Hero MotoSports continued to make gains at the Dakar Rally here on Tuesday. Spain’s Oriol Mena and Portugal’s Joaquim Rodrigues secured the 12th and the 13th spots, respectively, at the eighth stage.
Courtesy of his performance, Mena is now in the top 10 in the overall rankings. Rodrigues, on the other hand, occupies the 18th position. Toby Price, of KTM Factory Racing, is nestled atop the leaderboard, ahead of Pablo Quintanilla (Husqvarna Factory Racing) and team-mate Matthiad Walkner.
Walkner took the top spot in the eighth stage, ahead of Quintanilla and Price. Mena finished 24 minutes and 13 seconds behind Walkner (3h, 55m, 25 sec.).
The riders encountered yet another day of fog, dust and fast riding as the eighth stage went underway from San Juan De Marcona to Pisco. After a difficult first half of the rally — Hero MotoSports riders were hindered by crashes — Mena and Rodrigues have managed to improve their rankings significantly. Rodrigues, however, seemed in pain as he arrived at the finish line, having suffered a minor injury to his back while tackling the fast stage.
Called the “Super Ica” stage, the term meant the fastest 10 competitors across the cars, quads, bikes and trucks, from Monday’s stage, had to start one after the other in a mixed-start format. This compounded the difficulty for the riders starting behind; they were forced to ride in the dust of the lead pack for a long time.
‘Focussed on my rhythm’
The long stage — it had a 207-km liaison and a 360-km special section — tested the competitors as it had roughly 40 per cent of sand and dunes and 60 per cent of gravel and soft terrain. The penultimate stage will take place in Pisco, with a mass start for a 313-km loop of special stage. The rally will then move to the grand finale in Lima.
Commenting on his performance, Mena said, “When I started it looked like a difficult and dangerous stage so I decided to ride safe and steady with no crashes or mistakes. The stage terrain was completely damaged due to the previous stage tracks and mixed start. So I focussed on my rhythm and rode more like an endure race with good speed and flow.”
‘Happy to cross the finish line’
Rodrigues was happy to have crossed the finishing line despite having hurt his back during the stage. “It was really difficult, with lot of fog in the mountain and lot of fesh-fesh with rocks making it extremely dangerous to push ahead. I encountered dangerous large hole in the track, which wasn’t mentioned in the road-book,” he said. “I hit the hole really hard and hurt my back. I am a little bit in pain but happy to cross the finish line,” he admitted.
India’s Aravind Prabhakar of Sherco TVS Racing, too, had a good outing. He finished the eighth stage in the 39th position.
Prabhakar has made a significant improvement in the overall rankings. He is currently placed 39th.