CS Santosh astride his Speedbrain 450 Rally tackling the dunes at the Merzouga Rally
The 2016 Merzouga Rally was as dramatic as people hoped it would be. The temperatures soared, the navigational challenges were confounding, and riders and motorcycles alike faced trouble tackling the sand dunes.
However, things went very well for the newly formed Hero MotoSports Team Rally. The team, a collaborative effort between Hero MotoCorp and German off-road specialist Speedbrain GmbH, fielded two Speedbrain 450 Rally motorcycles in the event. The first piloted by CS Santosh, India's big off-road hope, also the first Indian to ever compete in and complete the Dakar Rally. The second, piloted by Joaquim 'J-Rod' Rodrigues.
While the first few stages were tricky, it also became quickly evident that calm riding on the part of the Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders was the way forward. As the event progressed past the marathon stage into Stage 5 of the rally, things had settled into a nice rhythm. Joaquim Rodrigues finished fifth in the stage, while Santosh finished 26th in the stage.
This meant that the overall finishing positions of the riders of Hero MotoSports Team Rally were good. In the overall classification, Rodrigues was ranked ninth, while Santosh was ranked 16th.
The overall winner of the rally was Kevin Benavides. Stefan Svitko finished second, while Adrien Van Beveren finished third.