The opening stage of Dakar 2020 brought mixed results for Hero MotoSports Team Rally today.

The Team’s riders rode with caution to avoid errors in the very first stage of what is going to be a long rally. Paulo Goncalves finished the stage in 12th place, Sebastian Buhler in 31st and CS Santosh in 39th place.

Paulo rode in his trademark style, cautious to begin with and then raking up some good pace in the second half. Sebastian Buhler had to make a small additional run to catch a waypoint while Santosh had his first taste of the Saudi sands with a couple of minor crashes but overall, did a good stage to climb up some ranks from his starting position.

However, not all went as per the plan for the Team as Joaquim Rodrigues suffered an unfortunate mechanical problem in his bike that forced him to forfeit the stage. He will try for a restart tomorrow, pending permissions from the competitors department and the recovery of the bike, becoming the first competitor of the rally to avail the newly introduced “Wild Card” rule. As per the rule, he will now be considered out of contention for an overall result, but remains in the competition for the stage results.

The stage took the rally from Jeddah to Al Wajh for a total run of 752 kms which included the special stage of 319 kms and provided a glimpse of everything that makes up this rally in quick succession – navigation, fast and winding off-piste, dunes, trials and stones – a stage truly worthy of being an opening stage of the Dakar 2020.

Stage 2 tomorrow will begin from Al Wajh and move to Neom, continuing along the Red Sea, for a special section of 367 kms to be done on the clock.

Paulo Goncalves (Comp No. 8) said, “It was a really interesting start of the Dakar 2020. A big stage of 320 kms and a mix of everything from stony tracks to trials to sand dunes. The navigation also was very complicated so I decided to ride with caution in the beginning to avoid navigation mistakes and crashes. I am happy with my start here as my feeling is good”

Joaquim Rodrigues (Comp No. 27) said, “I started the stage really well and got into a good rhythm. Later on into the stage my bike started having a problem and I had to stop. I tried to figure out what was wrong and fix it but I couldn’t get it to start again. It’s very unfortunate, but the rally is so unpredictable and these things happen. Now I will try to restart tomorrow under the new rules but my race for overall results is over. Now I am going to focus on finishing each stage and helping my teams as much I can.”

CS Santosh (Comp No: 50) said, “I was really excited to see what the Saudi terrains have to offer today. It was a really fast stage and had some technical sections as well with stones. I think I put together a good starting stage until after a tricky stony section where I had a crash and hurt my hand a bit. Overall, I am happy with my start and to see the back of stage 1 at the Dakar 2020.”

Sebastian Buhler (Comp No: 32) said, “It was a good stage for me. I felt comfortable with the new bike and felt good about my riding. It was a fast stage with many stony sections but it’s only the first day of a really long rally so I think I will continue to go like this.”

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