Hero MotoSports Team Rally delivered a solid Stage 1 at the 2021 Dakar Rally with all three riders finishing the stage safely and reaching the bivouac.
J-Rod finished the stage in 22nd place followed by Buhler in 29th and C S Santosh in 43rd position respectively. Starting first, for the team, Sebastian Buhler started the stage well but chose a wrong track along with a group of riders around 20 km into the stage, which resulted in him riding alone in the dust for most of the stage. Having lost time, he finished the stage in 29th position.
Joaquim Rodrigues started well but decided to be more cautious to avoid any unwarranted incidents right at the start of the Rally. Indian ace C S Santosh too decided to ride safe and finished in 43rd position.
Overall, it was a cautious day for the trio of Hero MotoSports riders. However, it also provided a lot of confidence to the Team. The Stage also saw the new Hero 450 Rally bike passing its first big test of the Dakar with a flawless performance. The riders will try to get into a more competitive rhythm in the second stage that is scheduled to go underway today. The 685 km Stage 2 will include a really long 457 km special taking the competitors from Bisha to Wadi-Ad-Dawasir.
Here is what the riders had to say after the end of Stage 1.
Joaquim Rodrigues (Competitor No. 27) said, “It felt like a really long stage today. I didn’t start very confident and definitely, my speed was also not up there. So, I decided to focus on navigation throughout the stage. But as soon as some riders passed me, there was a lot of dust and I lost my way a bit. But I am happy that the first stage is off my shoulder and now we take on the second one tomorrow.”
Sebastian Buhler (Competitor No. 24) said, “Today was a hard stage in general. It was more like an enduro stage but over stones. I made a small mistake in the beginning in choosing a track and after that, I was pretty much riding alone in the dust which was very difficult and risky. But it’s only the first day so I am happy to be back at the bivouac safely and tomorrow we will try to do better.”
C S Santosh (Competitor No. 50) said, “It was definitely not an easy stage today. It was a really physical stage with a lot of rocks to go through so it was slow and you had to always watch the roadbook. There were lots of direction changes and tricky navigation to set you off the track. So overall I think it was a very tough first stage of the Dakar and it sets the precedence for the stages to come ahead.”
In Stage 2 of the 2021 Dakar Rally, the three riders were able to make massive improvements. Joaquim Rodrigues finished Stage 2 in 12th place, Sebastian Buhler in 14th place, and C S Santosh in 36th place.
Leading the charge for the team, Joaquim Rodrigues delivered a stunning performance in the first sandy stage of the rally. As a result of this effort, he was able to climb into the top 20 in the overall rankings and is now placed 17th.
Sebastian Buhler was also not far behind his mentor as he too found his rhythm to achieve a faster pace in today’s stage. Improving on his overnight standings, he is now placed at the 24th position in the overall standings.
C S Santosh continued to grow in confidence and delivered a solid stage to leap up by several positions in the overall rankings to finish on the 36th position in the overall standings.
With 82% sand and close to 13% dunes, Stage 2 presented familiar surroundings to the competitors in contrast to Stage 1. With two riders in top 15 and solid performance by the bike, it was a stage of all-round gains for Hero MotoSports Team Rally.
Here is what the riders had to say after Stage 2:
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “Today was a completely different stage from yesterday. It was much faster with really soft sands and a lot of open ground. On one dune, my bike got stuck and the sand was so soft that it got buried almost up to the handlebar. So, I lost some time there trying to get out of that but otherwise, I felt a lot better today and kind of started to get into my rhythm again. I was able to finish the stage with no problems with the bike so it was definitely a much better day for me.”
Sebastian Buhler said, “It was a very nice stage with a little bit of everything – from soft dunes to sandy tracks, open tracks, and even some rocks. Our new bike worked very well in these conditions so I was able to ring at a decent pace and rhythm today.”
C S Santosh said, “I started the stage with a lot of motivation today. It was a fast stage and the new bike started feeling really good and safe, so I am really happy with that. I am slowly building my confidence and if I can continue like this for the rest of the stages, I think I will be in a really good position by the time the rally finishes. So, today was a good start in the right direction for me.”
For Stage 3 of the 2021 Dakar Rally 2021, the riders stayed in Wadi Ad-Dawasir to do a 629 km loop that included a timed special of 403 km. The Hero MotoSports team was able to turn in another good performance with J-Rod finishing in 20th place, Sebastian Buhler in 21st position, and C S Santosh in 36th place.
It was again Joaquim Rodrigues who came out leading the team standings. In this predominantly sandy stage, he retained his name in the top 20 positions finishing 19th in the overall rankings at the end of Stage 3.
Sebastian Buhler also kept it steady throughout the stage to retain his 24th position in the overall rankings while C S Santosh tackled another long stage really well to gain a couple of positions in the overall rankings. He now stands at the 34th position.
For Stage 4, the rally will move out of the Wadi Ad-Dawasir to the capital city of Riyadh for the longest stage of the rally covering 813 km, including the transport section. The timed special will be relatively shorter at 337 km.
Here is what the riders had to say after Stage 3:
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “Today was a lonely stage for me as I was riding alone for the most part of it. It was quite windy as well and the tracks kept getting covered so I decided to slow down and concentrate on my navigation. Overall, I am happy to get my bike to the finish safely and see the back of one more stage.”
C S Santosh said, “Today’s was another long and fast stage. It was mostly about sitting back and opening the full throttle. Because of the wind, the visibility was not that great so it was tough to go full gas all the way. It wasn’t very enjoyable for me but I am happy to have put in a good stage today and also probably the best three days in the Dakar.”
Sebastian Buhler said, “Today’s stage was very good as it was similar to what we did yesterday with nice open sandy tracks and some stones in between. Overall, I think the bike is performing very well in these conditions so I am happy with how it has gone for us so far.”
Stage 4 was a mixed bundle of emotions for the Hero MotoSports Team Rally. C S Santosh suffered an unfortunate crash in the 4th Stage bringing his chase in the Dakar Rally to an end. He was attended to by the on-ground medical team, was found to be stable, and has now been shifted to a hospital in Riyadh for proper medical care. We wish him a speedy recovery and hope to see him back in action very soon.
On a positive note, Joaquim Rodrigues continued with his gritty performances and set a blazing pace today to finish Stage 4 at the sixth position. Sebastian Buhler continued to keep it steady and safe with a 24th place finish in the stage. After four stages, JRod climbs up to the 16th position and Buhler retains his 24th place in the overall standings.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager said, “Today was quite a difficult and emotional stage for us as it was the same stage where we lost Paulo last year. It was unfortunate that Santosh had a crash today and he will not be able to continue his Dakar 2021 journey anymore. He was doing very well this year and looking very positive and confident. Please join us in praying for his speedy recovery. On the positive side, this was the best result so far for the team with the 6th place finish for Joaquim and another good stage for Sebastian We are happy with how Joaquim has been getting into a better rhythm with every stage and with Sebastian’s consistency in delivering solid performances. We are keeping our fingers crossed for an incident-free rally now. Thank you to all our supporters for all their love and wishes.”
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “First of all, my thoughts go out to our brother Santosh and I wish him a speedy recovery. I know that he will pull through to come back stronger. Today was a very tough stage for me as this was where the tragic incident happened last year. It brought back a lot of painful memories for me and I couldn’t sleep all night. I had a nervous start to the stage but as I started to ride, I started to get into a rhythm and my navigation was perfect. I believe it was Paulo who was navigating for me today and I am so happy to know that feeling.”
Sebastian Buhler said, “We are all very sad at the crash of Santosh and our prayers and wishes go to him for a fast recovery. This is the toughest race on the planet and we can always expect the unexpected. I hope he recovers fast and comes back stronger. The stage today was a fast one again. I felt good throughout the stage and got into a good rhythm but about 10 km before the finish I lost a bit of time in finding a waypoint. But overall it was a good stage and the feeling with the bike is also getting better. ”
After getting past the unfortunate incident in Stage 4, Hero MotoSports Team Rally continued to move forward in their Dakar 2021 campaign with a solid performance in Stage 5. Sebastian Buhler stepped up and posted gains with a 20th place finish in the stage.
Joaquim Rodrigues also fought off a very tough stage to finish in the 22nd position. The 456 km stage lived up to its expectation of being a very hard one with a tough dunes section, stone littered tracks and tricky navigation designed to test the patience and tyres of the competitors. Both team riders kept their nerves steady and brought a tough stage home.
After Stage 5, both the Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders are now placed inside the top 20 in the overall rankings with Joaquim Rodrigues in 19th and Sebastian Buhler in 20th position.
C S Santosh is currently receiving treatment at the Saudi German Hospital in Riyadh, after a high-speed crash on Wednesday in Stage 4 of the 2021 Dakar Rally. He has no major physical injuries except for the dislocated right shoulder and head trauma. The latest scans have also shown no major issue that could impact his full recovery. The medical team attending to him have decided that the best approach to manage the injury is to reduce the body functions to a minimum and keep him in a sedated condition or an artificial coma. He is receiving the best possible medical care and will continue to be under constant observation for the next few days.
For Stage 6, the rally will move to Ha’il, with 448 km to be done under the clock.
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “It was a really difficult stage with a lot of navigation and a lot of rocks. I had a minor crash in one of the river beds that was full of rocks and a few screws from my navigation tower came off loose. I had to fix the bike and after that, I lost my focus and lost my way a few times. Then I just decided to take it easy and bring the bike home so I am happy to be back at the bivouac safely to fight for another day. After a tough day, it was such great news to hear that Santosh has no major concerns with his injury and will recover well. We are really happy to hear this. ”
Sebastian Buhler said, “Today was a very tough stage. We had everything from tricky navigation, to a lot of dangerous rocks and a lot of dunes. So I think it was a very good day for us to finish without any major incident. But the best news from today is to hear that Santosh is out of danger and is getting better. That’s the best part of today for us here in the team.”
After the tough outing in Stage 5, Joaquim Rodrigues struck form once again and achieved an 8th place finish in the stage. Sebastian Buhler continued to hold his position steady around the early 20s mark with a 21st place finish. With this steady run, Hero MotoSports Team Rally finds its riders in good positions at the halfway mark with J-Rod in 17th place and Sebastian Buhler, just shy of the Top 20, at 21st place in the overall rankings.
Considering the difficult Stage 5 that led to several competitors arriving at the bivouac very late in the evening, the organizers earlier today decided to shorten Stage 6 by 100 km and also deferred the start by almost 90 minutes. However, the stage still challenged the competitors with 348 km of special featuring dunes of all shapes and colors, which proved physically demanding on the competitors.
The participants will enjoy a well-deserved rest day tomorrow, giving them time to recover from the onslaught of a tough first half of the rally and reassess their strategy for the next half.
Wolfgang Fischer, Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, said, “We are happy to arrive today at the Ha’il bivouac after six days of challenging stages. Besides being relieved to get a much-needed rest day, we are also very happy to hear that the head injury of our mate C S Santosh should recover well. We are all confident that he will fully recover soon. In terms of performance, our new bike has delivered a flawless performance and has arrived at the half-way stage successfully. Both our riders have also gained in confidence with every stage and are enjoying themselves. We are now looking forward to the rest-day to prepare ourselves for another six long stages of racing. Hope to see both our riders at the finish line at Jeddah and Santosh in a good condition.”
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “It was a difficult stage today. It was all sand and dunes, so physically it was very demanding, and yet I was able to put in a good run and bring my Hero bike to the finish line. The bike has been performing really well and has been helping me to achieve these results. I thank Team Hero for providing us this great bike. It makes a big difference to have a really good and reliable bike in this kind of terrain. It feels so good to finish the first week and I am looking forward to the rest day tomorrow.”
Sebastian Buhler said, “Very hard stage today with riding all day in the sands. It was like 300 odd km of motocross stage with not much of navigation, so it was very tough on the body. It’s good that we have a rest day tomorrow so we can recover a bit. The bike is performing very well and I am happy to arrive at the halfway mark of the rally with no injuries and my bike is in a very good condition.”
After a much-deserved rest day, the Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders put out a solid performance to complete Stage 7. J-Rod finished the stage in 9th position, placing him at 16th place in the overall standings. Sebastian Buhler retains 21st place in the overall standings.
The rally will spend the night today at the Marathon bivouac, leaving the riders to tend to themselves and their machines without the comfort of their assistance crews. Therefore, arriving at the Marathon bivouac in reasonably good conditions will be critical for a good performance in the second half of the stage scheduled for tomorrow. The results of the marathon stage may ultimately set the tone for the final standings of the Dakar Rally 2021.
Joaquim Rodrigues said, “Stage 7 was going to be a tough one. I wasn’t feeling very well in the morning and couldn’t find my flow initially. But then things started to come together and I got into a good rhythm, found my pace and brought my Hero bike to the finish in Top 10. I am really happy with the outcome today as the bike and tires are in a safe and good condition for tomorrow.”
Sebastian Buhler said, “First part of the Marathon today was a tricky stage with a lot of rocks so we had to be careful to keep the bike and tires safe. Overall, it was a positive stage for me and I am happy to arrive at the Marathon bivouac with everything in a good condition. Hopefully, we should be able to make a good stage tomorrow.”