Dakar 2021: Two top-15 stage finishes for the Hero MotoSports team in Stage 2
Stage 2 of Dakar 2021 proved to be the setting for the Hero MotoSports team to get into their groove, with both Joaquim Rodrigues and Sebastian Buhler finishing in the top 15 for the stage. CS Santosh picked up spots to finish in 36th. With the strong finish on the second day of competitive riding, J Rod moves up five spots to 17th in the overall standings, Buhler to 24th and Santosh to 36th.
The second stage of the Dakar was a long 685km of combined distance (including a fast 457km of special stage, and 228km liaison) over 80 per cent sand, though the competitors did get a small taste of the dunes as well. J Rod (No.27), who had an especially good day, said, "Today was a completely different stage from yesterday. It was much faster with really soft sands and a lot of open ground. On one dune, my bike got stuck and the sand was so soft that it got buried almost up to the handle bar. So, I lost some time there trying to get out of that but otherwise I felt a lot better today and kind of started to get into my rhythm again. I was able to finish the stage with no problems with the bike so it was definitely a much better day for me."
As a reminder, Hero MotoSports had also debuted a new motorcycle at Dakar 2021, which really had a chance to shine this stage. The new motorcycle uses an evolution of the earlier Speedbrain chassis with better weight balance and ergonomics, coupled with a brand new 450cc engine, in a move to improve both acceleration and top speed.
Santosh (No.50) remarks, "I started the stage with a lot of motivation today. It was a fast stage and the new bike started feeling really good and safe, so I am really happy with that. I am slowly building my confidence and if I can continue like this for the rest of the stages, I think I will be in a really good position by the time the rally finishes. So, today was a good start in the right direction for me."
Stage 3 of Dakar 2021 is a 403km loop around Wadi Ad-Dawasir, one of the two entrants to Rub Al Khali, the famed Empty Quarter. The stage will include a scattering of dunes, with tricky technical sections broken up by faster parts, which should give the Hero MotoSport team opportunity to really explore the speed of the new bike.