Hero MotoSports enjoyed a strong run in the 2019 PanAfrica Rally with Joaquim Rodrigues emerging victorious after five challenging stages in Morocco. CS Santosh also scored a strong finish, completing the rally in 5th place, to become the first Indian to achieve a top five finish in an international rally.
Rodrigues had initially moved to the top of the standings after winning Stage 2. He then lost the lead to TVS Sherco Rally Factory Team’s Adrien Metge after the next Dakar-style stage, with just 6sec separating the two. Unfortunately, Metge encountered technical issues in Stage 4 and had to retire as a result, once again handing the overall lead to Rodrigues; just one short 70km stage separated the Portuguese rider from victory. A 4th-place finish in the final stage helped him seal the win.
“I am really happy with this win. The past couple of years have been difficult for me after my crash at the Dakar in 2018. My road to recovery has been long and painful and I am happy to be finally getting back to my 100 percent. My confidence is back and my back is really good now. Congratulations to Santosh also for doing a great job and posting his personal best. My thanks to the entire team for supporting me and giving the best possible support. This win is for Hero MotoSports Team Rally,” said Rodrigues.
The 2019 PanAfrica Rally marked CS Santosh’s first international competitive outing following his crash at the 2019 Dakar Rally, earlier this year. He maintained a steady spot in the overall top 10, overcoming a small crash and issues with his roadbook to break into the top five after Stage 3. His performance in the next two stages ensured his finish at 5th overall. “It’s been a really good race for me. I was consistent and getting better with every stage. You always push yourself to do better than before, race your own limits. Finishing 5th here today is very satisfying. I am quite happy with the way this season has progressed, and with my training, so all we have to do now is to build on it to the Dakar,” he said after crossing the finish line.
The Sherco TVS Rally Factory Team, on the other hand, endured a rather tough run. Despite entering a total of five riders – Michael Metge, Adrien Metge, Johnny Aubert, Lorenzo Santolino and Abdul Wahid Tanveer – only Aubert was able to successfully complete the rally. Indian rider Abdul Wahid Tanveer was the first to retire from the team after suffering an injury in Stage 1. Santolino and Michael Metge were running 2nd and 4th overall when they were then forced to retire due to technical issues, followed by Adrien Metge having to retire at Stage 4. Johnny Aubert ended up being the sole finisher for the team, completing his debut rally for TVS in 6th place.