As you might imagine, there are any number of reasons a rider may fail to finish - from a simple navigation error, an accident, a mechanical mishap or simply through shear rider fatigue - no matter how well prepared you think you are, there is always a degree of luck required to finish the Dakar.
Despite such unfavorable odds, year after year, privateer riders continue to take on the Dakar, if only to prove to themselves they have what it takes to conquer the toughest and most arduous off-road race in the world.
As an ex-Dakar competitor myself, I have been fortunate to be involved in the LC4-50 project since it’s inception, and having been invited to endurance test and compete on the first production machine in it’s inaugural event earlier this year, strongly believe it more that satisfies the original design brief.
The whole ethos behind the LC4-50 project was to build an affordable and reliable ‘privateer’ bike for the Dakar - one that effectively addresses the two main reasons that riders (and especially first time riders) fail to finish: that is due to mechanical failure, and/or rider fatigue.
The LC4-50 benefits the rider by retaining the original chassis geometry and ergonomics of the KTM 690 - meaning it is very stable at speed off-road, and far less tiring than a converted 450cc MX/Enduro derived machine on the road. This is particularly important during the Dakar where typically 4000+ kilometers of the total rally distance is liaison, often starting very early in the morning when it is still dark, and again later in the day when you are already tired after riding an extended special stage.
In addition, the bullet-proof nature of the LC4-50 engine design undoubtably offers a further psychological benefit in that you don’t feel it could explode at any moment during those long, wide-open throttle liaison stages.
Having initially ridden over 2000 kilometers from the Rally Raid Products HQ in the UK to the start of the Hellas Rally in Greece, I then embarked on six days of competitive racing over what was more akin to a hard enduro course, featuring far more technical terrain that you typically encounter during the Dakar.
Able to conserve and manage my energy well throughout the rally onboard the LC4-50, at no point did I feel intimidated by the thought of the subsequent 2000 kilometer journey home again - which is a very real physical and phycological benefit to anyone who is considering the Dakar themselves.
The other primary benefit of the LC4-50 is the engine itself. Being based around the KTM 690 that typically made anything from 60-70hp, there is a huge safety margin in having ‘only’ 50hp running through the transmission - everything is far less stressed. Meanwhile, the stock LC4 bottom end already benefits from a larger oil capacity, stronger clutch and gearbox, together with a balancer shaft which offers further refinement compared to a 450cc MX/enduro derived engine. The LC4-50 also requires far less general regular maintenance - indeed we neither changed, not needed to top-up the oil during 6000 kilometers of continual testing.
During this extended endurance road-test and the off-road rally itself, I found the LC4-50 engine offered an almost perfect combination of low speed tractability and off-idle throttle control for technical riding, coupled with a punchy midrange and very smooth and consistent torque characteristics all the way up to the redline. Despite the reduction in cylinder capacity of around a third, the LC4-50 still feels very much like a big-bore enduro bike to ride - torquey, tractable, and indeed forgiving - all of which helps reduce rider fatigue during extended off-road stages. The bike also offers exceptionally predictable fueling throughout - such is the benefit of EFi at any altitude and temperature.
Having ridden the bike hard for over 6000 kilometers now, I am confident that the LC4-50 is the perfect choice for my own return to the Dakar Rally in January 2015. In conjunction with the support and assistance provided by Rally Raid Products and their partners Torque Racing, I believe this package offers a very realistic chance of a finish, and not least at an affordable price. Were that not enough, as a further incentive Rally Raid Products are so confident that the LC4-50 engine is ‘unbustable’ that they will guarantee to underwrite any mechanical failure for anyone renting or buying one of these bikes to compete in a rally up to and including the Dakar!"
"Held over two weeks and typically covering 9000 kilometers or more, the Dakar Rally is by far the longest and toughest off-road race in the world - conceived as and considered, the ultimate endurance test of both rider and machine.
The Dakar is also unique amongst premier league motor-sports in allowing amateur participants to line up with their professional counterparts, racing over exactly the same terrain and under exactly the same rules.
Inevitably the challenges faced are immense, and for anyone other than an elite moto pilot, simply finishing the event ought to be considered a resounding success - indeed typically each year little more than half those that start the rally ever manage to complete it.
Jenny Morgan shares her thoughts following her 6000 km round trip to Hellas...and back!
Contact us at Rally Raid Products if you have any questions about the LC4-50 Project