Dakar Rally, the most gruelling rally-raid in the world, is back. In its 38th edition and ninth successive year in the South American continent, the rally kick-started at Asuncion, Paraguay on Monday, January 2. This year, the Dakar will traverse through Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, before returning to Buenos Aires on January 14 after 12 stages of competition covering over 9,000 km. In total, 318 vehicles -- 144 bikes, 37 quads, 87 cars, 10 UTVs and 50 trucks -- have been confirmed for the latest edition of the rally.
The Dakar Rally's route passes through off-road, crossing dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks, and among others and these makes the event the ultimate battle between man and machine. For 2017, India has increased its participation in the rally. Here are the details that you need to know about the Indian connection of the 2017 Dakar Rally.
Debut of Hero Motosports Team Rally
Hero MotoSports Team Rally, the motor-sport division of the world's largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Hero MotoCorp made its Dakar debut this year. The team was formed in April 2016 as a strategic partnership between Hero MotoCorp and German off-road racing specialist Speedbrain GmbH. Indian ace rider CS Santosh and Portuguese supercross star Joaquim Rodrigues will ride the bikes for the team. Joaquim will be making his debut at the Dakar after impressive finishes in Merzouga Rally and Oilibya Rally of Morocco last year.
CS Santosh for third consecutive time
CS Santhosh is the only Indian to have participated in the Dakar Rally and finished it as well. In his debut in 2014, he made headlines by finishing 36th overall out of 79 finishers, riding his KTM machine with an injured shoulder and a broken toe. In 2016, he rode Suzuki 450 Rally, but was forced out of the race after stage 4 owing to a broken navigation tower. This is the first time that CS Santhosh is riding as part of a factory team with Hero Motosports Team Rally.
Aravind KP and Sherco-TVS rally team
Aravind KP has become the second Indian to compete in the Dakar. The Bangalore-based rider debuted for the rally with Sherco-TVS rally team. This is the third consecutive year that Sherco-TVS team is participating in the Dakar Rally. Aravind has been a part of the TVS team for the past ten years and has won 15 national championships in dirt track, rallies and motocross so far. Aravind will team-up with Juan Pedrero, a Spanish champion, at Sherco-TVS rally team.