Dakar 2019 review: Highs and lows for Hero and Sherco TVS
The 2019 Dakar Rally was not a straightforward affair for either Hero or Sherco TVS, but both can derive satisfaction from what they achieved in the world’s toughest cross-country rally.
Purely from the final result, Hero has more reasons to rejoice. For a second year in running, Oriol Mena put Hero inside the top 10 - a massive achievement for a team still in its early years following the acquisition of Speedbrain.
Mena has been somewhat of a revelation in the cross-country rally in the last few years and Hero’s decision to poach him is clearly paying dividends.
The Spanish rider didn’t exactly have a clear run in 2019, with a crash in stage 5 and an out-of-fuel incident in the following stage, yet he managed to consistently run close to the front pack.
In fact, there was not a single stage where he finished outside the top 20. That meant that as other riders got eliminated, he gradually starting moving up the order, eventually finishing an impressive ninth.
Joaquim Rodrigues, Oriol Mena with the HERO Motorsports Team Rally members
Photo by: Hero MotoSports Team Rally
Things were less rosier for teammates CS Santosh and Joaquim Rodrigues, who both had their fair share of difficulties.
Santosh was forced to retire from the rally after a nasty crash in stage 5 that left him briefly unconscious. He was transferred to a local hospital and is currently going through a recovery phase.
Santosh’s retirement came as a surprise to many, despite Dakar’s unforgiving nature, given the amount of experience he has accumulated over the last few years. His only previous Dakar retirement came in the year 2016, when he was riding a problem-stricken Suzuki.
Santosh had started the 2019 edition of Dakar on a strong footing, finishing inside the top 20 in stage 1. A crash in stage 2 and a tricky waypoint in stage 3, where he fell into a ditch, derailed his challenge but there were plenty of opportunities remaining to regain lost time.
Case in point was the performance of his own teammate Rodrigues, who himself hit a series of issues in the first part of the rally.
Multiple crashes, fuel issues and navigational troubles dropped him outside the top 30, yet he staged a remarkable recovery drive to finish 17th in the final order.
That came despite injuring his back in the second half of the rally - for which he will require a surgery - and a 40 minute penalty for missing a waypoint.
Aravind KP’s finish amid Sherco TVS troubles
#48 Sherco TVS: Aravind KP
Photo by: TVS Racing
Despite Hero’s top 10 finish, Sherco TVS is guaranteed far more media coverage after its rider Aravind KP became only the second Indian to finish Dakar.
KP retired from his first two Dakar attempts in 2017 and ‘18, but came better prepared than ever for his third assault following an extensive training session in Morocco.
He lost a huge chunk of time in stage 3 stuck behind slow riders and suffered a minor crash in stage 5, before turning up the wick in the second half of the rally. He broke inside the top 50 in stage 6 and was eventually classified a respectable 37th in the final classifications.
Sherco TVS also had the honour of becoming the first team of Indian association to take a stage win in Dakar. It was team’s new recruit Michael Metge who achieved this feat, setting the quickest time in the penultimate stage.
That stage featured a different starting procedure, with riders lining up in groups of 10 at the start line. Metge came through from the second group, overtaking the line of riders in front of him to take a shock win.
Unfortunately, despite the pace he showed all through the rally, Metge had to settle for 25th in the final order. The French rider suffered an early setback when he lost 90 minute in stage 2 with a fuel outage and lost heaps of time in the final stage with yet another issue.
His brother and teammate Adrien also didn’t have a trouble-free run, with a fall in stage three leaving him with a sore wrist. Another crash in stage 7 damaged his bike’s navigational system but his tenacity meant that he was able to reach the finishing line at the end of stage 10, finishing 22nd overall.
However, issues for Metge brothers weren’t even Sherco TVS’ biggest disappointment. The team lost its lead rider Lorenzo Santolino, who turned heads by riding on the cusp of top 10 for the first half of the rally despite no prior Dakar experience.
Unfortunately, he suffered a huge crash in stage 6 that prevented him from achieving what Mena managed with Hero last year. Had he been able to avoid the fall and make it to the finishing line, he would have almost certainly been awarded the 'Rookie of the Year' title by Dakar organiser ASO.
The 2019 Dakar rally, despite being four days shorter than previous years, was not any less unforgiving and Hero-Sherco TVS battle once again provided a great storyline.
While the two manufacturer fought tooth and nail on track, it was humbling to see their sportsmanship too. In particular, Rodrigues stopped to assist Metge, who had run out of fuel in stage 7. The Hero rider lost crucial time in the incident, but what mattered is that he ensured one of the riders made it to the finish - even if he was from a rival team.
#50 HERO Motorsports Team Rally: CS Santosh
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
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About this article
|Drivers||CS Santosh , Aravind KP|
|Teams||Hero , Sherco Racing|