Hero MotoSports Team Rally managed to finish in the top 10 in Stage 8 of the 2021 Dakar Rally, bagging its third consecutive top 10 finish in the sport for the first time. Rider Sebastian Buhler showed an impressive run through the second half of the marathon stage and managed to finish at P10 at the end of the day, securing his first-ever finish in the top 10 in Dakar. Meanwhile, Joaquim Rodrigues had a tough outing and dropped to 25th in Stage 8, while privateer Harith Noah finished in 29th place.
The second leg of the marathon stage started from Sakaka to the Neom region covering a total distance of 709 km including the special section of 375 km. Buhler led the charge for Hero for the first time and made a stellar run through the sands, rocks, and gravel. Meanwhile, Rodrigues had a tough day after his bike hit a rock and he hurt his shoulder as a result of the impact. Nevertheless, he managed to get back on the bike and make it to the bivouac battling pain and discomfort, albeit at the cost of speed. Nevertheless, both the Hero riders are now placed in the top 20 with Rodrigues at P16 and Buhler moved up to 19th in the general standings.
For Harith Noah, Stage 8 was good on the bike and by his own admission, his best day yet in the rally. However, the TVS Racing-backed rider did make navigation errors towards the end of the stage, which cost him precious time after getting lost.
Joaquim Rodrigues said, "Things didn't go that well this morning as I hit a rock and though I didn't have a crash but hurt my arm and shoulder while tacking it. From there on I struggled a lot as I had to slow down quite a bit and somehow managed to get my bike to the bivouac. So, I am happy that I am back at the bivouac reunited with my team but now I need to get my shoulder checked to ensure that we are all good for tomorrow."
Sebastian Buhler said, "I am happy to be in the Top 10 today and to see one more stage in the books. I had to be very careful yesterday to not damage the bike in any way as we had no assistance in the marathon Bivouac. So, my bike was in a good condition today, I managed to ride more freely and build up a good rhythm and pace."
There was more good news for Indian fans as privateer Ashish Raorane announced his return to Dakar after a crash in Stage 5. The rider has been cleared by the medical team to participate once again and will continue the rally in the Dakar Experience category. While this doesn't make Raorane eligible for a ranking, he will still be able to ride in the next stages, and take valuable learning.
Stage 8 has also seen the defending champion Monster Energy Honda Team consolidate its leadership in Dakar 2021. The team's Jose Ignacia Cornejo not only clinched the stage but also leads the rally in the overall standings.
The 2021 Dakar Rally moves ahead with just four stages left. The rally will now stay in Neom to complete a loop of 465 km of the special section for Stage 9.
Provisional Rankings - Stage 8
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Monster Energy Honda Team 03h08m40s
2. Toby Price RedBull KTM Factory Team +01m05s
3. Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team +02m50s
10. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +7m58s
25. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +31m57s
29. Harith Noah Privateer +36m07s
Provisional Overall Rankings at the end of Stage 8
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Monster Energy Honda Team 32h00m11s
2. Toby Price RedBull KTM Factory Team +01m06s
3. Sam Sunderland RedBull KTM Factory Team +05m57s
16. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +01h17m49s
19. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +02h06m18s
32. Harith Noah Privateer +05h52m43s