The course for the 2005 Dakar Rally has been announced, and Red Bull KTM prepares to launch the second factory-backed effort aimed at bringing home the win. The 27th annual Telefonica Dakar Rally will depart New Year’s Day from Barcelona, Spain, and trek through the deserts of Africa to Dakar, Senegal. Some major changes in the rules will make the 2005 Dakar a very exciting event.The biggest change is the 450cc twin-cylinder engine size limit for motorcycles, with the single-cylinder limit at 750cc. KTM, no longer able to compete aboard the 950, is hard at work building a 660cc single-cylinder Dakar bike. Another big change in 2005 is limited GPS points, with some stages allowing absolutely no GPS navigation at all. Riders will be forced to navigate using road books, compasses, and cairns—piles of rocks used by nomadic tribes to mark desert trails. Other changes include a speed limit when passing through African communities, and 45% less assistance trucks to follow competitors.In only the second year of the first-ever factory US Dakar team, Red Bull KTM has announced an ambitious three-year plan with the goal of putting an American on the podium. Those who know Dakar can appreciate how ambitious this goal is. Dakar is the world’s toughest off-road race spanning 16 days and over 5,000 miles. But KTM is confident that Americans have the most talent and the best off-road machinery; what we don’t have is the experience.Jimmy Lewis, one of America’s most successful Dakar competitors—and the newest addition to the Dirt Rider team—engineered the Red Bull KTM Rider Search Challenge to select the 2005 team. The challenge is set to take place July 25-29 in California’s Death Valley, and is a true-to-life simulation designed to test physical, mental and emotional endurance. The test will be an exercise in road book and GPS navigation and extreme distance coverage, as well as expose the riders to the harsh realities of Dakar such as sleep deprivation, eating nothing but couscous and having their socks stolen in the middle of the night.A panel of judges consisting of Scot Harden, Jimmy Lewis, Danny LaPorte and Malcolm Smith will select two riders and one alternate to form the Red Bull USA Dakar team. The third rider will be Scot Harden, serving also as the manager, mentor and leader for the 2005 team. Sixteen competitors were hand-selected by the panel of experts to compete in the challenge (regardless of their current sponsorships). The nominated riders (with those who have accepted in bold) are:After the team is selected, the development process will begin with the team participating in the Nevada Rally Experience October 22-24. The NRE, hosted by Best in the Desert and Harden-Offroad, is the first rally event in the US since 1995. The non-competitive event will follow the route of the old Nevada Rally with two 250-mile stages and a stop over at an African-style bivouac.November 24th, the team will participate in the infamous Baja 1000 where they will have a chance to compete alongside Dakar champion Richard Sainct and other top European Rally competitors.This is the first effort in Red Bull KTM’s ambitious three-year commitment to bring home the win in the Everest of off-road races. We wish everyone the best of luck. Check back on Dirtrider.com in the coming months for to follow the progress of the 2005 US Dakar team. For more information on the 27th annual Telefonica Dakar Rally, visit www.dakar.com.