The 2020 Dakar Rally will mark Hero MotoSports Team Rally's fourth consecutive appearance.
Hero MotoSports will head into the upcoming 2020 Dakar Rally, their fourth consecutive outing, with a four-rider squad (a first for the homegrown racing outfit). The 2020 rider line-up was announced today at a press conference at Hero MotoCorp's headquarters in New Delhi. Joining the trio of CS Santosh (India), Oriol Mena (Spain) & Joaquim Rodrigues (Portugal) this year is former FIM Cross-Country Rally world champion from Portugal, Paulo Goncalves. Goncalves first tackled the Dakar back in 2006 and has achieved four top-10 finishes since, with a second-place finish in 2015 being his best result in Dakar, to date.
As mentioned above, 2020 will mark Hero MotoSports' fourth consecutive year at Dakar. After securing a top-10 finish in the previous two editions, Hero will look to improve upon their results further in 2020, with an aim to have more riders in the top-10. In the 2019 Dakar rally, CS Santosh suffered an early retirement while Rodrigues (JRod) finished the rally 17th overall. It was Mena who earned Hero their top-10 finish, securing a 9th-place finish.
As many may be aware, the 2020 Dakar Rally will take place in Saudi Arabia, bringing an end to the sports' decade-old South American stint. Due to be held from 5-17th January 2020, the 42nd edition of the rally will start from Jeddah. It will pass through Riyadh & culminate at Al Qiddiya. Adapting to a new terrain & climate will certainly prove to be challenging for all riders.
During a quick chat with CS Santosh, we got a chance to discuss with him the change of venue and its possible effects on his preparation. As it turns out, Santosh will be looking forward to riding in Saudi Arabia as he feels the conditions there will be pretty much similar to what the riders encounter in the Morocco Rally (Rallye du Morroc). Therefore, the change of venue shouldn't be as challenging as it may sound. Further, the cold & wet conditions of South America (Peru & Bolivia) always proved to be difficult, whereas a dry climate & sandy terrain of Saudi Arabia is likely to provide more favourable riding conditions.
When asked whether he'll be going all-guns-blazing to achieve a top-10 spot or focusing on finishing the rally (with respect to his retirement in the last season), Santosh remarked that his aim will be to carry forward the consistency he's been achieving throughout his 2019 outings. With a new mechanic at hand & his own riding setup in play this time (Santosh revealed that until now, he was dependent on JRod's bike setup), the 2020 Dakar might just provide the breakthrough he's after.