For the past decade, the Dakar Rally has had a 450cc limit on motorcycle entries, but it wasn’t always so. In happier days gone by, competitors ran much larger bikes—bikes like this ex-racer 2003 BMW F650RR, up for auction if you’re fast on the bidding.

Forgotten era

When Ricky Brabec won the 2020 Dakar Rally for Honda, it was the end of KTM’s long reign. KTM-mounted racers had won the Dakar (and generally filled out most of the top 10) since the first 450 era rally in 2011, and even for several years before that.  Frankly, for the past 15 years or so, you’ve ridden KTM if you want to be competitive at Dakar.

But if you go wayyyyy back to the early 2000s and before, the series wasn’t all KTM, all the time. For various reasons, riders chose Suzuki, Kawasaki Honda, Yamaha, and even BMW—especially because the last three makes all had their own eras of dominance at the rally.

Here’s the bike with its clothes off. You can see some of the modifications the race team did to tackle Dakar. Photo: CarandClassic.co.uk

Fast past

As for this F650RR, it’s a single-cylinder machine from back when BMW still made such bikes. In most markets, the F650 line’s been unavailable throughout for a while now, but through the 1990s and early 2000s, the liquid-cooled thumpers were a fairly popular entry point to the BMW brand. There were shifts in production over the years (sometimes Rotax made the engine, other times production was outsourced to Asia), but generally, these were reliable, tough bikes, and some people based prominent expeditions around them. Charley Boorman rode an F650 GS in his Race To Dakar documentary project, and Rene Cormier used one for his five-year trip that inspired his University of Gravel Roads book. Of course, the ADVrider forum is full of stories of many, many other riders who have done millions of miles on these machines, all with their own stories as well.

This bike has a particularly interesting story, though, because it was changed from its original F650 GS state into a race bike—hence the “BMW F650RR” title. BMW did race these machines at Dakar, winning the 1998 and 1999 rallies with bikes based on these 650 singles. Of course, those machines were highly modified from a stock machine, and so is the bike for sale here.

Some of the rally org’s gear is missing and obviously you would have a very hard time finding replicas, to install, but the Touratech roadbook holder is still there. Photo: CarandClassic.co.uk

The National Police ‘l’Equippe Africa Rally Raid Adventure team ran this BMW in the 2004 and 2005 rallies, with Vincent Puren riding it in ’04 and Rodolphe Devedija riding it in ’05. The team put the Touratech Rallye kit on the bike before entering the competition, and many of those parts remain. There’s a larger-volume airbox, a larger oil tank, taller windscreen, Touratech roadbook holder, four separate fuel tanks carrying 55 litres of gas, Touratech rally seat, and dual headlights (LED signal lights come with the bike, but they’re not hooked up).

Of course, it also has the full set of Dakar bodywork, too. The cockpit even has the mounting hardware for the Dakar organization’s GPS tracking equipment, but that’s obviously not provided as part of the sale. The bike has a big aluminum skid plate, and comes with three sets of wheels, with a variety of knobbies for various riding conditions. The Nikko titanium exhaust obviously is included with the sale. The trick paddock stand comes with it, too. There’s even a spare engine with the sale.

A proper, tall windscreen, like you’d want at Dakar, or for long days in the saddle anywhere. Photo: CarandClassic.co.uk

Bringing back the Beemer

This bike had a DNF at the 2004 Dakar, but in 2005, Devedija actually finished 87th on the bike—pretty decent, because he’d been as low as 140th at one point. Anyway, after its racing career, this machine served as a touring bike around Spain, a much easier life than Dakar racing (supposedly the team’s other BMW is in a police museum somewhere).

The current owner (“former trials and long-distance endurance racer and UK importer for Ducati motorcycles,” says the advert) saw the bike in a long-term storage facility and worked out a deal to buy it, and restored it in the earlier days of the COVID-19 lockdown in France. After riding it, he decided he’d be better off on something “a little more sedate,” and put it up for auction. If the ad’s correct, it’s been well gone-over, and has proper French registration. As per the ad, “it is completely road-legal, rideable and ready to go and its identity has been confirmed both by markings and registration numbers from the team website and by Europe’s foremost expert on the F650GS/RR, as well as members of the team itself.” The owner figures that it would pass the British MOT, if you wired in the signals. He also says he’d be happy to arrange shipping at the buyers expense, and it sounds like it would be reasonably priced.

The bike, in its glory days at the Dakar Rally. Photo: CarandClassic.co.uk

Is this bike for you? The auction is today, so if you’re interested, you’d better start bidding. There’s a lot more information on the bike here, and frankly, if you’re in the market for this kind of thing, it really does look like it could be the find of a lifetime.

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