Dakar Rally 2020: Mixed results for Hero MotoSports Team in Saudi Arabia

Paulo Goncalves finished the stage in 12th place, Sebastian Buhler in 31st, CS Santosh in 39th place but Joaquim Rodrigues suffered a mechanical problem that forced him to forfeit the stage.

CS Santosh finished in the 37th place for Hero MotoSports Team in Saudi Arabia.   -  Special Arrangement

It was a day of mixed results for Hero MotoSports Team Rally at the Dakar Rally 2020 here on Sunday.

The opening day saw the Hero riders mix caution with aggression given the difficult terrain and what is going to be a long and arduous rally.

Paulo Goncalves finished the stage in 12th place while Sebastian Buhler and CS Santosh came in 31st and in 37th places respectively.

Paulo rode in his trademark style, cautious to begin with and then raking up some good pace in the second half.

Buhler, on the other hand, had to make a small additional run to catch a waypoint while Santosh had his first taste of the Saudi sands with a couple of minor crashes but overall, he did a good job to climb up a few notches from his starting position.

However, not all went as per the plan for the Hero as Joaquim Rodrigues suffered an unfortunate mechanical problem in his bike that forced him to forfeit the stage. He will try for a restart tomorrow [Monday], pending permissions from the competitors' department and the recovery of the bike, becoming the first competitor of the rally to avail the newly introduced “wild card” rule. As per the rule, he will now be considered out of contention for an overall result, but remains in the competition for the stage results.

The stage took the rally from Jeddah to Al Wajh for a total run of 752 km which included the special stage of 319 km and provided a glimpse of everything that makes up this rally in quick succession – navigation, fast and winding off-piste, dunes, trials and stones.

Stage 2 on Monday will move to Neom, continuing along the Red Sea, for a special section of 367 km to be done on the clock.

After a gruelling race, Santosh said: “I was really excited to see what the Saudi terrains have to offer today. It was a really fast stage and had some technical sections as well with stones. I think I put together a good starting stage until after a tricky stony section where I had a crash and hurt my hand a bit. Overall, I am happy with my start and to see the back of stage 1 at the Dakar 2020.”

The results (provisional rankings): Stage 1: Two-wheeler: 1. Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Racing) 03h 19m 33s; 2. Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda Team) +02m 05s; 3. Matthias Walkner (RedBull KTM Racing) +02m 40s.

(The writer is in Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Hero MotoCorp)

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