Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The little engine that just might...

I've always enjoyed the wierd and wonderful and have always liked small cars and bikes. Even though it is to the dismay of many, I rather like the direction the ASO is taking in reducing the engine capacity of the bikes to a 450cc maximum. On US based Argentinian national taking the small bike formula to the extreme is Luis Belaustegui hoping to take a KTM 150 SX through 15 grueling stages to the finish in Buenos Aires.

It will be quite a challenge for the small, high strung 2 stroke bike. In 2009, Ivo Kastan attempted to take a 125cc pit bike to the end but unfortunately, had to retire at the start of stage 4 due to engine issues.

Will the light weight motocross bike offset its lower horsepower and ultimately  prove more manageable and less tiresome in the mountainous dunes of the Atacama? Only time will tell. I'm sure there are as many proponents as there are naysayers, but for sure, Luis has me hooked and I will be watching intently, F5'ing the posis list and checking the standings to look for that little number 150 at the end of each stage.

Luis is a Spanish Professor at the University of Missouri Kansas City. Here is a short interview lifted from a speaking engagement he gave at the University. Enjoy and root on this years smallest bike in the field!!!


Cross Country Rally – Luis Belaustegui

2 November 2010, 4:43 pm


Margot G:  Professor Belaustegui, how long have you been teaching Spanish at UMKC?
Prof. Belaustegui:  I have been teaching for about 9 years.

Leslie Y:  Where are you from?
Prof. B.: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

M.G.:  What are your hobbies?
Prof. B.:  Racing bikes, motorcycles, sculpture, and I have 3 kids and a wife.

L.Y.:  What are the 3 most important things in your life?
Prof. B.:  Family, being a good person, and having a happy life.

M.G.:  Do you have a favorite food?
Prof. B.:  I don’t care about food at all.

L.Y.:  If you could visit any place/country you haven’t been to yet where would you go?
Prof. B.:  Tibet first, the Gobi desert, the Sahara, Europe, basically everywhere especially if it’s on a motorcycle.

M.G.:  Do you have any favorite films?
Prof. B.:  Como agua para chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) and The Matrix

L.Y.:  What is your favorite part about teaching?
Prof. B.:  It’s just fun, if it wasn’t fun I wouldn’t be doing it.

M.G.:  How are you involved in the Dakar?
Prof. B.:  I was a mechanic last year, but since I race bikes too, this year I will be competing.

L.Y.:  How do you keep your mustache looking so good?
Prof. B.:  I drive and twirl the ends of my mustache at the same time.

Prof. Belaustegui and Dr. Levy. -Photos taken by Amber M.
Summary of Presentation

Luis Belaustegui was born in Argentina, located in South America. Over the years, he has been heavily involved in racing bikes and motorcycles. During his presentation, he described his experiences as a motorcyclist in very competitive races around the world. This coming summer 2011, he plans to race in the DAKAR, which is a 10,000 km race across a few South American countries. The DAKAR is the longest race in the world where motorbikes, trucks, and other vehicles compete together cross-country.

There are 4 million spectators during the DAKAR. The race is a total of 15 days with 14 of those days racing and 1 day of rest. The entire race is across cross-country terrain. Luis has never participated in the DAKAR before and this is his longest race ever. He sometimes rides his bike standing up because it can be more comfortable than sitting for several hours. This technique will be especially helpful during a race of this size. He says, “If you have good technique, you get less tired.”

During the DAKAR race, there is some cheating and sabotage that occurs. Some riders even lock the gates that all vehicles must pass through. However, the consequences of being caught cheating include paying a fine and being disqualified from the rest of the race.

Participants in the DAKAR race currently use GPS technology. However, they used to take large maps with them. There are now 20 helicopters that monitor the race and make sure the riders are accounted for as they travel across rugged terrain. Last year, one spectator was killed during the DAKAR race. Luis said it is difficult to judge how fast to complete the curves. Many times, this is how spectators are killed when they stand near the curve of the racetrack and the riders don’t take the curve as slowly as they should.

During his presentation, Luis explained that riders have an unspoken code of conduct where they assist each other if a vehicle breaks down or crashes. If a riders crashes, the rider behind should stop and ask if the crashed rider is okay. It is the riders’ choice if they stop and help other riders who have crashed. However, the other riders know if one person didn’t stop to help and they won’t stop to help that person if they crash or need assistance.

Luis raises funds to be able to participate in races and to buy racing parts for his vehicles. He builds some parts and sells them to generate funds. As well, he has some factory sponsors that give him parts. Luis said he “likes to do things differently,” which means that he will attempt the DAKAR race riding a small motorbike that has no displacement, not a high-powered bike like many of the other riders will use. It will be a great accomplishment if he completes the DAKAR on this type of bike! He hopes that his participation in this race will generate more focus on the sport of racing and also provide him more sponsors for future races.
-Allison M.

Bike navigation system

Luis began his lecture on cross-country riding by saying “If you like engines you’ll like this (his discussion), and if you hate engines you’ll hate this,” and as a person who doesn’t hold a particular fondness for engines, I loved Luis’s speech about the Dakar race and his participation in the event. Luis captivated the classroom if not only with his mustache, then with his humble ambition to break the world record by competing in the longest cross-country race with the smallest motorbike – and finishing.

Typically in colloquium, questions are reserved for the end of the speaker’s lecture, but Luis’s speech was directly led by the questions from students and faculty.  Luis answered each question, but still left the class asking him to come back for a second round at next week’s colloquium. Luis brought in an engine and displayed parts of his bike that he welded himself. He also took the class through the rules and discussed how racers cheat during the 6,000-mile race.  Luis’s interactive presentation was interesting, entertaining, and left the class wanting more. After seeing how passionate Luis is about racing and the Dakar race in particular, I am confident he will finish the race, even if he is the last one to cross the finish line on the tiniest motorbike.
-Paige L.

Student and Faculty Response

The students and faculty seemed very interested in Mr. Belaustegui’s topic on Motocross racing. Since all of the other world countries except the United States participate in this sport, the faculty and students were even more curious about the details of the DAKAR race. Many questions were asked pertaining to the challenges and dangers associated with this race. Some of the questions asked included topics such as why at least one person per year dies during the race, how does a competitor navigate the route and drive at the same time, and what happens if a driver gets off course. One of the interesting aspects of this race is that the route is a secret, even to the drivers. The drivers use different types of technology and GPS systems to help them stay on course and prevent them from getting lost en route to the finish line.

Dr. Herron asked very realistic questions such as how a competitor pays for the expenses of the race, how does one go about getting a reliable motorcycle, and what happens if a driver needs help during the race. Belaustegui explained that the drivers usually help each other if someone has trouble. However, if a driver does not stop to help someone in need, all the other drivers will find out about that driver and not stop to help him/her if he/she needs assistance later in the race. Overall, the audience was very intrigued by the challenges of this risky race. One student even asked if the discussion could be continued next week during Colloquium.

Thank you Mr. Beloustigui for taking the time to tell us about your hobby and the DAKAR race.

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