Dakar Rally 2020: Hero MotoSports Team set for its fourth campaign

The Dakar Rally, which will be held from January 5 to 17 in Saudi Arabia this year, is considered one of the most demanding and gruelling rallies in the world.

Hero MotoSports Team Rally starts its fourth Dakar campaign with Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues, C S Santosh and Sebastian Buhler.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

As the Dakar Rally moves to Saudi Arabia for the first time in its chequered history, the riders are keeping their fingers crossed knowing pretty well the difficulties involved in the desert terrain.

The Dakar Rally, which will be held from January 5 to 17, is considered one of the most demanding and gruelling rallies in the world.

First, the riders will have to contend with an early morning (5.30 a.m.) start and the extra number of kilometers (across the 12 stages) being a good 3000km more than last year (4900km and held in 10 Stages).

Hero MotoSports Team Rally, though, is not worried by things not under its control. The Indian team has prepared well and its riders have participated multiple Rallies across continents throughout the year - including the Pan Africa Rally in Morocco and Silk Way Rally in Russia, Mongolia and China - in the Road to Dakar campaign during 2019.

This edition will also witness Hero fielding a four-rider strong team for the very first time with Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues (both Portugal), the reigning Pan Africa champion and India’s best bet C. S. Santosh. And the latest edition to Hero being the 25-year-old Sebastian Buhler of Germany.

Buhler replaced the consistent performer Oriol Mena, who aggravated an existing injury, ruling him out of Dakar 2020. The team management decided to rope in the promising Buhler – who has been training under the Hero MotoSports' rider development programme.

Wolfgang Fischer, Head of Motorsports of Hero, said the team was geared up and will look to improve its 7th position it achieved in 2018 in the South African continent.

“The Rally here will be a learning experience for us and it will not be easy. It is a new course and navigation is tricky. The riders have to race a lot on sand. Skill and endurance will be tested to the foremost,” Fischer said.

Santosh sounded upbeat of his chances. He said his chronic back problem is behind him now. “I am excited, it is a new chapter for me and the race is closer to home. I am not too worried about the race as my bike is reliable,” he said, after the ceremonial podium attended by a lot of enthusiastic fans assembled in the beautiful setting of the Corniche area of Jeddah, facing the majestic Red Sea.

The riders will kick-start their Dakar 2020 campaign with the first stage on Sunday that will take the rally from Jeddah to Al Wajh with a 319 km special stage and a total run of 752 kms including the liaisons stages.

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

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