Paulo Goncalves made an impressive debut for Hero MotoSports Team Rally with a sixth-place finish in stage one of the Silk Way Rally in Irkutsk, Russia, on Sunday. Goncalves's teammate Oriol Mena finished 10th.
The competitors were put through the test on the first special stage of 51km of technical tracks alongside the shores of Lake Baikal to reach the first rally bivouac at Baykalsk. The total stage distance covered was 255km including the two-liaison stage making up the 201km. Stage two on Monday will give riders the first taste of a long day of covering 413km from Baykalsk to the Ulan Ude bivouac.
Read: Dean Mascarenhas dazzles on a hot day
The Silk Way Rally, into its ninth edition, is the longest competition for motorcyclists in the framework of the championship, giving them and the teams a valuable chance to gain points on a marathon route in the battle for the champion cup. Fought over 5,000km, including more than 2,700km of timed sections divided over 10 varied and technical stages, the rally will offer most challenging geographic areas with terrains, covering the five climate zones, crossing three countries that offer the perfect alchemy between technical difficulty, variety and beauty of landscapes.
Speaking after the completion of Stage 1, Goncalves said: "I am very excited on making my debut in the Silkway Rally with Hero MotoSports Team Rally. I am happy with the preparations we have made and how the team has bonded so well during the training sessions and feel there’s a great positive energy within the team. I got a good feeling out there today and I am really happy with my Hero 450 RR. It was a short stage with just about 51km to be done on the clock, but it was a bit tricky as the ground was slippery due to overnight rains. [I'm] looking forward to the next stage."
Mena stressed on the importance of gathering experience. "I have had a good season so far and good preparations with the team," he said. "For me this race, like every race, is about getting more experience, learning and improving my skills. It is a great opportunity for me to be racing alongside Paulo and learn from him. I am happy for myself and Paulo that we made a good start for the team today.”