Dakar 2021: Gruelling Stage 1 for the Hero MotoSports rally team
The Hero MotoSports rally team is back at the world's toughest race, the Dakar rally, in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. For Dakar 2021, competitors are up against the clock over 7,646km spread over 12 stages (and one prologue stage to determine the starting order) starting from and ending at the commercial centre of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah. Last year's Dakar, in comparison, started in Jeddah and finished at Al Qiddiyah near Riyadh. The Hero MotoSports lineup for Dakar 2021 includes Joaqium Rodrigues, Sebastian Buhler and India's very own CS Santosh.
Joaquim Rodrigues remarked, "I didn't start very confident... so, I decided to focus on navigation throughout the stage."
After a strong Prologue performance, which saw Buhler start Dakar 2021 in fifth place, J Rod in 10th and CS Santosh in 35th, the Hero MotoSports riders had a relatively cautious start in a rocky and dusty Stage 1 spread over 277km of competitive stage and 345km of liaison, under conditions described as "quite hard for an opening stage". J Rod finished the stage 23rd with a 16m 27s gap to the leader, while Buhler finished 29th after losing his way, with CS Santosh clocking in 42nd.
This is CS Santosh's seventh go at the Dakar rodeo, with his best place finish of 34th coming in Dakar 2018
Santosh says, "It was definitely not an easy stage today. It was a really physical stage with a lot of rocks to go through so it was slow and you had to always watch the roadbook. There were lots of direction changes and tricky navigation to set you off the track. So overall I think it was a very tough first stage of the Dakar and it sets the precedence for the stages to come ahead."
Buhler, a new entrant to the Hero MotoSports team, made his Dakar debut in 2020, finishing 20th
Stage 2 will see competitors race from Bisha to Wadi Ad-Dawasir, near Riyadh. With 228km of liaison to travel, and 457km of racing, the teams will get their first taste of the dunes on the second stage of the Dakar, with a long off-track section towards the end of the stage.