Cultures around the world have different times for when they celebrate the coming of the new year. For those in cross-country rallying, it falls at some time around September or October. You could argue that they would celebrate it as most of the Gregorian calendar following world would – particularly as the Dakar Rally starts in early January – but in truth, teams, riders and bikes all get their shakedown at events preceding the big one well before.
As is the case with the OiLibya Rally, which was the final round of the 2017 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship. The 2,600km long rally consisted of 1,870km of special stages run over five days.
Of course, the ideal preparation for a Dakar campaign would be a full FIM cross-country season, especially for Indians CS Santosh and Aravind KP. But decisions like those can only be taken by the higher-ups at Hero and Sherco-TVS. For the time being both companies can at least boast of international riders who gave their bikes decent placings at the OiLibya, and Hero MotoSports Team Rally got to put Speedbrain’s new machine into action for the first time. Allaying fears that it would see its competitive debut only at the Dakar.
Sherco-TVS were the best placed among the contingent with Indian involvement. Juan Pedrero and Adrian Metge were fifth and sixth overall out of the 61 classified finishers. While India’s Aravind KP was 15th. For Hero-Speedbrain Joaquim Rodrigues, who had made a sensational Dakar debut last year, was eighth while Santosh was 13th.
Despite hoping to have had more competitive outings before the Dakar, Santosh came away from Morocco feeling rather pleased with himself.
“From day one I made good progress and built up every day,” he said. “I definitely didn´t repeat the mistakes I made last year. Back then I struggled a lot but, this year I have a better feeling with the new bike and everything is working really well. I pay a lot of attention to navigation and for sure my speed has improved. Happy to go to the Dakar with a feeling like this.”
Aravind KP was similarly pleased with himself. “This was my second experience at the OiLibya Rally of Morocco and my training and preparation with the Sherco TVS team helped me push my limits and put in my best efforts,” he said. “I enjoyed riding through all stages of the rally and could tackle the challenges during these seven days. It was an immense learning experience for me. Support and guidance from my team helped me finish the rally in top 15.”
A top 15 finish for two Indian riders with Indian backing. It can safely be said that that’s something to be proud of. It would be great if both could carry this progression forward to the early days of 2018 too. That would make for one pretty happy new year, now wouldn’t it?