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Paris-Dakar rally 1981: the first BMW GS 800 airheads at the start

On December 26 1978, the first Paris-Dakar started from the Place du Trocadéro in Paris. 170 participants drove 9000 km through France, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Upper Volta and Senegal. 

The rally ended at the edge of the Lac Rose at 25 km from Dakar. The first winner on a bike was Cyril Neveu, riding a Yamaha XT500.

A few years later, in 1981, the GS 800 R joins the Paris-Dakar Rally. The project was started in collaboration with BMW France and drivers Hubert Auriol, Jean Claude Fenouil and Bernard Neimer. Compared to the normal R80 G/S, the frame was strengthened, including two reinforcement tubes placed transversely under the steering head. The front fork was from Maico. The monolever rear suspension was omitted, a normal swingarm was fitted, but with only one Bilstein shock with a 240 mm travel. The monolever had to expire because it did not offer enough space for the 5.00 x 17 “rear tire.

Fuel tanks

The motorcycle had two fuel tanks with a total capacity of 42 liters. One tank was a regular tank, the second was fit above the gearbox where normally air filter was located. This air filter had moved to the top of the normal tank, so it caught less dust and was quicker to change.
There were holes in the oil pan through which pipes ran for better cooling of the oil. Behind the saddle was an antenna to enable mobile phone traffic and Dunlop’s specially developed tires had a reinforced six-layer carcass.
The engine was only slightly modified compared to the original R80 G/S, and delivered 55 bhp. It was striking that the machine was equipped with the ‘old’, round valve covers. That would always remain the case with the later BMW rally engines, probably because these valve covers were stronger than the just introduced, more angular ones.

A the end of the rally in 1981, BMW finished first with driver Hubert Auriol, and other BMW bikes finished fourth and seventh. ◀︎

BMW R80 Paris Dakar
This '1981 promotion advertisement' is available as a poster in the shop.

These BMW airhead posters are also available: