The 2018 Dakar Rally has come to a close with Hero MotoSports' rookie rider Oriol Mena making it a memorable one for the Speedbrain Rally supported squad as he scores an overall finish of seventh overall. CS Santosh's recovery from a disastrous stage four culminated in a career best finish of 34th overall while Sherco-TVS' Joan Pedrero was 11th overall.
This year's rally has already gone down in Dakar Rally lore as having featured some of the toughest stages the competitors have ever encountered with vast, sandy dunes in Peru that hide sudden drops when the sun is bright as well as camel grass sections in Argentina and cold and muddy conditions in Bolivia.
But the 85 classified finishers (out of 140 starters) have put that behind them and among them are three factory bikes with Indian involvement and one of them piloted by an Indian rider.
The final stage of the rally today featured a timed section of 'just' 120km in a loop that went around the Argentinian town of Cordoba, where the 2018 edition of the fabled rally-raid has come to a close.
After scoring a top ten finish in last year's event, which was also their first, Hero MotoSports will be over the moon to repeat the feat and improve on what Joaquim Rodrigues managed in 2017 when he was tenth overall.
While Rodrigues had to retire due to a severe back injury after misjudging a jump, Mena took to the event like a duck to water and consistently climbed his way up the standings after a steady start.
But the team will also be equally releived and happy to see CS Santosh cross the finish line in 34th place, a 12-place improvement from last year, when he first participated with Hero MotoSports. Santosh will no doubt rue the costly error in the fourth stage where an improperly fitted fuel cap on his bike's rear tank led to him running out of fuel and finishing 101st on the stage. However, his recovery from an overall standing of 56th after stage four to 34th overall was evidence of his toughness, particularly as he nursed an injured ankle after a crash.
Meanwhile Sherco-TVS will take heart from Aravind KP's marked improvement from his debut participation in 2017 before he had to retire after stage five but also at how the ever reliable Joan Pedrero finished right on the fringe of the top ten.