On Sunday (May 23, 2016)
evening it was heartening to see among the sea of KTM, Yamaha, Honda and
Husqvarna motorcycles, two participants from Hero Motorsports Team Rally making
their debut in one of the toughest races, the Afriquia Merzouga Rally as it finally
kicked off into gear with a three-kilometre prologue held near the little
village of Merzouga in the south eastern part Morocco.
The Hero MotoSports Team
Rally had a solid beginning with both riders placing inside the top 15.Rally
rookie Joaquim Rodrigues powered his Speedbrain 450 to eighth place with a time
of 3:31 minutes. India´s Chunchunguppe Shivasha Santosh scored 15th position,
32 seconds behind prologue winner Kevin Benavides. This lets both riders start
tomorrow´s first stage inside the lead group. The recently formed team could
have hardly asked for a better start.
The Afriquia Merzouga Rally
welcomes also the return of Stefan Svitko, on the podium last year and one of
the favourite after the strong performance shown on the Dakar 2016 (second), of
Yamaha Racing and the Honda HRC Rally team at the start with Kevin Benavides
and Ricky Brabeck, for the first time at Merzouga. “It’s my first race as an
official Honda factory rider and the first time that I ride on such big dunes”,
said the Argentinian Kevin Benavides, “it will be interesting”, he noted before
"Today was a good day for
me," said Rodrigues, who hails from Portugal. "Earlier we had a practice
lap and I actually did it twice. It was my first encounter with the roadbook. I
was not super confident yet, but I learn a lot on these days. This is why we
came here with the team. The prologue itself was okay, I followed the lines and
stayed safe. I finished the day, tomorrow the real rally starts," he said.
"Today the feeling was
good," commented CS Santosh. "This morning we did the practice with
two 30-kilometre roadbook sections. The bike is going good and everything is
working well. The main focus in the prologue was to bring it back home and have
a good position for tomorrow. That worked out fine," he added.
Managing Director Wolfgang
Fischer expressed full satisfaction with the opening day: "The first day
for Hero MotoSports Team Rally went pretty nice. We have seen the initial
kilometres in the prologue and through the dunes. There is a good mood in the
team and we´re growing together pretty fast. Now we´re looking forward to
tomorrow and the first real desert stage. Joaquim Rodrigues is right in the
middle of the starting order among the Top 15. CS Santosh will be the first
rider out and open the track. He´ll enter the dunes without any tracks in front
of him. That will be valuable for him and his navigation experience."
Monday´s stage starts early
for the riders at 7.00 am. The route is characterised by a 165-kilometre
special test around the famous "Erg Chebbi" and through the
"Grande Dune de Merzouga". Four further days of racing follow from
Tuesday to Friday.
Result Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2016, Prolog:
1. Kevin Benavides, ARG, Honda
2. Adrien van Beveren, FRA,
3. Ricky Brabec, USA, Honda
4. Ruben Faria, POR, Husqvarna
5. Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM
8. Joaquim Rodrigues, POR,
15. CS Santosh, IND, Hero
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