After Stage 2: JRod and CS Santosh off to steady starts at Hero MotoSport’s second Merzouga Rally adventure
The Merzouga Rally is where teams and their riders begin their preparations for the Dakar. It sets up as an ideal prospect to begin preparations as the riders look to familiarise themselves with the roadbook, navigation and the machine in similar terrain and conditions.
With every passing year, the rally continues to become tougher and more technical. With more competitors than ever vying for top spots, the Hero MotoSports riders knew they were in for a week full of challenges.
On the flip side of the coin, the team is better prepared for their second stint at the Merzouga Rally, which is a 1200 kilometres long battle against extreme temperatures, uneven terrain and unpredictable storms, with the learnings from the last race and the experience of favourably completing 4 international races in between.
The Hero Motosports Team Rally succesfully cleared the technical verification checks and received the green light to launch their Africa Merzouga rally campaign. All eyes were then firmly set on Stage 1 that promised to be nothing short of a handful as Hero MotoSports embarked on its second ever Merzouga rally adventure.
Joaquim Rodrigues started off with a bang as he won the Prologue and secured pole position ahead of the start of Stage 1. His counterpart, CS Santosh got a feel of real African rally conditions and secured the 17th position. Stage 1 was only 84 kilometres long but it didn’t come without its set of tricky off road challenges and navigational trials.
The Heroes had a good day out as they greeeted Day 1 with the respect it deserved. JRod concluded the day in a laudable 5th place as he rode vigilantly and stayed clear of any difficulties. CS Santosh marked his return to competitive rally racing from a 2 month injury enforced lay-off with an intent performance that saw him finish in 16th place.
The steady start put the team in a good position prior to the first full day of the rally where sand dunes and dry river beds with the added component of navigational difficulties were in store.
With 188 kilometres to be traversed by the riders in the Erg Chebbi region of Merzouga, it was known that the stage would be a stern test of riding capabilities amidst some hot and tricky weather.
JRod started the day in fine fashion before losing a bit of time in finding a tricky waypoint in the dunes. As the second half of the stage posed visibility issues with a lot of dust, the Portuguese took a calculated approach to bring the bike home safely in 9th position in a timing of 03:44:22 Hr as per the provisional rankings.
Joaquim Rodrigues, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “Today the start was good and I was aggressive in the dunes to gain time, but around the 50 km mark I lost some time finding the secret waypoint. After the first checkpoint there was a lot of dust and it was hard to attack, so I preferred to keep it safe and bring the bike back home.”
The poster boy of Indian Motor Sports, CS Santosh demonstrated grit as he capped off another impressive day for Hero MotoSport Team Rally with a resolute 15th position in a timing of 03:51:16 Hr, one better than his 16th position in Stage 1.
C S Santosh, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “First real stage of Merzouga, and I was a bit nervous to start with. My focus was to navigate well and not get lost because today’s stage was quite a complex stage with a lot of navigation. I am happy that I was able to achieve that and gave myself a lot of confidence for tomorrow. All in all a very good day and I am looking forward to the upcoming stages.”
Stage three promises to be an interesting proposition for the Heroes as they get into the thick of the action.