Dakar Rally, the 40th edition of world's most gruelling rally-raid has just concluded in Cordoba, Argentina, after two-week long marathon stages covering Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Bengaluru-based CS Santosh, who rides with Hero MotoSports, has proved his mettle once again by finishing the treacherous rally with his career-best 34th place.
Santosh finished the final stage of the rally in 32nd place with 18 minutes 45 seconds behind the stage topper and Honda rider Kevin Benavides. An overall ranking of the 34th place means he finished the Dakar Rally 2018 two places higher than what he managed in his maiden attempt in 2015.
This is the third time CS Santosh has completed the Dakar in four attempts and 2016 was the only year he failed to reach the chequered flag. With the latest finish, Santosh retains his coveted position - the only Indian to complete Dakar Rally.
But it was his teammate who stunned everyone. Oriol Mena, who is competing for the first time in Dakar, had an impressive final stage with a sixth-place finish. The young Spaniard's overall rally position is astonishing seventh. It is a morale-boosting result for Hero MotoSports team in its second outing ever at the gruelling rally raid. The only disappointment for the team is the early exit of experienced rider Joaquim Rodrigues with a back problem after stage 1.
Fellow Indian outfit, the Sherco TVS Factory Rally Team, also improved their performance this year. Its 39-year old Spanish rider Joan Pedrero finished the rally 11th overall in less than three minutes behind 10th-placed Jose Ignacio Cornejo Florimo.
Sherco TVS had a tough start with Adrien Metge pulling out with a broken leg during stage two. The rotten luck struck again when Indian rider Aravind KP forced out of the rally due to a broken ankle after a crash in stage 5. It was unfortunate for the 30-year-old rider, who was aiming to become second Indian to finish the Dakar. This was the second attempt from him to conquer Dakar again with Sherco TVS.