Hero MotoSports takes two years of learning into their third Dakar experience
The 2019 edition of the Dakar marks three years of the Hero MotoSports Team Rally outfit at the most extreme cross country rally raid in the world. While the team started out with two riders at the event in 2017 - India's CS Santosh and Portugal's Joaquim 'J-Rod' Rodrigues - they have since expanded to three riders.
Joining the squad in 2018, was Spanish rider Oriol Mena, whose strong finishing position of seventh in his debut Dakar earned him the best rookie trophy at the event. Over the past two years, the team has managed to learn a lot, as have the riders, which means that their results in 2019, might just be their best results at the Dakar yet. Here's a look back at how the team did at Dakar 2017 and Dakar 2018.
Dakar 2017: The beginning
The 2017 edition of the Dakar was the big one. For the first time ever, Hero MotoCorp had made a giant leap into the world of motorsports, with the newly formed Hero MotoSports Team Rally outfit. And for Indian rider, CS Santosh, his third Dakar was a big step up for him.
While Santosh had taken part in his first two Dakars as a privateer, being part of a factory team was a huge step up for the Indian rider. However, the Dakar, as always, was challenging. Santosh missed a way point along the way, and ended up with a penalty of 1 hour and 20 minutes. Despite the setbacks and challenges along the way, he managed to finish the rally in 47th position.
His team-mate Joaquim Rodrigues managed to finish the rally in 10th place.
By the time the 2017 Merzouga Rally came by, Santosh had already managed a year with the team. We spoke to him about what it was like to be part of a professional factory outfit.
And we also spoke to Speedbrain's Wolfgang Fischer, to find out just how much Santosh had progressed over the past year of rallying. But from another conversation with Santosh it also became evident just how much growth the rider had been able to make, analyse, and assess on his own.
Dakar 2018: The squad expands
In 2018, Hero MotoSports introduced a new motorcycle for the Dakar - the Hero RR 450 Rally bike.
For Santosh, the biggest change ahead of his fourth Dakar was the fact that he wasn't winging things any longer, and was now using the expertise of trained professionals to help himself. It was an approach that he hoped with help him climb the ranks, ensuring him a better finishing position at the rally.
However, team boss Wolfgang Fischer was adamant that the team's goal remained first and foremost to merely get to the finish line at the 2018 Dakar. Anything above that was a bonus.
The first half of the Dakar brought with it a mixed bag for Hero MotoSports Team Rally. J-Rod suffered a nasty crash during the second stage, which meant he was out of contention for the rest of the event. Santosh, however, was doing fairly well. Despite two massive crashes over the course of the rally, he would eventually end 34th, his best finishing position at the event. Along with that finishing position, would come life lessons that he spoke to us about at great length soon after the Dakar.
The team's surprise package came in the form of Oriol Mena, who was doing extremely well in the early stages of the rally, even breaking into the top 15, and subsequently the top 10 as the event progressed. Mena ended the rally with a magnificent seventh place finish, confirming just how terrific a rider he is.
For more details of just how the Hero MotoSports outfit performed over the last two years, click on the link below to see their story in photos:
Image Gallery: Hero MotoSports Team Rally at the Dakar
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