Hero MotoSports has revealed its rider line-up for the upcoming 2023 Dakar Rally, which will be held in Saudi Arabia from December 31 to January 15. A total of four riders, including Dakar stage winners Joaquim Rodrigues and Ross Branch, will represent the Indian squad for their seventh Dakar appearance.
- Hero will be the only Indian manufacturer at Dakar 2023
- Caimi, Buhler to make their Dakar return
Hero Dakar 2023 line-up
With TVS ending its factory participation in the Dakar Rally in 2021, Hero MotoCorp remains the only Indian manufacturer to compete in the event. Leading the charge for the team will be Rodrigues, who handed Hero their maiden Dakar stage win earlier this year. The Portuguese rider has been with the team since its inception in 2016.
Meanwhile, Branch will be representing Hero at Dakar for the very first time. But he’s no stranger to the rally, having participated four times earlier and even taking home a stage win in 2020. Since joining Hero MotoSports in February 2022, Branch has scored quite a few stage wins and podiums at various international rallies.
Franco Caimi and Sebastian Buhler will both be making their Dakar return. Caimi was forced to sit out Dakar 2022 after suffering a fall while training in Dubai and was replaced by Aaron Mare at the last minute. Buhler, meanwhile, had injured himself while competing in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge and had to skip Dakar 2022 to focus on his recovery.
Both riders have recovered from their respective injuries and have participated in select events in the run-up to next year’s Dakar Rally.
As for the bike, all four riders will compete on the Hero 450 Rally, which features some updates to meet the new regulations, including a new top speed limit of 160kph.
“We have had a great year so far, and we look forward to starting the next season with a strong performance at the Dakar 2023," said Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally. "The team’s preparations have been good and with all four riders in action, we are hopeful of a successful race. The bikes have been performing extremely well, and we are excited to be back for our seventh tryst with the ultimate test."
Dakar 2023 route
After the prologue on December 31, the rally will officially kick off from the beaches of the Red Sea on January 1 and conclude on the sands of the Arabian Gulf in Dammam on January 15. A total of 14 stages will be held across 15 days. That’s two stages more than before, making this the longest distance of competition since 2014.
In total, the route will cover 8,549km and over 4,700km of this will be timed sections. 365 vehicles are expected to hit the start line, with 143 of them in the bikes category.
Some new rules are being introduced as well, including a time bonus for those who open stages in the bikes category.