Mena, Santosh finish 7th and 35th at Dakar Rally

Rookie Oriol Mena finished seventh while top Indian biker C S Santosh brought up his best ever performance as Hero MotoSports team dished out a memorable show in the gruelling Dakar Rally which concluded on Sunday.

Santosh became the first and the only Indian rider to have finished the Dakar Rally thrice. More significantly, he achieved his best performance, finishing the rally at 35th position.   -  Getty Images

Rookie Oriol Mena finished seventh while top Indian biker C S Santosh brought up his best ever performance as Hero MotoSports team dished out a memorable show in the gruelling Dakar Rally which concluded on Sunday.

Spaniard Mena impressed everyone and finished at an outstanding seventh position in his debut Dakar Rally.

Delivering consistent top 10 stages towards the end of the rally, while everyone was getting tired, Mena showed his tremendous skill, stamina and his ability to learn fast.

He was fittingly adjudged the ‘Best Rookie Rider’ of the Rally.

Santosh, on the other hand, became the first and the only Indian rider to have finished the Dakar Rally thrice. More significantly, he achieved his best performance, finishing the rally at 35th position.

The 34-year-old Bengaluru rider was in his fourth year in the Dakar Rally and second year with the Hero Motosports.

It was a remarkable achievement for the Hero MotoSports team to have both its riders finishing the rally in only its second year in a competition which is considered the toughest in the world.

The Rally crossed three countries -- Peru, Bolivia and Argentina -- during its nearly 9000 km journey which spanned 14 stages and as many days.

Hero MotoSports team is fast gaining a reputation for bringing in top class debutants to the Rally every year. If it was the 12th place finish of Joaquim Rodrigues last year, it was Mena’s turn this year to better the result.

“I am really happy with my results. I enjoyed the Dakar a lot. The last stage felt the longest, as I approached the finish line. But I am now at the finish line and also having won in the rookie class, I feel elated. It’s a real good result and what can I say, dreams do come true,” Mena said.

“It was as tough Dakar this year for sure, every day you had to bow down to the stages. I had lots of ups and downs, some high points in the beginning, and then some lows as well.

I think it was everything that you would envision a Dakar to be. I am happy to make it to the finish line of yet another Dakar. My best Dakar so far so I am really happy to be going home with that,” Santosh said.

Team Manager Wolfgang Fischer conceded this year’s Dakar was the toughest but expressed happiness at the fact that both his riders finished the rally.

“This year was our toughest Dakar experience so far. It did not start well with the accident of Joaquim Rodrigues and then our other riders facing difficulties in the tough Peru stages. But finally, witnessing Mena and CS making it to the finish line is a joy,” he said.

“CS getting his best-ever result in the toughest Dakar is an achievement we are really proud of. For Oriol, it was a big accomplishment to finish in the top 10. He kept going up the rankings in the second half of the Rally, which gives me a lot of confidence for the team’s future. Compliments to the entire team and thanks and regards to our fans. It’s a fantastic feeling at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Matthias Walkner of Redbull KTM Racing team won the race among bikers, followed Kevin Benavides (Monster Energy Honda) and Toby Price (Redbull KTM Racing).