(ED: Updated with a message from Cyril Despres.)

KTM introduced its 2013 Rally Racing team while bidding farewell to five-time Dakar Rally winner Cyril Despres.

Despres won all five of his Dakar victories with KTM, winning in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2013. He leaves the team to pursue a new challenge, with Honda rumored to be seeking his services for its newly-revived rally racing program.

Taking Despres’ place on the Red Bull KTM Factory team is American Kurt Caselli who raced in the 2013 Dakar Rally as a replacement for the injured Marc Coma. Caselli is joined by Ruben Faria, a long-time support rider of Despres’ who finished second in the 2013 Dakar Rally. Coma missed this year’s competion due to injury but has wins in 2006, 2009 and 2011 to his credit. He’ll seek his fourth Dakar with KTM in 2014. KTM will also offer full factory support to Francesco “Chaleco” Lopez who finished third at the 2013 Dakar Rally.

“Just as we always look to the future by constantly developing our rally bikes, we must also do that same with the structure of our factory team. It is essential to evolve, to engage new talent and have the kind of balance and harmony essential for the smooth operation of the team in extreme circumstances like the Dakar Rally,” says Pit Beirer, head of KTM Motorsports. “We want to capitalize on the immense experience and talent of riders like Marc Coma, but also need to take advantage of those of ambitious up-and-coming riders like Caselli, Faria and Lopez.”

Even with the loss of Despres, the KTM factory team sports an impressive collection of talent. Still, Beirer and KTM maintain a tremendous respect for Despres.

“His exemplary achievements are recognized throughout the world of motorsports and he will always be part of the history of our company,” says Beirer. “We thank him for his contribution and I join with everyone at KTM Motorsports and our entire company to wish him well for his chosen future.”

Despres released a statement on his official Facebook page thanking KTM for their time together. As for his future, Despres says he will compete again but it is too early to reveal any details.

“I have spent a large part of my career to date with KTM, so as you can imagine it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly. They were great years, very fruitful, both professionally and personally, and I owe much to everyone at KTM , especially the ‘boss’ Stefan Pierer, whose enthusiasm for the sport of rally-raid matches my own. I would also like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Heinz Kinigadner and Head of Motorsport Pit Beirer and everyone in the rally department. When I arrived it was run by the much missed Hans Trunkenpolz, who taught me how to develop a rally bike, and whose work is now being very ably continued by Stefan Huber. Finally, I say a very fond farewell to my factory mechanic throughout all that time, Roland Bruckner, and my support rider during the last four Dakars, Ruben Faria, who I wish all the best for the future.

Although I say goodbye to all these people, I am sure I will be seeing many of them again very soon, as, with the continued support of my long-time partner Redbull, I will most definitely be staying in the sport. It is a little too early to give any more details, suffice to say I am extremely motivated by the new challenge I am about to embark on and look forward to giving you further details in the very near future.”

All the best


PS: As the explorer Mike Horn would say “it’s not the end of the story, it’s just the beginning of a new one…”.

[Source: KTM, Cyril Despres (Facebook); Photo by Maragni M. KTM Images]