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Riders keeping their fingers crossed

Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues, C.S. Santosh of the Hero MotoSports Team Rally

Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues, C.S. Santosh of the Hero MotoSports Team Rally   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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The Dakar Rally, which will be held from January 5 to 17, is considered one of the most demanding and gruelling in the world.

As the Dakar Rally moves to Saudi Arabia for the first time in its chequered history, the riders are keeping their fingers crossed, knowing pretty well the difficulties involved in the desert terrain.

The Dakar Rally, which will be held from January 5 to 17, is considered one of the most demanding and gruelling in the world.

First, the riders will have to contend with an early morning (5.30 a.m.) start and the extra number of kilometers (across the 12 stages) being a good 3000 more than last year (4900 and held in 10 Stages).

The Hero MotoSports Team Rally is not worried with things which are not under its control. The Indian team has prepared well and its riders have participated in multiple rallies across continents throughout the year — including the Pan African Rally in Morocco and SilkWay Rally in Russia, Mongolia and China — in the Road to Dakar campaign during 2019.

This edition will also witness Hero fielding a four-rider team for the first time with Paulo Goncalves, Joaquim Rodrigues (both Portugal), the reigning Pan African champion and India’s best bet C.S. Santosh. And the latest addition to Hero being the 25-year-old Sebastian Buhler of Germany.

Buhler replaced the consistent Oriol Mena, who aggravated an injury that ruled him out of Dakar 2020. The team management decided to rope in the promising Buhler, who has been training under the Hero MotoSports’ rider development programme.

Wolfgang Fischer, Head of Motorsports, Hero, said the team was geared up and will look to best its seventh position achieved in 2018.

“The Rally here will be a learning experience for us and it will not be easy. It is a new course and navigation is tricky. The riders have to race a lot on sand. Skill and endurance will be tested to the foremost,” Fischer said.

Santosh sounded upbeat of his chances. He said a chronic back problem is behind him now. “I am excited, it is a new chapter for me and the race is closer to home. I am not too worried about the race as my bike is reliable,” said Santosh after the ceremonial podium attended by a lot of enthusiastic fans assembled in the beautiful setting of the Corniche area of Jeddah, facing the majestic Red Sea.

The riders will kick-start their campaign with the first stage on Sunday that will take the rally from Jeddah to Al Wajh with a 319km special stage and a total run of 752km including the liaisons stages.

(The writer is in Saudi Arabia on the invitation of Hero MotoCorp).

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:52:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/riders-keeping-their-fingers-crossed/article30480074.ece

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