- CS Santosh [Copyright: Hero MotoSports Rally Team]

Hero, Sherco TVS finish Andalucia Rally, Santolino was P3, Santosh P20, Noah P23

The two Indian-affiliated outfits fielded six riders in all and everyone saw the chequered flag.

Both Hero MotoSports Rally Team and Sherco TVS Racing had a sound run in the Andalucia Rally in Spain as they prepare for the 2021 Dakar Rally. The two teams had three riders each in their line-up where the Indo-French outfit opted for two under RallyE category and one in the 450cc.

Starting with Hero, it was a steady run from Sebastian Buehler, Joaquim Rodrigues and CS Santosh as they returned to competitive action for the first time since pulling out of 2020 Dakar due to the untimely death of Paulo Goncalves.

The 9 km Prologue started with Buehler in 10th followed by Rodrigues in 18th and Santosh 22nd. Moving into Stage 1, where they completed a 258 km loop, the Portuguese had a solid run to be 11th, while the German was 15th and the Indian 23rd.

After the good start, Rodrigues faced technical issue in 243 km Stage 2, where he had to be assisted by Santosh to the finish line. The Portuguese dropped to 28th overall, as Buehler took over as the lead Hero rider after finishing the stage in 10th, to be 12th overall.

Having helped his teammate towards the end, Santosh was 23rd in the stage and dropped a place to be 21st overall. The shortened 163 km Stage 3 saw some more drama for Hero, as this time Buehler needed help from Rodrigues during the running.

In doing so, Rodrigues finished 18th, to be 27th overall, while Buehler was 24th, to be 18th overall. Santosh, meanwhile, had a smoother run to 20th in the stage again and remain 21st overall ahead of the final 178 km Stage 4 to complete the rally.

Buehler was back up to speed to finish 12th in the stage and was 18th overall, while Santosh ended up 23rd in the stage to end the rally in 20th and Rodrigues was 20th in the stage to be 27th overall. Post rally, the Indian revealed of having tendonitis on his arm.

“We have successfully finished our very first rally after the Dakar 2020," said Santosh. "It was a long wait. It was good to be back on the bike but more importantly, it felt good to be back with my teammates. It was nice to start working again towards our goal of Dakar 2021.

"It has been a difficult year for us as a team and also for everyone else with the COVID-19 pandemic, so I think this is a very positive step to restart the racing activities. I want to thank everyone for backing us with their support. We are very excited to go to Dakar 2021 with a lot of energy."

At the same time, Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally added: "It was a very difficult comeback for the team after the loss of our friend and rider Paulo at Dakar 2020. We had our doubts as we planned to eventually come back to racing.

"Now, I am very happy to see the strength and character that everyone has shown to get things going again. Being here together was a great motivation for the team and it was also heartening to see them exhibit Paulo’s philosophy of all-for-one and one-for-all by supporting each other. We will put all this positive energy and momentum in getting ourselves ready for the Dakar 2021 in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, for Sherco TVS, Lorenzo Santolino started off well to be 13th in Prologue, whereas Rui Goncalves was 17th and Noah 25th. In Stage 1, it was a giant leap from the Spaniard as he ended up third with the Portuguese in 21st and the Indian in 26th - the latter had troubles.

The Stage 2 saw another solid run from Santolino to improve to second, with Goncalves in 18th and Noah 22nd. It was a slight setback for the Spaniard in Stage 3 where he finished ninth to drop to third overall as Noah did well to be 15th in the stage with Goncalves ending up 21st.

The final stage had Santolino finish sixth to be third overall and secure a podium finish, while Goncalves was 25th in the stage to be 21st overall and Noah 19th in the stage to be 23rd overall - as all six riders across the two teams doing a solid job in the end.

Harith Noah [Copyright: Sherco Racing]

Harith Noah [Copyright: Sherco Racing]

[Image courtesy: Hero, Sherco]

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