Hero MotoSports Team Rally concluded the 2021 Dakar Rally on a high as rider Joaquim Rodrigues finished 11th, while teammate Sebastian Buhler finished 14th in the general rankings. The riders were placed 12th and 15th respectively at the end of Stage 11 but managed to improve their respective in the 12th and final stage of the rally that included a 202 km of the competitive section. Stage 12 saw Rodrigues finish at P8 while Buhler finished 10th. The rally was an eventful and challenging one for the Indian factory that made a comeback after losing its rider Paulo Goncalves during the 42nd edition last year.
This year though has a number of challenges with 80 per cent of the new route across Saudi Arabia, which meant navigation errors were aplenty through the 12 stages and over 7600 km. While the team started out well in the initial stages, the fourth stage of the rally saw India's CS Santosh suffer a crash and hit his head. The rider was resuscitated after suffering head trauma and was immediately moved to the hospital in Riyadh where he was placed in an induced coma. As per the latest medical update, CS Santosh has been safely transferred to Bengaluru and has been brought out of sedation.
The onus then was on Rodrigues and Buhler who performed brilliantly over the remaining stages to make it to the finish line amidst the sand dunes, rocky terrains, unassisted marathon stage, and more. With nine Top-10 stage finishes including the prologue stage, Hero MotoSports had a good show at Dakar this year, while the Hero 450 Rally bike turned out to be dependable with no major issues reported.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager said, "Crossing the finish line of any Dakar is a great feeling but this year is very special for me personally and for the team as well. After what happened last year, we were not sure how we would be able to come back together like this and race again. But we did manage to pull-off this amazing feat thanks to the willpower and drive of the team. Then with the pandemic posing more challenges, it was very important to put up a reliable and competitive bike for the riders. Everyone stepped up and made the most of every small opportunity we got to test and develop the bike. At the Dakar, we had the accident of Santosh that shook us all over again. Our prayers and wishes goes out to him for a speedy recovery and we hope to see him back with us soon.
"I can just say that standing at the finish line today with the team, having overcome the challenges on all fronts, we are extremely happy and proud of what we have achieved this year. We want to express our thanks to the organizers of the Dakar and especially David Castera to make it happen this year despite the difficult times and show that dreams can still come true if one works towards them and also for giving the motorsports fans sitting at home a chance to live their adventures through us. Our gratitude and thanks go out to the entire Hero family for always supporting us and our fans and followers for cheering for us all along," he added.
Joaquim Rodrigues said, "I am so happy to have made it to the finish line. The stage had a lot of navigation so I tried to focus on that and avoid making any more mistakes in this last stage. The last few kms were the longest ever for me and when I saw the finish line I just felt so relieved. I made it to the finish for Paulo and my family. I want to thank all my teammates, Hero family and everyone who supported me to come back here and race again."
Sebastian Buhler said, "The last stage was quite nice and the terrain was also in the perfect condition because of the rains so I am very happy to cross the finish line today. This place brings so many bad memories to us so it was a big relief to finish the last stage. Also, it was the first big test for the bike and it worked perfectly so it was a great job done by the whole team. I want to thank my team, Hero family and our supporters for backing us through this difficult Dakar and the year. Hopefully, this new year will turn out to be better for all of us."