Five time Dakar winner Cyril Despres has left KTM; the manufacturer he has ridden for the last 12 years.
During his time with the Austrian company he has enjoyed unprecedented success having finished on the Dakar podium a total of ten times.
Despres said: "I have spent a large part of my career to date with KTM, so as you can imagine it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly.
"They were great years, very fruitful, both professionally and personally, and I owe much to everyone at KTM, especially the ‘boss’ Stefan Pierer, whose enthusiasm for the sport of rally-raid matches my own.
"I would also like to say a big ‘thank you’ to Heinz Kinigadner and Head of Motorsport Pit Beirer and everyone in the rally department. When I arrived it was run by the much missed Hans Trunkenpolz, who taught me how to develop a rally bike, and whose work is now being very ably continued by Stefan Huber.
"Finally, I say a very fond farewell to my factory mechanic throughout all that time, Roland Bruckner, and my support rider during the last four Dakars, Ruben Faria, who I wish all the best for the future.
"Although I say goodbye to all these people, I am sure I will be seeing many of them again very soon, as, with the continued support of my long-time partner Redbull, I will most definitely be staying in the sport.
"It is a little too early to give any more details, suffice to say I am extremely motivated by the new challenge I am about to embark on and look forward to giving you further details in the very near future."
Speculation over the 39 year old Frenchman’s future began last year with Despres widely tipped to be joining Honda’s new multi million pound Dakar effort. But following the news that KTM boss, Stefan Pierer has now taken ownership of Husqvarna from BMW a more logical step would be for Despres to ride for Husqvarna to continue to develop the already highly competitive brand in the world of Rally.
With Despres gone, KTM have revised their rider line-up with there time Dakar winner Marc Coma heading the charge. Coma and Despres have been team-mates and fierce rivals and the fact that the two men will now be riding for different manufacturers will make their future battles even more intriguing.
Coma will be joined by fast American Kurt Casseli who won a stage of the 2013 Dakar in his very first attempt on the event. 2013 Dakar runner-up Ruben Faria continues with the team with charismatic Chilean Francesco Lopez the fourth rider n the factory squad.