Pisco (Peru), January 7: India's CS Santosh was placed 13th among the bikers at the end of the first stage of the gruelling Dakar Rally, while his Hero MotoSports Rally teammate Joaquim Rodrigues met with a crash which ended his race here.
Santosh clocked 24 minute 11 seconds to cover the first stage of 30 km. The first stage took place between Lima and Pisco. Another 13 stages remain in the world's toughest off-road rally, which will end on January 20 in Cordoba of Argentina via Bolivia.
. @AlAttiyahN and @Sundersam enjoyed a perfect start of the #Dakar2018 while things were much more complicated for Peugeot drivers— DAKAR RALLY (@dakar) January 7, 2018
// El #DakarPerú2018 ya sonrie a Al-Attiyah mientras los de Peugeot sufrieron. Sunderland mantiene sus buenisimas costumbres en el desierto. pic.twitter.com/rN9YuiuyPT
"The first day of a race is usually shaky. Today I had to ride just 30 km, but the stage tomorrow will go on for more than 200 km. It is a long way to go and anything can happen at any stage in such a long rally," Santosh said after the first day's race. "This year, there is a big change in the bike from last year and it's much easier to ride. I am enjoying my time."
Riding on a vastly improved and new look Hero RR 450 bike with the Indian tri-colour imprint on it, Santosh set off from the starting line here in Bib No 49. His Hero MotoSports Team Rally teammate Joaquim Rodrigues met with a crash midway into the 1st stage.
The rider from Portugal, who finished 12th last year, suffered injuries on his hand and back, and will not take part in the remaining stages. "It is unfortunate that Rodrigues' race ended early. He met with a crash and suffered injuries in his hand and back. He is all right now but will not further take part in the race," a team official said.
Rodrigues overshot a sand dune for nearly 10m and his bike landed on top of another dune. He was thrown out of his bike and had to be evacuated from the course. He was rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment. "X-rays were taken and he was examined by doctors. He was all right and his condition was not that serious. But he is out of the race," the team spokesperson said.
Hero MotoSports Rally's third rider Oriol Mena Valdearcos of Spain was placed 22nd after the first stage. Another Indian in the bikers' category, Aravind KP of TVS Racing was 30th.
Earlier on Saturday (January 6), Santosh set off for the fourth time at the gruelling Dakar Rally with an aim of recording his best ever show at world's toughest off-road rally. "I believe I am having my best preparation ever and I hope to do well. I am mentally and physically prepared," Santosh said, even as he rode his bike towards the starting line in Lima.
"The weather is also almost similar with that in India and so I am confident I can do well. Let us see," he added.
The new 'Hero RR 450' rally bike is making its debut at the Dakar this year. The new bike is an upgrade of the well-proven rally bike from last year, with new design and styling of tank, body parts and front section to improve mass centralization, handling and riding ergonomics.
The new 'Hero 450 RR' proved its capabilities at the OiLibya Rally in Morocco this year. The key learning from the Teams rookie year and last year's Dakar experience have been implemented in the bike. There are several improvements in the bike, which have increased the riders' confidence.
The biggest and toughest rally-raid in the world, Dakar, in its 40th edition will cross three countries, starting with Peru and travelling through Bolivia before concluding in Argentina on January 20.
This edition will witness participation of 500 competitors from 60 countries who will cover a grueling stretch of almost 9,000 km. Out of the overall 14 stages, seven will include 100 per cent dunes/off-piste, one marathon stage for all categories and one marathon stage for bikes and quads only.