Merzouga Rally: JRod and CS Santosh bounce back with an impressive day’s work in the marathon stage
With the Hero riders enjoying a good start to their Merzouga 2017 campaign after two stages; the third stage proved to be a rather torrid one.
The stage which saw riders cover 175 kilometres, taking them around in twin loops of Erfoud, was a test for the best of the riders in the field as they bore the onslaught of a 30 minute long desert storm.
With all the riders and organizers in frenzy due to the upheaval, the heroes were hit even harder as their troubles got compounded due to the storm.
JRod had only got going after a forced stoppage to fix the bike’s leaking coolant, caused by a puncture in the cooling system, when the storm arrived. As he got caught in the middle of it, he was not left with any other choice but to stop in the middle of his run while the riders ahead of him had already crossed the finish line. JRod endured a tumultuous day and finished in 23rd place.
CS Santosh had a similar day on the sands of Erfoud as he faced his own share of difficulties. A malfunction in his roadbook equipment set him back and led to a delayed finish to the 1st loop. While JRod faced the brunt of the storm, CS had only a few kilometres left to ride through the storm before the stage finish. He made light work of the 2nd loop as he rode through the small dunes with ease and crossed the finishing line in 17th position.
With the marathon stage looming, the riders were happy to have brought their bikes safely back to the paddock.
Even though JRod was eager to bounce back from a rough 3rd stage, he knew that the marathon stage, the first of the hardest two days of the Merzouga Rally, would be everything but smooth sailing.
Despite that, JRod came roaring back with a great show of character to finish at an impressive 5th position in the all important marathon stage. What the performance meant was a return to the top 10 of the overall standings for the Portuguese Hero.
The riders navigated through the Erg Rissani, known for its soft sands, for the first time since 2014. That was only the opening test of the day as the riders moved on to the tracks again amidst the sandy mountains including a few steep stony uphill climbs. However, there was some respite for the riders as the special stage 4, the marathon stage of 274 kilometres, was abbreviated by 80 kilometres.
What adds to the difficulty of stages 4 and 5 is the fact that the riders will have to service and maintain their machines without any mechanical assistance. The Heroes showed a great deal of intent and determination at the start of Stage 4 to leave behind a difficult stage 3.
CS Santosh too rode steadily and kept up a stable pace throughout the day. The Indian finished the stage in 17th position to keep his overall ranking of 15th. It has to be remembered that this CS’s first outing after a two month long injury enforced spell on the sidelines.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team manager, summed it up perfectly, “Following yesterday’s difficult stage, we are happy to finish the first part of the marathon stage with both the riders arriving safely in the marathon bivouac. They reported to us through satellite phones that it was a tough stage with very challenging navigation and difficult to find hidden way-points.
Stage 4 was all in all a good day’s work for Hero MotoSport Team Rally. It brought back the positivity and momentum in the camp as the Heroes head into the second half of the rally with their tails up.