Luis Belaustegui, another KTM hero - Picture compliments of Clarin.deportes
The Dakar Rally is as much about adventure as it is about winning. While the limelight may rest with the leaders like KTM's 3-times winners Marc Coma and Cyril Despres, there are dozens of other passionate KTM riders who fulfill a dream by competing in this great rally. One of them in 2011 was Luis Belaustegui who also did it in quite a remarkable way.
Luis is perhaps the perfect example of living the Dakar dream, the Argentinean-born American citizen not only set out to achieve the almost impossible; he also did it riding a KTM 150 XC machine and because of this heroic attempt, Luis very quickly became a media star.
Luis made it through to Stage Six and that in itself was a mega achievement on a small bike and in a field of 186 of some of the most hardened and experienced tacticians in the world. He eventually had to withdraw because he ran out of time and was 12 minutes too late getting to the final control point in the tricky stage from Iquique to Arica, almost on the southern border of Peru. And he did this not because of any problems with rider or bike, but because he chose to stop and assist many riders along the way. That's the true Dakar spirit and it deserves to be recognized.
KTM 150 XC
In fact, while he may have been out of the official standings after the incident at Stage Six, Luis kept on going and rode all the way to Buenos Aires. "I decided to keep riding the KTM 150 on the assistance route," he said. "I rode all the way from Arica to Buenos Aires at 120 km and the bike was marvelous." Spanish TV was so impressed with this courageous effort that they fitted Luis with a helmet camera to record the last four hours of his epic trip on the KTM 150 right up to to the finish in the Argentinean capital.
This gallant rider may have been on the smallest bike in the entire field but he captured the attention and the hearts of the media along the way. He was interviewed by Eurosport and by German, French and Spanish TV - indeed Spanish TV made him a favorite and interviewed him every day. Luc Alphand, the Dakar TV host interviewed him and congratulated him on his efforts. He was in demand for interviews with local TV stations and radio stations from Buenos Aires and throughout Argentina and Chile.
Luis kept on going and rode all the way to Buenos Aires
Luis Belaustegui: "In all of these interviews I made a point of saying that the KTM 150 had no problems and no failures at all. I said that the bike could handle any kind of terrain."
Luis was also a star of the online and print media and should he decide to compile a record of his press clippings, he will have a very large scrap book. These included a feature story for the online version of Clarin, one of Argentina's leading daily newspapers. The story was the most read article on the website that day, consumed by 45,000 readers.
Luis succeeded in completing some of the toughest and most challenging stages of the Dakar 2011 and while he may have had to retire because he did not make it to the final check point in time, he still learned a lot about the rules and he even hopes to tackle this marathon rally a second time.
"Now and after talking to riders and other knowledgeable people, I understand my mistake and, even though I will stop to help riders, I will do it in a way that does not affect my race," Luis said. "I have learned a lot about the rules of the Dakar. I have learned a lot about how to help and how to use the safety instruments."
Luis Belaustegui, KTM salutes you for your great effort in the Dakar 2011. You might have been riding the smallest KTM in the field, but you proved it was still one of the toughest!