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Dakar Rally 2007

Dakar Rally 2007 Updates of Chris Blais Bike #9

Chris Blais on the podium in 3rd place overall in Dakar 2007!


Stage 15: The Finish
Overall place: 3rd place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM  +00:52:06

25th place in Stage

Chris Blais (USA – KTM – 3rd in the overall rankings)
It all seems surreal. I think it will actually hit me when I’m back home in the US. I had to keep going, there had to be an American on the podium. What matters the most in the Dakar is to remain steady. It paid off for me. I felt much better than in my previous Dakars. Cyril Despres has again proven that he is the best because he is clever in the race. My aim now is to win the Dakar one day and today I know I can.
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Stage 14:
Overall place: 3rd place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM  +00:53:01

4th place in Stage

 Stage 13:
Overall place: 3rd place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM  +00:54:52

2nd place in Stage

 Stage 12:
Overall place: 3rd place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM
+01:41:33.00

19th place in Stage


STAGE 12: AYOUN EL ATROUS - KAYES
484 km, including 257 against the clock, are on the menu of the 12th stage. The competitors are now leaving sand behind and entering savannah ground. Typical WRC super fast sections are back on the programme with some forest sections as well.

Chris called: He's a little bummed but is still in great spirits. The bolts on the front brake caliper snapped and when he went to pull a handful of brakes, nothing was there and he slid out, hitting his head. This was within the first 30km of the 'special'. He said it's sort of a known issue/problem I guess ? He said the bolts have been coming loose when they shouldn't (they never should, right?)... It cost him about 5 minutes on time. He followed someone through the rest of the stage (can't remember whom). The other rider was very surprised that Chris kept up with him the whole way through all the trees, having only the rear brake. He's still shooting for the 3rd spot, but trying to do so without something stupid happening (crashing or a bike issue)! He will be happy to just get to the finish!

He said Ullevalseter has some issues with goats on the liason this morning. He came upon a heard crossing the road, grabbed the brakes, and slid out taking about 5 goats down with him. He had no idea what had just happened. That might have cost him a little time too. He is ok.

Stage 11:
Easy does it for Dakar:
Dakar Rally competitors had a chance to enjoy the scenery on Wednesday after what amounted to a rest day forced by security concerns.

STAGE 11: NEMA – AYOUN EL ATROUS
There is no timed section on today’s program, After half a day’s rest in Néma, the competitors will hit the road at 11.00 GMT for the first bike, towards Ayoun El’Atrous, still in Mauritania, on a 280-km connection section. A welcome break for those who have made it this far through the 29th edition of the Dakar. They will then get to grips with the final sprint to the Pink Lake along the ultra-quick Malian and Senegalese tracks.
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Stage 10:
Overall place: 4th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM
+01:40:37.00
7th place in Stage

10:03 Chris Blais and Jean de Azevedo are both 2:30 back.

10:13 Conditions have changed at the 169km checkpoint, with the bikes moving into proper desert conditions after starting on rockier roads.

11:49 Casteu, Blais and De Azevedo are also on the leaderboard.

12:55 Fifth and sixth are Casteu and Chris Blais, losing at least four more minutes each.
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Stage 9:
Overall place: 4th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM
+01:34:20.00
6th place in Stage

Blais: "Today (Monday, 1/15/07) was a good day. I rode better than yesterday but I crashed like an idiot when reaching to get a drink of water. I should have been paying better attention but I'm Ok -- a little sore now, sitting here talking to you on the phone, but when I'm on the bike and racing I don't have any problems. Matt (Spencer) has been doing an awesome job on my bike and equipment and the Doc (Dr. Johnathan Edwards) is all over the place making sure that I'm taken care of and ready to go for the next stage. We really have a great team.
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Stage 8:
Overall place: 4th
 place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +00:52:53.00
6th place in Stage


Chris Blais:
"I hang out with the other riders and teams including the Respol (Coma) and Gauloises (Despres) teams. And we get along, no problem. I haven't experienced any negativity."
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Stage 7:
Overall place: 5
th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +00:52:53.00
9th place in Stage

Today a motorcycle winner Jordi Viladoms, who had seemingly gone off the radar, has surfaced. He suffered a fall and broke his arm and ankle American rider Chris Blais helped him and might have his metered time rectified, according to the authorities.  (Which they did adusted his time.)

Blais deserves a lot of credit for helping a rider in need.

Chris Blais: (KTM Red Bull)
"I’m in 5th now, about 15 minutes out from 3rd. So, a podium is definitely possible for me. To get there, I just need to finish the race and keep riding the way I have been. Nobody expected an American to do well. I think I’ve been a little smarter than some of the Europeans, conserving the bike and myself. I usually do better in the second half, so I’m looking forward to the rest of the rally.
Great weather we’re having today. The sandstorm isn’t too bad yet."
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Stage 6:
Overall place:
4th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +00:35:04
3rd place in Stage

Chris Blais (USA – KTM – 3rd)
All the team was quick. We arrived at CP1 in under an hour. On the special, I reached a top speed of 168 km/h. Apart from at the supply point, I didn’t see anyone at all today, I was all alone. I prefer it like that. If no-one catches up with me, that means I’m riding well. There were times when I felt really small in the middle of this immense desert. I’m happy with my day. I felt that I was very fast.

They are racing/riding 500 miles today!

The first 5 bikes make a breakaway
No. 4, ISIDRE ESTEVE - KTM, SUPER PRODUCTION
Spaniard Isidre Esteve is currently at the head of the race in front of Coma, Despres, Viladoms and Blais. The five bikers, all within sight of each other, have already opened up a gap of 12 km on the chasing pack, led by Portuguese rider Ruben Faria.

STAGE 6 - 01/11/2007
Tan Tan > Zouérat
Connection: 414 km | Special: 394 km | Connection: 9 km
Total: 817 km
Navigation by heading
Here’s the longest stage of the rally – by the end of the day, almost a thousand kilometres will have been clocked up! To set off on this long preliminary liaison leading to the Mauritanian border, you have to get up extremely early in the morning. Then you need to apply yourself to navigation by heading and off-road, yet more techniques for drivers and co-drivers to get to grips with again. At this stage in the rally, just one piece of advice: play for economy.
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Stage 5:
Overall place: 5th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +47'36"00

5th place in Stage

Chris Comments"
It was a good day for me. I though I had ridden well, but I still lost 14 minutes. I made a slight navigational mistake just before CP2. It was a stupid way to lose time. After the night without assistance, I was obviously worried about the state of the bike. By the time I got here, the rear tire was completely bald. Today, I was thinking of Elmer Symons while  I was riding. He was a good friend and often came to see me. It’s really bad. He’d been talking about doing this race for five years. With Cyril (Despres) and Marc (Coma) we spoke to all the riders to tell them to be really careful, to follow the road-book instructions and not to leave the right track, especially in the morning with a full tank and tiredness from the night before. It’s something that we professional riders should also keep in mind.
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Stage 4:
Overall place:
4th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +00:35:04
6th place in Stage

10:39 Through the 213km marker and this is the Marc Coma show. He clocks 2:01:47, nearly 13 minutes ahead of Chris Blais.

11:55 An interesting development at the 274km mark. Isidre Esteve Puyol has gone through first, followed by Casteu and Blais,
with no sign of Marc Coma.

12:45 Confusion over regarding Marc Coma. There was simply a gremlin in the technical system used to follow him. _____________________________________________________________________

Stage 3:
Overall place:
5th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +08'37"00 5 5
2nd place in Stage

Chris Blais (USA - KTM – 2nd)
This morning I was eleven minutes behind at the beginning, so I started out with a lot of time to make up. I had to get past a lot of riders, it was really good fun, I must have overtaken around forty. I really like the profile of this special stage, especially the second part, where you could really turn up the throttle.

Blais leads at CP1
No. 9, CHRIS BLAIS - KTM, SUPER PRODUCTION
79th rider to start this special stage, American Chris Blais is now virtual leader of the stage at CP1, 39" ahead of Spaniard Marc Coma.

11:53 Chris Blais continues with his relentless progress. He's quickest at the third split too, 31 seconds up on Coma.
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Stage 2:
Overall place: 18th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +00:17:07
79th place in Stage

Slight scare for Blais No. 9, CHRIS BLAIS - KTM, SUPER PRODUCTION
American Chris Blais had to stop for around ten minutes after 20 km of the special section following a mechanical problem, but has got going again.
The bike problem he had was one of his hoses/cables got pinched and it caused his clutch to not work. He stalled the bike and couldn't get it started. The Portuguese spectators pushed him about 200 yards to get him going again. They fixed the problem so now he will just have to make up time.
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Stage 1:
Overall place: 7th place - 9 BLAIS (USA) KTM +0:05:33
7th place in Stage

Special Distance: 117 km 73 miles: Liason Distance: 347 km 216 miles:Total Stage Distance: 464 km 288 miles
Top 10 and all Americans:
Pos. No Name Make Time Variation Penalty
1 37 FARIA (POR) YAMAHA 1:22:07 0:00:00 0:00:00
2 10 RODRIGUES (POR) YAMAHA 1:22:23 0:00:16 0:00:00
3 4 ESTEVEPUJOL (ESP) KTM 1:27:07 0:05:00 0:00:00
4 8 CASTEU (FRA) KTM 1:27:14 0:05:07 0:00:00
5 85 BETHYS (FRA) HONDA 1:27:17 0:05:10 0:00:00
6 25 STREET (USA) KTM 1:27:26 0:05:19 0:00:00
7th  9 BLAIS (USA) KTM 1:27:40 0:05:33 0:00:00

Blais aiming higher still!

Fourth-placed in the last Dakar, Chris Blais is hoping to do even better for his third participation in the rally. The American rider is aiming for a place on the podium and will be boasting a new machine. "This bike is a lot better than the last one. I’ve been able to prepare for the Dakar by taking part in two rallies this year (finishing 10th in Morocco and 5th in Dubai). I really think the top 3 is possible", insists the 25-year old rider. However, Blais will only be able to count on himself this time: "I’m the only one in the team and will only have the support of KTM, unlike last year when we were helped by the official Repsol team".
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1/2/07 Chris Blais: “Take it easy, but ride at full speed”
Could Chris Blais become the first American to win the Dakar? If you consider his rides in the African dunes, the question does not appear inappropriate. Two years ago, in his debut in the African rally raid, the American had never set a wheel in Africa. Worse still, it was his first participation in a rally where road book navigation is given so much importance. However, the American finished 9th that year! And he reached the 4th position last year. “My only objective now is the podium. I have trained with that aim”, says Chris Blais. 2006 was a particularly busy year for the rider from Florida. After a wonderful race on the Dakar, Chris repeated the experience on other races such as Vegas-Reno (3rd), the Rally of Morocco (10th), the Henderson solo (4th) and the Rally of Dubai (5th). “I have been able to practise a great deal navigating in Dubai and Morocco. This important part of the Dakar has not come naturally to me because in the United States, most of the races don’t involve road book navigation”, explains the rider.

But riding a bike undoubtedly did come naturally for him. Before he turned three, Blais’ parents, who both ride motorbikes, offered him his first bike, which had a 70 cc engine. Chris has never given up the handlebar since, with the support of his father who was the first to teach him the ropes. Chris Blais started competing when he was 16 and signed a contract with the KTM – Red Bull Dakar Rally Team two years ago. The challenge taken up by this team is clear, but complex: they want to bring an American to the podium of the Dakar. Blais will face his team’s challenge alone this year. “It is hard when you do not have a team mate to share the experience of the Dakar. But I will be fine and I will focus on the race”. And Chris will be keeping an eye on the most experienced riders, as he has come to know their qualities in the two previous editions. “The top riders like Marc Coma are impressive. I particularly admire their capacity to ‘take it easy’ while they are riding at full speed. At least his competitors know what to expect: the American is watching carefully and he is a quick learner…
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The 2007 Dakar Rally begins on January 6th. Crossing of Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and arriving in Senegal on January 20th. January 21st is the finish in Dakar, where there is Prize giving and an evening party.

Red Bull KTM American Dakar Rally Racer, Chris Blais
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Dakar Rally 2007 KTM prepares for the ultimate Adventure (12/13/2006)

There can be perhaps no better confirmation of KTM’s status as the world’s leading producer of offroad machines than a quick look at the starting list for Dakar 2007 — the ultimate rally and the ultimate adventure. Of the 250 motorcycles competing in 2007, 128 riders will be on the hallmark orange machines made in Austria.

Orange will therefore be the dominant colour for offroad machines on the starting line of the motor sports classic when it leaves Lisbon on January 6, 2007. Competitors will cross Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal in a gruelling adventure that puts man and machine against some of the toughest elements that nature can deliver. This is a race of endurance, bravery, determination and meticulous planning. It is perhaps also the ultimate test for the new KTM 690 Rally machine, a product that has been developed in cooperation with the company’s Rally Department. The new machine has already delivered good results in recent international rallies and will be ridden by all KTM Factory Team riders in the Dakar 2007.

KTM has dominated the start- and the finish lines of the Dakar classic in recent years to underline their superiority in the offroad sector. But as overall team manager Hans Trunkenpolz points out, it took patience and endurance to wait until orange emerged as the winning colour in the motorcycle division.

“We needed five years before we experienced our first Dakar victory," Trunkenpolz said. “We were close a number of times with second places but for various reasons it wasn’t until 2001 that we won and then it was a five-fold victory.“  From that point on the story of the Dakar race has gone hand-in-hand with the success of the Austrian company, which is now the second largest producer of motorcycles in Europe.

KTM’s three factory teams (Gauloises, Repsol and Red Bull) include eight factory riders supported by 43 team members, including a doctor and two physiotherapists. Two of the world’s leading rally riders Marc Coma and Cyril Despres are both top favourites riding orange machines. Coma, in the Repsol team, won the 2006 rally after Despres, the winner in 2005 who rides for Gauloises, dislocated his collarbone and had to settle for second place. KTM riders therefore face a particular challenge in 2007 — to live up to the 9 of 10 top places in last year’s race.

This year it is safety first for every KTM factory rider who will all wear the new neck brace protection developed for KTM by South African doctor Chris Leatt and already tested in other international rallies by top KTM riders.

But when the riders start their motors on January 6, they are merely continuing the task that commenced months before as a massive exercise in logistics. KTM not only services its factory teams but also supplies customer package support for an army of other private riders on KTM machines. Accompanying the race for KTM will be five Rally Nissans, two T4 Racing Trucks and four T5 Assistance Trucks. They are in effect complete workshops on wheels ready to supply mechanical, safety and any personal assistance in circumstances. KTM transports between 36-38 tons of equipment for the race, including some two tons of selected spare parts and equipment air freighted to cover the contingency of the late arrival of a support vehicle, or if one is disabled during the event.

When riders cross the finish line of the 2007 Dakar they will have travelled 8,696 km through some of the most rugged terrain in the world. There is no better testing ground for the new KTM 690 Rally machine in the hands of the most talented riders on the planet, and the experience gained, as always, will directly translate into even better KTM offroad motorcycles in the future.

KTM Factory Team riders for Dakar 2007

Red Bull KTM
Chris Blais

New KTM 690 Rally machine- Chris Blais #4 Dakar Rally

Gauloises KTM
Cyril Despres
Isidre Esteve
David Casteu
Frans Verhoeven

Repsol KTM
Marc Coma
Giovanni Sala
Jordi Viladoms

BRAKE CHECK FOR BLAIS

"At about 30 clicks (kilometers) in today, the front caliper mounting bolts on Chris' bike backed out and he crashed," said Doc. Edwards. "The brake locked on and tossed him into a heap. The good news is that Chris wasn't hurt, but he's pretty sore right now."

While the problem wasn't fully diagnosed prior to our call today, the good doctor could only speculate why Chris has again (it happened last year, too) suffered from front brake demons nor what the root causes could have been. Like the seasoned pro that he is, Blais quickly got out a pair of cutting pliers and removed the cables and lines thus completely removing the front brake function from his Red Bull KTM 660 Rally.

"A great thing about Chris is his ability to identify problems immediately and deal with them," Said Edwards. "He's probably the best mechanic out here amongst the elite riders and despite him getting slammed over the bars and onto the ground at 90kph (read: over 50mph) he was still able to solve a potentially ride ending problem and continue to race. Chris didn't wig out and lose his composure, he just kept on going without a front brake."

Fast thinking and faster action are a Blais trademark but this should have been a day to attack the front runners and eat into the 25+ minute deficit between he and 3rd place running David Casteu. However, a loss of over 10-minutes resulted from the impromptu brake job. Unfazed, Blais is still very much in the hunt for a podium appearance in Senegal this weekend.
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 Chris Blais (USA – KTM – 2nd)
Yesterday, I had a bad fall after only 30 km. I didn’t have any brakes for the rest of the special stage, so this morning I had to start in 18th position. It was vital to navigate and ride carefully whilst still going fast. Apparently, the riders in front of me found the right track and I followed them. It’s good that I’ve made time up on Casteu and Ullevalseter. It’s especially the Norwegian who was worrying me. I didn’t want him to catch up with me in the general standings.

Chris called:  It sounds like Marc hit his head pretty hard and was 'out of it' for a while. Sounds like he might have slammed into a tree. He did not know where he was or what happened. They think because he was off course and in thick brush, it was hard to find him. Chris said the bike has no damage but that Marc has a severe concussion. He will be in the hospital overnight so he can be monitored. Our best wishes go out to Marc!

Chris didn't know about Marc until the finish line. He said the press people are almost like the papar***i at the finish line.  He just said "I feel really bad for Marc and I hope he's ok". I can tell he feels pretty bad for his friend. He just said "It's almost over - I'll be home soon".

2 more days...
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Chris Blais (USA – KTM – 4th) - 9

It’s good to be in Dakar . It’s just awesome to see the sea after so many days in the desert. I am happy this is over. Today, I took my time. On km 56, Cyril Despres who was in front of me made a navigation error. I found the right trail right away, but then he caught up with me. The initial goal was to be in the top 3 but as we saw, in the Dakar , you never know what will happen until the race is actually over.
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