The Afriquia Merzouga Rally - a major rally raid event seen as a warm-up for the Dakar Rally - kicked off in Morocco yesterday with good news for Hero Motosports Rally and Sherco-TVS as the top riders from their respective contingents finished fifth and seventh, respectively, at the end of the first of six special stages.
Joaquim Rodrigues, who finished tenth overall in this year's Dakar Rally was fifth on the Hero-Speedbrain Rally 450 while Juan Pedrero was seventh overall at the end of the relatively short 41km special stage. Five more special stages are to come, out of which four stages are at least 179km long, with stage three being the longest at 274km.
INDIAN RIDERS IN TOP 20
India's two most prolific cross-country rally bikers, CS Santosh and Aravind KP were 16th and 20th, respectively. Making his international debut, Tanveer Abdul Wahid was classified 65th overall out of the field of 78 riders.
Wahid, a factory TVS Racing rider, gained an automatic entry to the Merzouga Rally as well as next year's Dakar Rally after being the highest placed rider to not have previously competed in the Dakar at the India Baja Rally.
Xavier de Soultrait leads the overall standings in the Moto class to lead a 1-2-3 for Yamaha ahead of KTM's Gerrard Farres Guell.
The second special stage continues today with a 188km long run, the first true test for the riders at the event.