These days it’s rare that I get off a bike that clearly lights me up and impresses the hell out of me-especially when it comes to Baja bikes. I’ve ridden lots of them and become sort of numb. Hell, our BMW did an easy 130 mph off-road, not to mention the many different versions of Honda’s winning XR600R and XR650R models. But if you had seen the whacked-out smile plastered on my face after I rode the KTM 700, you might understand. Wait, no, you wouldn’t-let me try and explain.Created from the factory Dakar Rally bike, slimmed down and lightened up for Baja, this LC4-based machine lives in a place far away from production bikes. Injected with heavy doses of horsepower ingredients learned in the supermoto program and influenced with the durability goals achieved in Dakar, the Baja bike is a motor-based monster that consumes fuel and makes big power. It guzzles almost 5 gallons in less than 100 miles. It has an appetite for rear tires and taught KTM a lesson by melting mousses in the first part of the Baja race, something the Austrians thought they had remedied in Dakar.Electric start only, it fires up and rumbles out an exhaust note that is most likely not even legal in Mexico through a dual pipe system. It has a very cammy rumble but still idles cleanly. Roll it on, though, and at about a quarter throttle the power delivery turns scenery into a blur. It pulls itself into a happy zone in which the rpm doesn’t want to build anymore; it just begs for a shift, and another, and another. You don’t even perceive the load on the motor, just that the pull is harder and the windblast on your chest stronger. And it surely rockets to a speed in the 120-mph range, but we couldn’t find a section of dirt road to measure its speed safely. This has to be the quickest I’ve been shot from about 60 to 90 mph on anything this side of a sportbike, on dirt, mind you. It makes the XR650R feel tame.The suspension was a test set from the rally bike and had stiff settings, so it wasn’t representative of how the actual race bike worked. It isn’t the lightest machine, and it definitely likes going fast rather than slow; but as long as you keep it pointed straight, you can hit anything you want and the works WP stuff does what works suspension does: gobble everything right up.For a first-year effort, KTM surprised most just by finishing. Second place was even more impressive. Baja is a race Honda has owned for the last decade, and KTM kept enough heat on the XR650R-mounted team to make it take notice. And if the racecourses become any faster, this KTM will be a hard machine to match with only a single piston.