Right now, the 2011 Dakar Rally racers are somewhere near Córdoba in Argentina. These days the motorcycle class is dominated by KTM, but in the 80s it was BMW all the way. The bike you’re looking at here is one of BMW’s three entries from 1986, built by race preparation specialist HPN-Motorradtechnik; it was designed to survive 15,000km of brutal conditions over three weeks. The pilot was the diminutive Gaston Rahier, and after two consecutive wins in previous years, BMW’s hopes were high. HPN based their racer on the R80G/S, but fitted a 1043cc boxer motor rated at 75hp @ 7,000rpm. (Although the capacity is larger than the similar R100RS motor, the new cylinders actually reduce engine width by around an inch.) The frame is heavily strengthened, and the swingarm extended by 100mm. An Acerbis bikini fairing is attached to the forks, which are 42mm Marzocchi M1 Paris-Dakar units with up to 300mm of travel. Those monster rear shocks are 280mm WP units, and the brakes are Brembo. HPN put the dry battery under the gearbox, and attached a toolkit to the center stand. Loaded with 60 liters of fuel, the bike weighed 230kg—which must have made slow-speed maneuvering a handful for the 5’4” Rahier, who finished a disappointing 14th. It would be 13 years before BMW scored another Dakar victory—when Richard Sainct triumphed on a F650RR. Gaston Rahier died in 2005 after a long battle against cancer, aged 58.
[HPN built ten replicas of the 1985 Dakar-winning bikes; Matz Rosenquist has given a detailed account of what it’s like to own one. BMW fans will also love the book BMW GS: Adventure Motorcycle: A 30 Year Catalog, by Hans-Jugen Schneider. Available on Amazon.]