developing this project.
The heart of the project will be a brand new race bike - and yes, almost inevitably it would seem, I have ultimately moved from blue to orange... However, our approach will be far from off-the-shelf.
With the cost of a factory bike (and spare engine) the wrong side of €30,000 Euros, the instigator of this project - John Mitchinson from Rally Raid UK - came up with an innovative idea.
As many of you will no doubt be aware, Rally Raid’s core business is the production of rally and adventure fuel-tank and fairing kits for the KTM 690 Enduro. Indeed, a suitably kitted bike is the #1 choice of the privateer for open-class rally-raid, and over the years his bikes have proved extremely successful in all manner of events in Europe and Africa including the original Dakar Rally route.
John felt that since the KTM 690 chassis is essentially 2/3rds of a Factory 450RR, that together with their new EVO2 rally tank and fairing kit, this would make an excellent budget alternative for the privateer racer.
Of course in anything other than the Dakar (or collecting FIM world championship points), there would be no problem - bolt the bits on and away you go... However, for Dakar there is an issue - or 240 of them to be precise...
However, John is also an excellent engineer, with in-house computer and machining facilities that have allowed him to develop a 450cc conversion to the existing LC4 engine!
Now why bother with the LC4 engine at all you may ask - when you could slot an EXC/XCF lump in it’s place, much as the factory have done?
The fundamental answer is strength and reliability - the LC4 bottom end is designed to handle 70+bhp all day, with a large oil capacity and long service intervals. Yes the engine is a little larger/heavier than the latest generation XC4, but as part of a fully specced rally bike with 30 litres of fuel on board, the difference is really negligible, particularly if you are not chasing ultimate performance, rather wanting an ultra-reliable power plant that can see you to the end of the Dakar, for example.
Certainly we are both of the mindset that an engine shouldn’t have to be considered a ‘consumable’! and the off-shoot of this development is two-fold. While John is not expecting your typical 690 owner to shed over 200ccs and what is likely to be around 15bhp for everyday riding, the engine kit would make any 690 based bike eligible for a Dakar entry, and perhaps more importantly, the kit can be fitted to all those essentially defunct 690RR s out there - refreshing them, and making them once again eligible for the Dakar - another great privateer option. Moreover, John is confident you’d be able to race not just the Dakar, but a whole season in the 450cc class with little more than the occasional oil change - something to consider for anyone planning a racing budget.
However, perhaps the most important spin-off from the LC4-50 project has been the development of a replacement stock and high-compression piston kit for the 690 engine (to be available in the spring), as the LC4-50 will actually retain the original bore of the 690, and rather use a new crank and rod kit (together with a specially designed piston) to provide the reduction in capacity.
The engine is currently undergoing development and trails, and we’ll of course be posting photos and data here, just as soon as we have it...
And there is more... a LOT more!
However, the engine development is only part of the project. Once the test bike is up and running, it is our intention to race it at the Hellas Rally in Greece this coming April. Rally Raid are working closely with Dakar mechanic and general engine & bike prep guru Martin Wittering from Torque Racing, who in turn will be providing our service support for the 2013 Season and the Dakar in January 2014.
Because the project is being developed in-house, Rally Raid & Torque Racing are also able to offer a very competitive bike & assistance rental package for the events we’ll be attending this year (either for entry on the rally itself, or simply to follow the event in the raid category or as a spectator) using a KTM 690R with the ‘lite’ kit fitted (that is without the fairing). That way, you can get up close and personal with the development of the project, particularly during the season finale Maroc in October where all the teams typically shake down their new Dakar bikes and riders - and similarly we shall be doing the same.
Yes, you read that right! RIDERS. It is our intention to actually field TWO bikes in the the Dakar 2014, and whatismore, we want to offer the seat to anyone here at ADVrider!!! [who is eligible to the ASO conditions of acceptance of course].
What we are offering is a complete turn-key rental package, that will include a full-prepared LC4-50 Evo2 kitted sister bike, full spares inventory, and mechanical assistance and service team support for the duration of the Dakar 2014!
We will be able to offer this package at an exceptionally competitive price - certainly far less than you could hope to enter the Dakar yourself (unless you consider Malle Moto).
Furthermore, the 2nd bike is to be supplied by Rally Raid’s US Distributor KTM TWINS, so I imagine there is a particular opportunity for any US inmates to become part of our team.
A brief timeline...
Once the test bike has been signed off after the Hellas Rally in April, I shall personally be involved with the build of the second bike at the KTM Twins workshop in San Francisco, and the subsequent promotional activity on that side of the pond - and we have some very exciting ‘endurance tests’ planned!
Dakar entries open in May this year, and obviously any rider interested in joining the team for Dakar 2014 will have to satisfy the strict ASO entry requirements (and make their own application/pay their entry fee). Be under no illusion, the Dakar is exceptionally tough, and while we ourselves want to extend this opportunity to someone from the ADV community, we are not going to entertain any space-cadets.
Over the summer, the US bike will be shipped to the UK, and prepared for the Maroc Rally in October, as a precursor to Dakar 2014. It is essential that both riders are present at that event - not least for the team to gel as a whole, and indeed both riders will be encouraged to be as involved as possible with the development of the bike/s over the coming season.
As such, the package price for the Dakar will also include full entry on the Maroc Rally - all you’ll need to do is get yourself to Morocco.
Rally Raid/Torque Racing will then handle all the logistics of scrutineering and shipping the bike from Le Havre, together with all the ground logistics in South America.
There is of course plenty more to tell you (including how you can help us design our racing livery, and get your name on the Dakar bikes!) but I am conscious of information overload... I’ll let this lot sink in, then be back with more details soon!
It’s been a long time coming, but hopefully you will join me (and the LC4-50 team) on my journey, BAK 2 DAK!
:clap Very interesting project!
Now that is a seriously cool and exciting project !!
Wow! Interesting. Subscribed.
Has the engine been run allready with the 450 kit ? Any power figures yet ?
How about the 690 hi comp piston, how much power ?
Price for those retired 690 rr's just went up i think...
Go go Jenny!!!
Looking forward to reading more about this new venture! I think the idea of a proven engine is good. Also the second bike is a huge ++. A water carrier for Jenny maybe? :evil
I like this !!!!
Nice! This looks really promising! And FWIW, I'm switching from Yamaha to KTM as well!
The reliability of the 690 is a perfect match for riding multiple races one of which being the Dakar. What a fantastic idea for folks on a budget.
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