Lima (Peru), January 7: The 41st edition of the Dakar Rally, the world's most gruelling off road race, was flagged off amid much fanfare at the capital city of Peru here on Monday.
This edition of Dakar Rally marks the third year of participation for India's Hero MotorSports Team Rally, the motor sport division of the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer.
The three riders of Hero MotoSports Team Rally -- Oriol Mena of Spain, Portugese Joaquim Rodrigues and India's C S Santosh -- rolled off the ceremonial podium, in front of thousands of cheering fans assembled at the beautiful seaside district of Magdalena Del Mar.
The Hero team, which finished inside top 10 last year, is confident of its prospects at the Dakar 2019, riding on the back of some strong performances, intense training sessions and a much-improved Hero 450 RR bike that has been introduced since the last edition.
Another big positive for the team is the comeback of Rodrigues, who has undergone intensive rehabilitation after his injury at the Dakar last year. Having completed all the administrative and technical checks successfully, the team is raring to kick start its campaign with the first stage on Tuesday, which will take the rally from Lima to Pisco for a short warm up special of 84 kms.
This year The Dakar is being held in just Peru and will culminate on January 17. "Going into this Dakar in Peru - just one country, this means that we have to be able to manage 10 days of racing in the dunes. I think it's going to be a very difficult and hard race. Physically for the riders it's going to take a lot of energy to be able to put 300 odd kilometres in the dunes," Indian rider Santosh told PTI.
"I think that is a big challenge. Secondly, most of it is going to be off track racing and since we are going to race only in Peru, we are going to cross a lot of tracks from the previous days. So, navigation is going to be really important as we are not going to point A to point B or are doing loops. Therefore, I think we need to pay attention to the road book."
Senior pro Rodrigues too was of the opinion that it would be a difficult race. "Bike has definitely improved a lot, unfortunately, I wasn't able to ride it for few months because I was recovering from an injury, but I followed every step with the team and tried to helped everything I could with my experience for CS or Oriol or bike," he said.
"This year's Dakar is going to be more challenging mentally, physically and mechanically. With a lot of sand and dunes, it is going to be really hot and hard. I think this is a race where we have to take care of the bike so that bike can also take care of us. It is going to be tough to manage all that but I think we are in a good position," Rodrigues added.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said: "We are quite excited to be here at the Dakar 2019 for our third year now. We have had good preparations this year with some solid performances in the races and experience under our belt." For Spaniard Mena, it will be his second time here after emerging as the 'Best Rookie of the Dakar' last year.