HERO MOTOSPORTS Team Rally closed the 2021 Dakar with Joaquim Rodrigues and Sebastian Buhler at P11 and P14 respectively, in the overall rankings. This result is both extremely commendable, as well as intensely emotional, considering teammate C S Santosh’s crash and ensuing medical issues.
From the top
Last year was a roller-coaster for Hero MotoSports Team Rally. Paulo ‘Speedy’ Goncalves’ death during the 2020 Dakar, prompted the team to call off the campaign. This was followed by the global lockdown. It was not until the 2020 Andalucia Rally that things started looking up: Buhler bagged the overall 18th spot, while Santosh and JRod snatched P20 and P27, respectively. Buhler then aced the Baja Do Pinhal and Baja Portalegre, in the process winning the 2020 FIM Cross-Country Bajas World Cup, with JRod in P2.
Suffice to say the brand entered the 43rd edition of the Dakar with high expectations and a competent team in the form of two-time Dakar entrant Buhler, three-time Dakar finisher Santosh and JRod, a five-time Dakar finisher and winner of the 2019 Africa Eco Race. And, all three would be on the new-for-2021 Hero 450 Rally bike.
Buhler, Rodrigues and Santosh finished P5, P10 and P35 respectively in the Prologue, locking in the starting order for Stage 1. The dusty terrain of the 622km stage running from Jeddah to Bisha made navigation difficult, so despite starting well, a navigation error led to Buhler finishing P29. JRod, too, lost his way, ending at P22, while Santosh finished P43.
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