The 2017 edition Afriquia Merzouga Rally concluded yesterday (12th May 2017) near the town of Erfoud, in Morocco, with the Indian team Hero MotoSports Team Rally returning yet another impressive performance at an international rally raid event.
Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders, Joaquim Rodrigues and CS Santosh finished the rally of 6 stages successfully and JRod finishes the rally in top 10 positions.
Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2017 is the ultimate test of riders through unforgiving terrain, high temperatures, and demanding conditions. Set in the backdrop of Sahara Desert, the race is scheduled from 7th-12th May, 2017, covering about 1200 km of off-road tracks and special stages.
Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2017, Stage 6
Team rider Joaquim Rodrigues finished the Stage 6 today in 2nd place, giving himself an impressive 9th position in the overall standings. Team’s Indian star rider CS Santosh ended the Rally at 17th position in the overall standings, turning in a steady performance following a spine injury earlier in the year. He finished the 6th Stage in 24th position.
Today’s Stage of the rally tested the riders in a single loop of 50 kms, in Motocross-style. Before turning off the engines, the riders completed a total of 1,200 demanding kilometers through the Moroccon desert.
Participating in the Rally for a second consecutive year with Hero MotoSports, JRod had lost a few positions in Stage 3, when he got stuck in a sandstorm and suffering a damage to the bike’s cooling system. This is yet another great result for the Team’s Portuguese rider who is growing in promise and stature with each rally he participates in.
His Indian team-mate CS Santosh ended his week in the top 20, in overall rankings. This is an impressive performance from the rider, given the difficulty in making a comeback after an injury, more so in the rally because of the extremely tough conditions the riders have to face, but Santosh’s gritty performance proved once again that why he is considered the India’s best in rally racing.
With this Hero MotoSports Team Rally rounded-off the first half of this season with four great performance – Dakar (January), Desert Storm (February), India Baja (April), Merzouga (May). The Team will continue building momentum upto the Dakar 2018.
Joaquim Rodrigues, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “It was a good last stage for me, arriving second. There was a big battle happening in the dunes which was a lot of fun. I pushed hard and made it to the lead but I lost time due to two crashes. Very happy for a good result for the Team. It was a good rally for us and now we focus on the next rallies to come. ”
CS Santosh, Rider, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “What a great end to a fantastic 6 days of racing here in Morocco. It has been a year since my journey with Hero began and I have definitely made a lot of progress from the way I rode last year to this year. I came here with the target to gain experience and finish the Rally with a decent result. I’m happy to have achieved both. Overall, an exciting and purposeful Rally for the whole team.”
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “Another 100% finish for the team with both the riders arriving at the finish line. We couldn’t ask for more as it was a really good race. We overcame the challenges and our struggles and finished the race. And that’s what matters. Just as last year, Merzouga is proving to be a good training and testing ground for the bikes and the riders. This year was more difficult than before in terms of navigation and to have a complete race like that is very useful for the riders. Congratulations to the whole team and greetings to India. “
Provisional Results Stage 6
1. Xavier De Soultrait, Yamaha, 1:05:48 Hr
2. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +00:03 sec
3. Ivan Cervantes , KTM, +00:06 sec
24. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +11:48: min
Provisional Results Overall
1. Xavier De Soultrait, Yamaha, 14:54:36 Hr
2. Gerard Farres Guell, KTM, +13:07 min
3. Franco Caimi, Yamaha , +22:31 min
9. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01:35:07 Hr
17. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally , +03:37:58 Hr
Merzouga Rally 2017, Stage 5
Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders, Joaquim Rodrigues and CS Santosh have overcome the hardest stage of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally 2017 in Morocco. The 5th stage was the end of the 2 day Marathon stage, with extremely technical and challenging terrain. The Marathon Stage sees the riders having to undertake repairs on their machines themselves, with no help from the team.
The 2 day Marathon stage tested the riders with zones that were quite dangerous and very technical, thus challenging the riders’ bike control to the maximum. After staying overnight on their own, under the stars of the Moroccan desert and another episode of bad sand storm, the riders went to work this morning to complete the penultimate stage of the race. Already made difficult by the absence of the mechanics and the support crew, the second day of the Marathon stage of 206 km tested the riders with many dunettes, big stone fields and tricky navigation throughout.
Joaquim Rodrigues, made a good run today, taking control of the stage with his cool head, steadfast resolve and ever improving navigational skills. He was in fact very close to clinching the stage victory, only missing it by 1:07 min. In the end, he finished today’s stage in the 4th place, his best stage finish since winning the prologue.
For CS Santosh too, the stage started well but a nasty crash after that impacted his progress in the stage greatly. Santosh lost a lot of time due to the crash and finished the stage in 36th position.
Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “I lost a bit of time yesterday in the Marathon stage, looking for a secret waypoint but today I started off really well and got myself to the end in a very good position. For now, we just wait for the last stage tomorrow and bring my bike home for Hero MotoSports Team Rally”
CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally said, “The Marathon stage is generally the turning point of any cross country any rally. For me the marathon stage started alright but a couple of crashes and navigations errors hampered my performance. I wasn’t feeling too good with the bike and found that I had some damage there. My focus was to bring it home today and get it in shape for the last stage tomorrow.”
Provisional Results Stage 5
1. Mena Oriol, Honda, 03:12:04 Hr
2. Botturi Alessandro, Yamaha, +00:07 sec
3. De Soultrait Xavier, Yamaha, +00:26 min
4. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01:07 min
36. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01:25:04 Hr
Provisional Results Overall
1. De Soultrait Xavier, Yamaha, 13:48:48 Hr
2. Farres Guell Gerard, KTM, +12:43 min
3. Caimi Franco, Yamaha, +21:56 min
9. Joaquim Rodrigues, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +01:35:04 Hr
17. CS Santosh, Hero MotoSports Team Rally, +03:26:10 Hr
The hardest two days of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally began today with the commencement of the Marathon Stage. JRod rode with great temperament and purpose to finish the stage at an impressive 5th position. With this result, he has thumped his way back into the top 10 in the overall general rankings.
The Erg Rissani region known for its soft sands, which the competitors have not crossed since the 2014 edition, was the first test that the riders had to tackle before hitting the tracks again amidst the sandy mountains including a few steep stony uphill climbs. Due to yesterday’s stand storm, today’s special stage of 274 kilometers was shortened by 80 kms.
After a difficult stage 3, both Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders, started the marathon stage well with great intent and focus to gain back the positions they had lost in the sandstorm of yesterday.
CS Santosh, too had a good run today, maintaining a steady performance to finish the stage at 17th position, and thus retaining his 15th position in the overall rankings at the end of stage 4.
Today’s good performance of Hero MotoSports Team Rally, with both riders back in top 15, brings in the right momentum required to place them in a good stead for the second half of the rally.
The third stage of the ongoing Afriquia Merzouga Rally in Morocco proved to be difficult for riders when a desert storm passed across the rally, during the second half of the stage. The storm lasted for only about 30 minutes but was enough to complicate matters for the riders and the organizers.
The third stage was relatively shorter and took riders around in twin loops of Erfoud – bigger loop accounting for 112 km and the inner loop adding another 63 km to make up the total of 175 km.
Joaquim Rodrigues started the stage well, but a puncture in the bike’s cooling system forced him to stop to fix the leaking coolant, making him loose time in the process. However, things got worse for him as he found himself caught in the middle of the sand storm, forcing him to stop in the middle of his run, while the other riders had already passed the finish line. He finished the day at 23rd place.
The stage proved testing for Santosh as well, as he struggled with a malfunction in his roadbook equipment causing him a delay in finishing the 1st loop. The 2nd loop turned out to be much better for Santosh as he rode through the small dunes with ease until he too got caught in the storm just a few kms before the stage finish. Santosh finished the day at 17th position.
Stage two of the Afriquia Merzouga Rally proved to be yet another impressive day for Hero MotoSports Team Rally with Joaquim Rodrigues and C S Santosh showing great temperament on a hot and tricky day to deliver a steady performance.
The day was marked by special stage of 188 kilometres for the riders to race in the Erg Chebbi region of Merzouga with a total distance of 241 km including the 53 km liaison section. The stage tested the riders with big dunes, dry river bed crossings and tough navigation sections.
JRod started strong but lost a bit of time in finding a tricky waypoint in the dunes. He made up some time in the second half of the stage but with a lot of dust making the visibility a challenge, he decided to be more cautious to bring the bike home safely. JRod finished the day at 9th position as per the provisional rankings.
Indian motorsport star C. S. Santosh, who finished the first stage in 16th position, rode solid through the second stage and gained a position to finish in top 15.
We have shared the stage 1 results on 8th May 2017. Click Here