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Hero blows Dakar bugle

Indian two-wheeler major Hero MotoCorp’s motorsport division showcased its latest, most lethal Dakar Rally challenger ever – the RR 450. It was the first time the bike was shown in India and unveiling it were Dakar rider CS Santosh and Hero’s Chief Technology Officer, Markus Braunsperger

“I know our competitors at the Dakar have an edge over us in terms of experience and possibly, budgets” admitted Markus while speaking to TopGear India. “But I think we have a bike now which is fairly close to them,” he added. A thought seconded by Santosh.

The new bike is markedly different than Hero’s last year’s Dakar bike in terms of dynamics and handling. The chassis is new and there have been major upgradation on the weight distribution front. For example, the fuel tank has now been moved from the rear to the sides, which has helped, among other things, to lower the centre of gravity of the bike. It is marginally lighter too but not significantly considering the minimum weight required as per regulations.

“I have used the bike in two outings so far,” said Santosh. “It definitely is more confidence-inspiring. This should help us. I also need to add some weight considering how much I will lose over the two weeks at Dakar.”

The Dakar is arguably the toughest, most demanding rally-raid in the world. This 40th edition will start from Peru on January 6th and cross into Bolivia and finish in Argentina on January 20th. Nearly 500 competitors from 60 countries will travel nearly 9000km and include bikes, quad bikes, cars and trucks.

Hero made its Dakar debut last year and came pretty close to scoring a top-ten finish with Joaquim Rodrigues, while CS Santosh made sure of a hundred percent finish record. While both riders have been retained, there is a new face too in Spaniard motorcross rider Oriol Mena Valdearcos. It will be his first Dakar outing but he will be on Hero’s last year’s bike. Mena is part of Hero’s global program of finding new talent.

Hero isn’t the only Indian manufacturer in the fray at Dakar, though. TVS will also be fielding a team again which will include Indian KP Aravind as one of the riders. However, it may not be entirely correct to say that it will be battle between Hero and TVS there. Because the biggest challenge on this really long raid is just to finish. But Hero will no doubt look at improving upon their debut year results.

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