Early Seventies: Boxer Enduro Prototypes and the Six Days era

GS-Airheads paris dakar desert bikes

The word Enduro comes from  “to endure”. Enduros, as we know them today, have their roots in England. In the sixties certain people transformed their bikes into so called Scramblers. It was nothing more then slimming the bike from unnecessary goodies, mount raised handle bars and put knobblies tires on the rims. In the early seventies, some Germans adapted to that idea, but took a BMW Boxer…In the mid seventies little by little, BMW supported certain employees and privateers in their search to develop a competitive Enduro. Many people deserve credit but the well known names were E. Rapelius, L. Peres, H. Schek, R. Schalber, R. Witthöft, R. Gutsche,...However it was finally Laszlo Peres and Herbert Schek whom convinced the BMW management to take an interest into the Boxer Enduro, a concept which would later proof to be vital for the survival of BMW Motorrad !

GS-Airheads 1979 : the first BMW Paris-Dakar bikes :



The first BMW Paris-Dakar bikes were in fact BMW Six-Days machines with a bigger Tank, nothing more, nothing less. Privateers Fernouil and Schek registered themselves for the 1979 Paris Dakar Race. The Bikes were prepared by Schek. These were the Pioneering years of conceptualising a Desert Racer Bike that was assumed to be fast and reliable. Very few photographs from this era excist.


GS-Airheads1980 : First Paris-Dakar participation by a BMW Works Team



BMW recognised that the Paris-Dakar Rally could be good for marketing purposes, and a Factory Team could help to launch the R80G/S Gelände/Strasse Enduro. Only 2 months before the start of the Rally, BMW gave their go-ahead, to the French BMW Importer, to set-up a Factory Team with riders Hubert Auriol (F), Fernouil (F) and Herbert Schek (D). HPN designed the Bikes based on a GS800 Six Days Enduro. These bikes got 800cc and delivered 55BHP with a Schek Engine.. The frames were Stock /7 with only minor changes, but the weight was only 160Kg and could take 38 Liter of fuel in the Tank. This first BMW Paris-Dakar could achieve 160Km/hour on off-road straights and was a terror for the other bikes, mainly Japanese one- cylinder bikes. However Auriol did not reach Dakar due to several gearbox issues. Fernouil achieved 5th place in the overall ranking.


1981: The first HPN prepared BMW Paris-Dakar Bikes – First win by Hubert Auriol

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BMW ordered HPN from Seibersdorf Germany to build an improved Desert Racer. These were one off Build Specials and HPN did not focus on top end power but focused on torque and reliability. The frames were much improved and strengthened and a 42 Liter Steel Fuel Tank was designed. In the front HPN used a 270mm Maico fork. For the rear HPN developed an extended swing arm and shocks from WP were used. With this Bike, Hubert Auriol won the 1981 Paris-Dakar Rally with more then 3 hours ahead. Fenouil and Neimer ended on place 4 and 7. Privateer Loizeaux ended 15 and Privateer Herbert Schek gave up following a crash.

1982 : A new Desert Racer but no success

GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1982

The 1982 Machine was quite different from the 1981 Bike. The engine capacity was increased from 800 to 980cc and the engine delivered 55 BHP. For the first time, the Monolever was used which reduced the weight of the Bike to 150 Kg .
In the rear Öhlins were used and the front got a Marzocchi M1 300mm Fork. A new larger capacity Fuel Tank was designed, and again the Bikes were registered by the French BMW Importer “Arcueil Motor”. With 50% of the race finished, Auriol was in the lead but gear box problems appeared and Auriol was forced to give up.
Also the 3 other BMW’s gave up with Gear Box problems.

1983 : Second BMW Paris-Dakar win by Hubert Auriol

GS-Airheads GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1983

To forget the catastrophic 1982 Dakar Rally, BMW France ordered SCHEK to design the bikes. Engine capacity was 980cc and delivered 72 BHP for 150 Kilo Net weight. The monolever was discarded and BMW France returned to the mighty Dual Spring Swingarm. They delegated a Team with 4 riders to the Desert: Auriol, Fernouil, Loizeaux and Herbert Schek. Also, “a dwarf from Belgium”, as a private participant, was at the start for the first time : Gaston Rahier. Everybody was laughing when Rahier, the former Motor Cross World Champion, with his 1.64 meter tried to get on his Monster Bike…But Rahier developed a special technique. Standing next to the revving Bike, he selected 1st gear, and roll off standing on the Left cylinder head, and just before selecting 2nd gear he jumped on the Bike… Rahier provided real fireworks in every heat of the Rally, but was forced to give up prior to end of the Rally due to Technical problems. BMW management was so impressed with “the dwarf from Belgium” that they offered him for 1984 a Works contract…The 1983 Dakar Rally was finally won by Hubert Auriol! Very few pictures are available from the 1983 BMW Paris Dakar Machines.

1984 : A Dual Victory for the PENTHOUSE BMW’s, Rahier First and Auriol Second

GS-Airheads GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1984

Two Top Riders were the core of the 1984 Team: 2-Fold Paris-Dakar Winner Hubert Auriol and “the dwarf from Belgium” , Gaston Rahier. HPN designed an entire new bike with 45 Liter Kevlar Tank and 1015cc Schek Engine with 75 BHP, Marzocchi M1 Fork and Öhlins rear Shocks. Both riders were experienced, the Bikes were reliable and the Team was perfectly managed. The 2 Works-Pilots were fighting for the lead position. Rahier only managed to get ahead of Auriol in the end of the race. Rahier First and Auriol Second, a Dual Victory for BMW…Loizeaux ended on the 5th place. BMW trashed the Honda competition !

1985 : The MARLBORO-PLAYBOY BMW’s - Gaston Rahier becomes a living Legend

GS-Airheads GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1985

Auriol could not accept that Rahier was to become first rider in the 1985 BMW team, now sponsored by Marlboro and Playboy. Auriol dropped off and joined the new CAGIVA Team. Also, Rahier was not prepared to perform a race within the race with Auriol for yet another year. And there was something else: Rahier understood much better then Auriol, how to play with the Media…something which was very important for BMW ! HPN designed the 1985 Bike entirely from scratch and used a near standard 980cc Engine delivering 70BHP with 170 Kg Nett weight, but a fuel capacity of 60 Liters, so 230 Kg total weight The bike, a DAKAR MONSTER, in the hands of Motor Cross Devil Rahier was well able to reach 180Km/h on Desert tracks, overtaking most Special Sports Car vehicles. However just before the race, being asked to make several PR appearances with his Marlboro-Playboy Dakar Monster, Rahier got an accident with the bike, and the bike got severely damaged. Not being able to get a new bike in time, the Team decided to keep the accident behind closed doors. The Team considered giving up, as the bike was truly not competitive anymore with a warped frame. But Rahier stubbornly refused to throw in the towel. On a fully warped frame, Rahier collected best time trials and best day events one after the other. Every evening, his mechanics just managed to tweak the bike for the next day. The competition could not understand how this heap of crap metal could produce one best time after the other. The other 2 Team pilots Eddy Hau and Loizeaux did not reach the Desert; they gave up in the early stages of the race following some (near deadly) crashes..
Gaston Rahier performed something Heroic and always showed the flock of Yamaha Teneres his dust. Rahier won the race totally exhausted, and since then nobody ever laughed again with the “Dwarf from Belgium”. The 1985 Paris-Dakar win was the most Heroic win ever for BMW in an Endurance Rally and this win fueled the spirit to continue with the GS-Bike concept. Gaston Rahier was remembered from that day as” Mr. Paris-Dakar”.

1986 : The MARLBORO-ELF BMW  -  The strongest Rally BMW ever

GS-Airheads GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1986

Gaston Rahier appeared at the start as a favorite. The 1986 HPN Bike was near identical to the 1985 bike but sponsor was “MARLBORO – ELF” . Engine capacity was 1030cc and delivered 80BHP. The 1986 BMW Paris-Dakar was the most powerful Rally Boxer ever built. Gaston Rahier drove like a Devil in the 1986 Dakar and booked several day victories.
But finally, the 1986 BMW was not faster as the brand-new Honda 2 Cylinder machines. Rahier was pushing it very hard and crashed at Top Speed and broke nearly all ribs, his wishbone, etc…However after the crash, Rahier just got up and continued, through the Desert, and finished on the 14th place. Eddy Hau finished 8th and Loizeaux 22nd.

 1987 : The MARLBORO-ELF BMW - Last participation of a BMW 2 Valve Boxer Team

GS-Airheads GS-Airheads Paris Dakar 1987

It was the last year that a BMW Boxer Works team would appear at the start. HPN made a new machine. In the front they mounted a USD WP fork and they designed a new Fuel Tank as well as a new  Tank under the seat an a complementary rear tank. The bike got a HPN 1040cc Engine delivering 85 BHP. In the rear they kept the Twin shock as the parallever could not provide the required amount of suspension travel. But the bikes proved less reliable. Rahier was still incredibly fast but was not competitive against the bikes of (winner) Cyril Neuve on his Honda NXR and his former Teammate Auriol on his Cagiva.  But Rahier managed to get third place overall. Following the dead of Thierry Sabine, BMW decided to retire from the race. Following the 1987 Dakar, Rahier became rider for the new Suzuki Team. One should not forget that Rahier became multiple World Champion Motor Cross as a works driver for Suzuki in the early eighties. Following 1987, there were only privateers that participated with Twin Valve Boxers, the most known of them was Richard Schallber.