27-Dec-2011 | Christopher Doyle
One of the toughest men on the entire rally scene, Turkey’s ‘Desert Tiger’, Kemal Merkit will once again set out upon the Argentine landscape from the tranquility of Mar del Plata en route to Lima, Peru through the most serene yet hellish environments that the organizing body, the Amaury Sport Organization, can throw at them. In a mere fifteen days time, through stage after grueling stage, Merkit will battle the elements on his mammoth, eighth Dakar. Since his initial try in 2000 which ended in a heartbreaking withdrawal on stage 13, the ‘Desert Tiger’ from Istanbul has put in herculean effort after herculean effort to reach the finish line in every subsequent attempt finishing a best ever 23rd overall in 2003.
For the 2012 rally, Merkit once again competes in the Malles Moto class for unassisted riders. To the casual observer, this classification means that not only will the Turk compete alongside all riders, cars, and trucks, he also will handle all mechanical and bivouac duties. Whereas the more resourced teams or riders provide or bring along mechanics and team assistance to handle the repair and mechanical duties while the rider tends to more personal needs such as sleeping or eating, those in the Malles Moto class cannot always afford such luxuries. Food and sleep exist on the priority list far below those items necessary to ensure the bike and rider are able to take the start of the next stage.
For the seasoned rally fan, the Malles Moto class defines the men among men.
Like shadows in the bivouac, Malles Moto competitors toil while others sleep
Successfully passing along the Dakar bug to fellow Turks, Merkit is joined this year by Dakar rookies, Selcuk Bektas and Sakir Senkalayci with the help of the Turkish Motorbike Federation (TMF). Both Bektas and Senkalayci credit Merkit with igniting the passion needed to embark upon such an undertaking. Both Bektas, a long time friend of Merkit, and Senkalayci, the 2011 Turkish Off-Road Champion, will compete in the Malles Moto class with their friend and idol.
The ‘Desert Tiger’ again dons the #55 rider number that he has taken to the finish so many times and sometimes, against all odds. Bektas and Senkalayci will carry rider numbers 153 and 184 respectively with all three riders aboard KTM 450’s.
Follow and lend your support to the team at http://www.dakarturk.com/
Visit the teams Dakar bike build gallery
Kemal Merkit # 55
KTM 450 EXC
07:06. Born in Istanbul in 1960
2011 FIM World Cross Country Rally Trophy 2nd Open
2011 Dakar Rally, Moto 2 Malles General Classification Group 61
2010 Trans-Anatolia General Classification 1
2010 Dakar Rally, Moto 1 Malles General Classification Group 49
2009 Dakar Rally, the General Classification 112 +450 cc
2008 UAE Desert Challenge
Transorientale Rally 2008 450cc
2008 Central Europe Rally, the General Classification Group 34 / 450cc (Dakar, Series)
2007 UAE Desert Challenge General Classification Group 19, 1st Marathon
Dakar 2007 General Classification Group 61 / 4 450cc
2005 Turkey Enduro Championship, 450cc over 1
2004 Rallye D’orient Cappadocia
General Classification Group 23 2003 Dakar Rally 6th over 450cc
2003 Rallye D’orient Cappadocia
Orpine Rallye 2002, Marathon 2
General Classification Group 34 2002 Dakar Rally
2002 Master Rallye
2002 Turkey Enduro Championship, 400cc 1
2001 UAE Desert Challenge, the General Classification 10
Master Rallye 2001, the General Classification 6
2000 Dakar Rally
Turkey Enduro Championship 2000, 400cc 1
1999 Master Rallye
1998 UAE Desert Challenge,
Rallye Atlas 1998,
1997 UAE Desert Challenge
Optic 1997 Tunisia Rally.
Turkey Enduro Championship 1995, the General Classification 2
Turkey Enduro Championship 1994, the General Classification 1
1994 Camel Trophy
Selcuk Bektas # 153
KTM 450 EXC
Born in Istanbul 11.11.1965
2011 European Cross Country Championships Series Racing
2011 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge
2008 International Six Days Enduro World Championship participation
There are various degrees of Enduro Championships in Turkey since 2005.
Spormoto distributor company in Turkey since 2005, owner of KTM.
Sakir Senkalayci # 184
KTM 450 EXC
04.02.1981 born in Gaziantep
2010 / 2011 Turkey Motocross champion, Turkey Super Moto 2, Turkey and the European Enduro championship standings 4
2008 / 2009 UEM Super Moto 3, Turkey Motocross, and Super Moto championship
2006 / 2007 Turkey Super Moto, Turkey Motocross champion
Red Bull Last Man Standing
2004/2005 Turkey Motocross champion, Turkey Enduro champion, Turkey supermoto champion,
Supermoto champion of the Balkans, 1000 cc superbike champion of Turkey
1999 / 2003 Turkey 250 cc Motocross champion
1996 / 1998 Turkey 125
1990 / 1995 Turkey 80 cc motocross champion