Hero MotoSports Team Rally is all set for its third outing in the gruelling Dakar rally after revealing the latest iteration of its 450RR bike at a press conference in Delhi.
The team’s entire line-up comprising CS Santosh - the only Indian to finish Dakar - Joaquim Rodrigues and Oriol Mena were present at the event along with team boss Wolfgang Fischer and Hero’s Chief Technical Officer Markus Braunsperger.
The rally arm of Indian two-wheeler giant Hero MotoCorp made a sensational Dakar debut in 2017, securing a best finish of 12th in its very first attempt.
It took a major step forward in the 2018 edition of the event, with Mena bagging the team’s first top 10 result by finishing seventh.
The Indian team now aims to build on these results as its gear up for its third successive appearance in the South American cross-country rally.
Next month’s Dakar will present a completely different challenge, with the rally taking place entirely in Peru.
Riders will cover a distance of 5,000 km across 10 days, with much of the terrain made up of sand dunes.
Given the nature of the event, most of Hero’s efforts this year has been spent on preparing the bike around sandy terrain.
It took part in several rallies that offer similar challenges in term of navigation and terrain, including the Merzouga Rally in Morocco, the Atacama Rally in Chile and the Desafio Inca Rally in Peru.
The bike itself has had incremental upgrades to suit sand dunes, with the team having made major strides on the cooling side of the 450RR.
The riders, too, underwent special training to improve their riding and navigation skills around sand dunes.
Much of the focus will again be on Santosh, who is eyeing a top-20 finish after securing his best result (35th) in the 2018 edition of the event.
Mena already showed his potential by finishing seventh in his very first Dakar rally, while reaching the finishing line will be a big achievement in itself for Rodrigues, who is still not 100% fit after breaking several bones, including the spine, in a horrific crash in this year’s Dakar rally.
The 2019 edition of Dakar will run from January 6-17.