Jeddah: Former World Rally Champion Paulo Goncalves will be representing Hero MotoSports Team Rally for the first time in the Dakar Rally starting here on Sunday.
This is fourth consecutive appearance for Hero MotoSports Team Rally at the world’s most gruelling and competitive rally raid.
“This is my first Dakar with Hero MotoSports and I am extremely excited,” said Goncalves.
“We have had an eventful past few months and my earlier outings with the team have been very promising. I look forward to supporting the growth of this young and impressive Team.”
With impressive results over previous three years, the Team this year will be represented by 2019 Pan Africa Rally winner, Joaquim Rodrigues, ace Indian rider CS Santosh, and Sebastian Buhler, besides Goncalves.
Buhler replaces Spain’s Oriol Mena, who unfortunately aggravated an existing injury, ruling him out of Dakar 2020.
“It is a great opportunity for me to be a part of Hero MotoSports Team Rally in Dakar 2020. I have been preparing extensively and have already trained on the bike, so I think I’m well prepared for this big challenge,” Buhler said.
“I’m glad to be a part of this team. It’s sad that Oriol could not be fit in time for the Dakar.”
Oriol finished 2018 and 2019 editions of the Dakar with Top-10 finishes and was the ‘Rookie of the Year’ during Dakar 2018.
To fill his spot, the team management decided to rope in Buhler, who has been training under the Hero MotoSports’ rider development program.
Buhler, 25, is from Germany and this will be his second attempt at the Dakar after an impressive top-20 finish during his debut attempt in 2019, as an independent participant.
In a short career span of six years, Buhler has won four titles and secured 45 podium finishes.
The 42nd edition of the Dakar Rally comprises 12-stages, which will conclude in Qiddiyah near the country’s capital of Riyadh.
The competitors will battle over 5,000 kms, covering an overall distance of nearly 7,900 kms.
In addition to discovering the Saudi Arabian dunes in the second half of the Rally, the first half will take the competitors through a labyrinth of tracks where navigation-skills will be essential.
The Hero MotoSports Team Rally is currently going over its final stretch of preparations ahead of the ceremonial flag-off on January 4.
Wolfgang Fischer, team manager, Hero MotoSports Team Rally: “We are excited to be at the Dakar Rally for the fourth consecutive year. It’s a bittersweet moment for us though while we have the Champ, Paulo joining us this year at Dakar, Oriol will miss out as his recovery from the injuries is still not adequate for competitive racing.
“We are constantly working towards shaping young talent and it is a delight to have the promising young rider, Sebastian join the team as the fourth rider in the Rally. We have had the most successful ‘Road to Dakar’ campaign this year and are fully prepared for the upcoming Dakar.”
CS Santosh, who will be making his sixth straight appearance at Dakar, said he is looking for a good outing.
“I am very excited to be racing at the Dakar again and I’m hoping to give my best. We have had a good run-up to this year’s Dakar. The preparations have been thorough and we are extremely motivated for the Rally,” said the 36-year-old.
Established in 2016, Hero MotoSports Team Rally has rapidly emerged as one of the top teams in international rally-racing, delivering impressive performances across the world.
With two back-to-back Top-10 Dakar finishes and a 100 per cent arrival rate for the machines, Hero MotoSports Team Rally has made its mark at the Dakar Rally.