Friday, August 10, 2007

Baja racing expands as KTM 690 BAJA Moto Project Continues this racing season, for the Baja 1000, in Baja Mexico

KTM is known for building niche machines; bikes designed to win races in specific categories and terrain. The OEM also happens to live and die by its slogan "Ready to Race." Combine those two attributes and you have one of the most successful off-road racing programs anywhere in the world. The list of successful ventures in cross-country, GNCC, enduro, rally, dual-sport, WORCS and motocross is about to get longer as the Orange company has decided to dump its R&D might into the world of Baja.

Desert racing is nothing new for Katoom, but with a long-standing tradition of Honda dominance in the sand and rock below America's southern border has prompted a completely new niche machine, the 690 Baja.

"The 690 Baja is a highly competitive machine that is capable of winning Baja races in the hands of a top professional rider," says KTM. "The bike is also easy for an amateur to ride and has enough power in any situation. The machine has proved to be reliable and stable and features a new ergonomically streamlined, 19-litre tank that attracted a great deal of attention. The 690 Baja is also significantly lighter than other 650cc enduros and is especially designed to meet the demands of top caliber desert racing."

A testing crew consisting of the reigning Dakar champion, Cyril Despres, Dakar's third-place finisher and Baja veteran, Chris Blais, and current AMA National Hare and Hound champion, David Pearson, was constructed to shake down the bike in a series of events leading up to the Baja 1000 this November. The November Baja 1000, off-road desert racing in Baja California Mexico, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year. The KTM effort is slated to be a two-year development process.

Things kicked off in earnest when the dusty trio ran the all-new 690 into a runner-up placing at the 2007 Baja 500. Though they were 27'28 behind the leaders, such a strong result in the first outing is a feather in the cap for the bike that is based off of KTM's extremely successful 690 Rally. That event was followed up with a trip to the Baja Aragon where another Katoom Rally god took a turn on the newbie LC4-based motorcycle. Spaniard Marc Coma took a break from his factory testing to do some eval on the Baja machine. Under his guidance it took top honors only to be penalized and dropped in the standings for a missed check point.

The project has recently hit a snag with a terrible injury to the American leader of the test squad. Blais, with his knowledge and wisdom of how to successfully approach Baja racing, has been filling the role of project coordinator as they work with factory technicians from Austria. Unfortunately, while prerunning for the Best in the Desert Las Vegas to Reno event, Blais crashed and broke his T7 vertebrae outside of Tonopah, NV. He is the second factory KTM rider to be paralyzed this year after Isidre Esteve Pujol was injured during the Spanish All Terrain Rally in March.

Regarding Chris Blais, this was posted by Patty on ADVRIDER:

Hello to all you ADV Riders! I have finally been able to skim through some of the message boards. The amount of support has been astounding. We just can't believe it. The amount of phone calls, visitors here, messages, emails is just incredible! People are amazing from all over the world.

THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU! Thank you for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. The positive feed from all of you is helping us get through this rough spot.

Chris is amazing. He is keeping me positive and I'm trying to do be so strong for him. The first thing he said was he has no regrets. The second thing he said was that maybe some day he will save someone else's life by being a good example by wearing the Leatt Neck Brace. He truly feels this thing saved his life. Cyril had asked him on Day 1 of the pre-run if they should wear the braces (because he didn't know how fast/slow they would be pre-running) - Chris said "We need to wear them always. We are setting an example." Cyril understood. The next thing he did was give David/Quinn a handheld radio to carry with them and also one for himself/Cyril. He saved his own life!

Basically what happened was Chris was in silt and hit a square-edge. He said he was only going about 50mph. He did a nose-wheelie for quite a ways trying to save it. He went over the bars hitting head first then his head folded to the left, breaking his collar bone and the neck brace. It takes 1500 pounds of pressure to break the brace. It did it's job. The next thing that happened was that the bike landed on Chris, crushing in into the ground stomach side up. This is probably what broke his T7 vertabre. Some of the fragments of bone from the T7 were "resting" on/in his spinal cord like splinters causing the leg numbness. He never lost consciousness while down on the ground but said to Johnny and Quinn "I need a helicopter". Johnny and Quinn would not let Chris be taken out of the desert any other way (because at one point there were talks of driving him out to the highway by the EMT's and others from what I understand).

This all happened about 30 miles north of Tonopah, NV. This is a very rural area and also part of the problem of us trying to get the help Chris needed. Nobody's fault but just saying, things could have gone way more wrong and thank God for all of the people that were there with him and from what I understand, there were quite a handful of bike guys and truck racers. THANK YOU To these people!

The surgery took 4 hours and the splinters were removed and the T7 was fused to the other vertabrea. The surgery was done immediately on Sunday night by a very well known specialist here in Reno. He said the surgery went perfectly and it could not have gone any better. Thank you Mr. Song! Now we wait. We wait for the swelling to go down and for the healing to continue.

Chris has been doing great the whole time. He is not hooked up to any machines at all at this point. As of last night, he was moved from ICU to critical care where he has his own private room. Yes he's sore and yes he's ready to jump up but just can't right now. He's been sitting up for hours at a time and is able to do many things by himself. They are pushing him along and he is doing everything that is asked of him times 10. He wants to get to rehab to start the process. They have never once said that his leg numbness is permanent - never once.

TRULY THANK YOU. There is no other sport in the world like ours, none. Where in the world would people who don't even know you offer you their home and their vehicles or come to visit you because they also race but maybe a horse or a midget car or a boat. People are just incredible and it's blowing us away!

Chris wants David and Quinn to still race Vegas to Reno and is pushing for them to do so. We're pushing for Cyril too maybe as a solo ride or with someone else. He wants life to move forward for everyone and does not want his accident to cause any pauses in KTM's plan, his plan, or anyone else's life plans and goals. He also wants me to still race it with my team but I can't. I would not be focused at all.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers and continue to support my husband as you all have already been doing. His character is going to help his healing process. His attitude will help mine. You can make a donation at any Washington Mutual. Kim Carpenter for the benefit of Chris Blais, Account Number 3161637811.
Again, all account related materials have been sent to the Blais's mailing address and they will complete control of funds collected.

To make donations via PayPal use the following info:
All donations will be deposited directly into the secondary account established for Chris.

Chris and Patty, Martin, Susan and Nick, please know that there are many, many prayers being said for your family right now. We have faith that all of us will come through this stronger and closer than ever.

Baja Racing News