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ADV RidesKTM Ultimate Race: Riders Battle for Chance to Win 790 Adventure

KTM Ultimate Race: Riders Battle for Chance to Win 790 Adventure

Orange blood flows as riders chase glory at the KTM Ultimate Race Qualifier.

Published on 10.05.2018

This year KTM decided to see how many of their Adventure Rally attendees were actually Ready to Race. The means of this gauntlet was touted as The Ultimate Race and did double duty as part teaser for the much-anticipated 790 Adventure R, and part debut of what we were told will be an annual competition. Two qualifiers from each of the six KTM Adventure Rally’s earned a spot to race as a factory rider in the 2019 Merzouga Rally staged in Morocco. Running in a class of their own, one of these lucky amateurs will win a brand new 790, an all expenses paid trip to Dakar as a spectator and serious bragging rights.

We were there, at the 15th annual Adventure Rally in Park City, Utah, to see some of the best KTM riders North America had to offer battle it out. Fifty competitors from eighteen different states signed up for what they were told would be a test of both their bodies and machines. Some riders were there to have fun and see how their skills stacked up, while others came from legitimate racing backgrounds and were hungry to compete.

The ‘Ultimate Race’ did double duty as part competition and part teaser for the much-awaited 790 Adventure R.

The motorcycles were just as varied as the men with shiny new 1290 Super Adventures lining up side by side with battle-hardened 950 Super Enduro’s. The only requirements for bikes were that they had to be twin cylinder KTM’s registered in the contestant’s name. Stories were circulating of entrants that had explicitly bought bikes to participate, demonstrating the excitement leading up to this. The second place finisher had never even ridden his newly acquired 950 Super Enduro off-road until the first day of the race!


Part of the buzz for this competition could be attributed to the brand behind it, KTM’s Ready to Race motto and rally pedigree had challengers coming out of the woodwork. It attracted many would be racers that wouldn’t typically make an effort to attend this type of event. The rally itself saw an uptick in attendance this year and the competition’s fifty available spots filled quickly even though organizers were unsure of how many people would participate.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally
Senior editor, Rob Dabney getting ready to compete on the KTM 990 Adventure R.

The consensus was that this was KTM’s answer to BMW’s GS Trophy competition and many were excited to see if it lived up to the brand’s race-oriented mentality. Despite an air of mystery leading up to the Ultimate Race, it was assumed that KTM would use a format that judged riders more on their racing skills opposed to slow speed bike control. Riders were excited for an ADV challenge with a different flavor, and that showed in the cross-section of competitors that were present.

“KTM is ‘ready to race’ and then BMW is ‘everybody have fun and be safe,’” mentioned participant Cory Hanson, who previously competed in the BMW GS Trophy Challenge.

First Test

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

The Ultimate Race kicked off Thursday just as most rally attendees were still trickling in. The first hurdle that contenders faced after registration was lifting a 1290 Super Adventure R from its side, keeping it upright while circling it and then gently placing it back down. Mike Lafferty was kind enough to lend his bike for this challenge and contestants repaid him in kind by only dropping it twice. (Not bad considering the number of times this task was performed!) Initially, this was going to be a pass or fail challenge with a one minute time limit. But after even some KTM pros couldn’t complete the challenge within the allotted time, the decision was made to let everyone advance who could complete the task. Even with the leniency, two contestants bowed out at this stage due to difficulties while the remaining forty-eight moved on.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally
Mike Lafferty’s bike was the sacrificial lamb for the bike lift test.

Rules of the Competition

That evening, Baja 1000 and Dakar Rally Veteran Quinn Cody hosted a rider meeting for the participants where he covered all the nitty-gritty details of what the next few days had in store. Day Two would consist of a short timed enduro course followed by a navigation challenge where riders would document each waypoint reached with instagram posts, then finally a timed wheel change challenge at the end of the day.

Day Two scores would be calculated by combining the times from the enduro test and wheel change challenge. Competitors would get a time penalty added to their scores for any waypoints not reached. In addition, penalties would be added for any competitor caught on camera changing a flat tire or if they required assistance with tools from the sweep team. And if you got a speeding ticket, you’d be disqualified. Only the top 10 riders with the lowest scores would move on to Day Three.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally
Quinn Cody coordinated the race and made everybody drool as he supervised riders while riding the 790 Adventure R.

The rules offered a balanced playing filed with an emphasis on speed, navigation and self-sufficiency in the field. Interestingly enough, GPS operation and navigation were one of the biggest concerns for some of the “Go Fast” guys with limited ADV travel background. Once the riders meeting dissipated, these would-be rally racers disappeared into the night, some with long prep lists and others just to restless sleep.

The Racing Begins

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

Forty-eight of the initial fifty competitors started early that morning knowing that only ten would make the next cut. At the staging area tensions were high, and you could feel the nerves in the air while riders made last minute bike adjustments and tinkered with GPS units.

After starting in one-minute intervals, riders had a short transit segment consisting of mostly pavement before they arrived at the Enduro Special Test course. This was a roughly mile-long track that Quinn Cody, along with other KTM pros, had designed and supervised construction of. Each rider performed two laps with the times counting towards their overall score. Riders with racing backgrounds excelled while the more casual participants struggled royally. At times, the course could be described as chaos with some giving maximum effort, others giving up in a ball of dust.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

The course was fairly tight and technical with few sections to build up speed; rocks, mud, soft dirt and steep climbs had everyone’s eyes open wide behind their goggles. Average lap times hovered around three and a half minutes with exceptional riders clocking laps in the high two’s. Several contenders washed out of the competition here either by choice or at the request of the organizers due to safety concerns.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally
Gridlock on ‘Charlie’s Diner.’ A loose rocky hill climb (pic doesn’t do it justice) on the waypoint challenge. Several riders had to turn around.

The rest of the riding for Day Two was chasing waypoints and getting back to Deer Valley before the 5:00 pm cutoff time. As stated several times by Quinn, the majority of the competitors were just able to reach the waypoints and get back in the allotted time.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally
In a race against the clock, competitors faced a wheel change special test.

That evening, competitors faced the second Special Test of the day in the form of a wheeel change. In a race against the clock, competitors would remove the rear wheel on a 1290 Super Adventure, run around their respective machine, then reinstall the wheel. This was the most unassuming stage of the competition, but it turned out to be the most critical for those with serious Merzouga aspirations. Exceptional lap times on the enduro course were all for not when gummed up axle threads or misplaced brake pads added additional minutes to overall times. When it was all said and done, times ranged from under ninety seconds to over three and a half minutes, with some competitors unable to complete the task under pressure, slamming the door on their otherwise exceptional efforts.

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

At the end of the day’s competition, contenders were told they would receive a text message if they made the top 10 and most retired immediately from exhaustion.

Day Three: Top 10 Battle It Out

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

Saturday morning started for the remaining ten entrees with a brief riders meeting and apologies from Quinn for what he had in store for them. This day would see no individual timed tests just waypoints to be reached in the allotted time. Quinn described it as “one-hundred miles of the nastiest big bike two track and single track I could find near park city.”

KTM Ultimate Race Adventure Rally

Most of the waypoints were out and back missions up old mining roads or nasty Jeep trails. Boulder fields saw many a sleepy adventure bike and these highly-skilled riders were put to the test. In the end, all ten riders returned to Deer Valley but only seven made it to all of the day’s waypoints. KTM officials started tallying scores, and the long wait began for the awards dinner where the top two qualifiers going to Merzouga would be announced.

Winners Announced

Tensions were high at dinner with the top two qualifiers being awarded a fully-supported ride on the all-new KTM 790 Adventure R in the Merzouga Rally, and all competitors had definitely worked hard for the opportunity. To say that this was a close competition would be a wild understatement. In the end, the difference between first and second place was only thirty-two seconds, and the difference between getting an all expenses paid trip to Morocco and getting third place, was just a mere two seconds!

In the end, it was 27 year old Jordan Huibregtse from Columbus (watch here), Indiana and Scott Myers of Wildomar, California who is 50, announced as the first and second place finishers respectively to the roar of a cheering crowd. No doubt, these two will be worthy representatives of the United States at the Merzouga Rally in Morocco. Will one of them come home with a brand new 790? We sure hope so!

Continue to Photo Gallery

Rider Impressions of the Ultimate Race

“No one really knew what to expect since it was the first year. I had decent times in the enduro course but broke a peg and had to ride all day on one foot in the navigation section. I made it through without any penalties but gave away a lot of time in the wheel change challenge. It was a lot of fun and I think many riders, including myself, will be back next year even more prepared.”
-Rob Dabney
Senior Editor of ADV Pulse

“The enduro course was tighter than I expected, I was about as far off from the fast guys as I expected to be but I was happy with my performance.”
-Ian Glynn
Touratech USA Chief Riding Officer

“I’m a total nav noob; I worked with my GPS two weekends ago for like an eight-mile test. So all today I basically used my phone, and my GPS was there to look pretty.”
-Lee Bisinger
Third place finisher overall

“That special test was super fun. Stalled it in the first run and lost a couple seconds but we pulled it together and got a better second loop time. There was a dude down on the big hill climb; I had to use him for traction.”
-Jeff Irvin
Rider Coach Black Swan Moto

“The only thing really challenging was what they dubbed Carl’s Diner, I had to weed my way through a few guys on that. Went right by the waypoint at the top didn’t take a picture and I got halfway down that, it was only a quarter mile, half mile, and I had to come back up the trail because I realized [it].”
-Jake Bulak
Top 10 Finisher

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Author: Spencer Hill

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4 thoughts on “KTM Ultimate Race: Riders Battle for Chance to Win 790 Adventure

  1. Not one of the people in the my riding community was in ANY way made aware of the KTM rally in Park City.
    I live in Utah, ride both BMW and KTM including a 2018 Super Adventure R.
    The BMW MOA ralley in Utah was how large and the KTM ralley was how large?
    My point is there are KTM people making HORRIBLE decisions. Who ever was in charge of this event, failed miserably. KTM for what ever reason is driving away customers at an alarming rate. (Sales included)
    Hey KTM, if your listening, this problem is so easy to fix, contact me and I will solve the problem for FREE! It’s that painful to watch!
    Maybe I missed the announcement and the Sears management team was brought in to work their magic at KTM.
    It takes work to fail to this degree.
    So sad considering how big the event could be and what that could have meant for KTM and partners like

  2. I really enjoyed the KTM Rally and KTM Challenge. Amazed at the commitment by KTM, they had all kinds or staff there. Looking forward to next years! Just off hand I saw the event announce on ADV Pulse, UpShift Online, Cycle News, Instagram and KTM’s website.


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