Hero MotoSports Team Rally completed its Dakar 2021 campaign with a fantastic result as both Team riders crossed the final finish line today in Jeddah.

Joaquim Rodrigues, for whom this was a highly emotional Dakar, finished the last stage with yet another top-10 finish at 8th place, making it his sixth Top-10 stage finish in this Dakar. Sebastian Buhler was not far behind and also posted another Top 10 for the team with 10th place finish in this last stage, his third of the rally.

At the end of an emotionally charged and grueling 12 stages, Hero MotoSports delivered an impressive performance with both riders posting their best-ever Dakar standings. Joaquim Rodrigues, battling with his mind and emotions throughout, bettered his debut Dakar standing by one and finished at 11th place. For Sebastian, it was a great learning curve. Already considered as one of the most promising young riders, Buhler further cemented his reputation by finishing this year on 14th place, his best ever and his first Top-15 at the Dakar.

It was by far the toughest Dakar Rally for the Team, given the overwhelming emotional backdrop, further accentuated by the pandemic. Coming into the toughest rally on the planet with a relatively untested new Hero 450 Rally bike and a very short racing and training season, it was by no means an easy task to do well in this Dakar.

The performance of the new bike and the Team’s strong performance at the Andalucia Rally and BAJA Portalegre provided them with just the right momentum and confidence to take the start line at the Dakar 2021 earlier this month. The Team, undeterred by their circumstances and determined to do this Dakar as a tribute to late Paulo Goncalves delivered a gritty and hard-fought performance stage after stage.

Hero MotoSports will take back a lot of positives from here. First and foremost, the new Hero 450 Rally has delivered an absolute flawless performance and a 100% arrival record in its Dakar debut. The fact that the riders attributed a lot of their success in this Dakar to the bike is a testimony to the excellence and hard work that has gone behind in developing this top-class machine.

Secondly, the resurgence of Joaquim Rodrigues is a huge gain for the Team. Joaquim’s grit and determination has been an inspiration for not just the Team but the entire rally community and augers really well for the Team’s future. Not to miss out on the fact that C S Santosh was also well on his way to deliver potentially his best Dakar yet, until a crash cut short his run. He was looking good on the bike and his confidence, navigation and rhythm seemed to have definitely moved a few notches higher than the previous years.

Finally, the exciting prospect of the promising Sebastian Buhler who is continuously growing in skills and sport awareness, will give a lot of comfort to the Team as they look ahead to the future.

With 9 Top-10 stage finishes including the Prologue stage, it was a great show by the entire Team and the Hero 450 Rally bike.

Update on C S Santosh

C S Santosh was transferred by Air Ambulance from Riyadh to Bengaluru on Thursday without any issues. As per the latest information, he has been brought out of the induced coma successfully. He is now receiving the next stage of treatment and continues to be in CCU for observation. We will share further updates at appropriate times.

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 will power 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 (Competitor No. 27) 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 team mates, Hero family and everyone who supported me to come back here and race again.”

Sebastian Buhler (Competitor No. 24) 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.”

Provisional Rankings – Stage 12

1. Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team 02h 17m 02s

2. Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team +02m 17s

3. Matthias Walkner RedBull KTM Factory Team +04m 13s

8. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +12m 18s

10. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +13m 06s

Provisional Overall Rankings at the end of Stage 12

1. Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team 47h 18m 14s

2. Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team +04m 56s

3. Sam Sunderland RedBull KTM Factory Team +03h 04m 24s

11. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +02h 38m 58s

14. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +04h 00m 03s