Jeddah, Jan 4 (IANS) Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the rally racing team of two-wheeler manufacturer Hero MotoCorp, is charged up for its fourth consecutive appearance at the worlds most gruelling and competitive rally raid – The Dakar Rally. The team has arrived here, which will be the starting point for Dakar 2020.
With impressive results over the previous three years, the team this year will be represented by 2019 Pan Africa Rally winner Joaquim Rodrigues, Ace Indian rider C.S. Santosh, Former World Rally Champion Paulo Goncalves and Sebastian Buhler.
Buhler replaces consistent performer Oriol Mena, who further aggravated an existing injury, ruling him out of Dakar 2020. Oriol finished the 2018 and 2019 editions of Dakar with Top-10 finishes and was the ‘Rookie of the Year’ during Dakar 2018. To fill his spot, the team management decided to rope in the promising Sebastian Buhler, who has been training under Hero MotoSports’ rider development programme.
Buhler, 25, is from Germany and this will be his second attempt at Dakar, after an impressive Top-20 finish during his debut attempt in 2019 as an independent participant. In a short career span of six years, Buhler has won four titles and secured 45 podium finishes.
Commencing in Jeddah on January 5, the 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally will conclude 12-stages later in Qiddiyah near the country’s capital of Riyadh. The competitors will battle over 5,000 kms of special stages, covering an overall distance of nearly 7,900 kms. In addition to discovering the Saudi Arabian dunes in the second half of the Rally, the first half will take the competitors through a labyrinth of tracks where navigation skills will be essential.
Speaking on the eve of the contest, Wolfgang Fischer, team manager of Hero MotoSports Team Rally said: “We are excited to be at the Dakar Rally for the fourth consecutive year. It’s a bittersweet moment for us though – while we have the Champ, Paulo joining us this year at Dakar, Oriol will miss out as his recovery from injuries is still not adequate for competitive racing. We are constantly working towards shaping young talent and it is a delight to have the promising young rider, Sebastian join the team as the fourth rider in the Rally. We have had the most successful ‘Road to Dakar’ campaign this year and are fully prepared for the upcoming Dakar.”
Meanwhile, Santosh expressed: “I am very excited to be racing at Dakar again and I’m hoping to give my best. We have had a good run-up to this year’s Dakar. The preparations have been thorough and we are extremely motivated for the rally.”
In 2019 the Team stepped-up its game with a Rally win (Pan Africa Rally), two Podium finishes (Merzouga and Desert Storm), four stage wins (1 in Silkway Rally, 2 in Pan Africa and 1 in Rally Du Maroc where Paulo won an important stage against all the top riders in the sport) and six stage podiums (Silkway Rally).