New Delhi, Dec 14: With its newly customised lighter bikes this time around, Hero MotoSports Team Rally aims to make it count at the Dakar Rally, scheduled to be held in Peru, Bolivia and Argentina in January.
Team manager Wolfgang Fischer on Thursday called the new ‘Hero RR 450’ rally bike “an upgrade” of the well-proven rally bike from last year, with especially a proper weight distribution.
The bike has new design, styling of tank, body parts and front section to improve mass centralization, handling and riding ergonomics.
Indian participant C.S. Santosh said that the new bike proved its capabilities at the OiLibya Rally in Morocco this year. Joaquim Rodrigues and Oriol Mena are the other two drivers of the team.
“This one is easy to handle and agile. They have addressed all the things the drivers wanted to improve for better handling. It is a massive improvement on the bikes we had last year at the Dakar,” Santosh said.
Fischer said that the previous bike had a heavy rear and this time they have worked on it to sort it out.
The Dakar Rally, for its 40th edition, will cross three countries, starting with Peru on January 6, 2018 and travelling through Bolivia before concluding in Argentina on January 20. Peru has returned as a host after a gap of four years so it will add to the challenge.
This edition is expected to witness the participation of 500 competitors from 60 countries who will cover a gruelling stretch of almost 9,000 km.
Fischer said that due to contrasting terrain and different weather between Peru and Bolivia, the drivers will find it really tough. While in Peru, the drivers will be greeted with sand routes and hot weather while Bolivia will treat them with high altitude, cold climate on the way through mountains and lakes.
Argentina, Fishcher said will have a mix of Bolivia and Peru as far as navigating conditions are concerned. “Argentina will present dry riverbeds, hot sand areas, fast tracks and it is a mix of everything,” Fischer said.
“Drivers will face wide spectrum of challenges like sea level of Peru to high altitude of around 4,000 to 5,000 metres in Bolivia. So, technical things have to be right,” Fischer said.
He also said that their aim as a team is to grab a top-10 finish.
Out of the overall 14 stages, seven will include 100 per cent dunes, one marathon stage for all categories and one marathon stage for bikes and quads only.
Santosh said: “I struggled a lot last time. I wasn’t in good physical shape. They say Dakar is tough every year and that is true. But I have matured and experience teaches you great things.
“I have strong confidence in our training and experience. A long-term planning is required to be ready for the Dakar. I think I am best prepared for this one. My aim is to show speed and grab some TV time!”
The Karnataka man also said that going through the roadbook is extremely important.
The participants are not allowed to take a look at the competition routes prior to the race. They are just given a roadbook.
“We need to visualise and expect the route from the roadbook, going by instincts and experience,” Santosh said.
The team’s Chief Technology Officer Markus Braunsperger said: “The team is stronger, both in terms of men and machine. We are focused on improving our last year’s performance at the Dakar next month and believe that we have the right tools to do it.
“Next year will be important for us, as we aim to win more rallies and grow the sport in India.”