Mena best among Hero riders

Mena best among Hero riders

TACKLED WELL: Hero Motorsports' C S Santosh competes in the first stage of the Dakar Rally on Monday. REUTERS

Spaniard Oriol Mena finished a creditable 14th while his team-mate C S Santosh of India was placed 20th after stage 1 as Hero MotoSports made a steady start to the 41st edition of the gruelling Dakar Rally here.

After a long liaison of 247 kms, the short first special stage of 84 kms was kicked off in reverse order from Lima to Pisco on Monday.

Ace Indian rider Santosh was the first to hit the sand dunes and made a strong finish on his fifth Dakar outing, finishing the first stage just 9 minutes 13 seconds behind leader Joan BarredaBort of Honda Factory Racing (57 minutes and 36 seconds).

The comeback man for the team -- Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues -- was the second to tackle the stage and finished the stage safely, crossing the line at 23rd position, 10 minutes and 14 seconds behind the leader.

Last year’s ‘Rookie of the Year’, Mena was the last to hit the track and despite facing a little touchdown trying to avoid a tricky hole in the first dune, he finished the stage in the 14th spot.

The Dakar, considered as world’s toughest off-road rally, moved to San Juan De Marcona on Tuesday for the first full stage of 552km, including the liaisons, to be done in the heat and dunes.

Talking about the first stage, Santosh expressed happiness about bringing in his bike unscratched.

"First day out of the books. I had butterflies in the beginning but it's always like this with the first stage of the Dakar. After the riverbed, there was a lot of dust but I got into my own rhythm. I am very happy to bring the bike home in the first stage and hopefully this will continue in the next stages as well," Santosh said.

Mena too was satisfied with his outing on the first stage.

"Good day overall except for a small incident where I overlooked a small hole on the other side of the first dune and had a touchdown. Well that’s how this Dakar has started for me, but I am safely back at the bivouac and that’s what matters. Tomorrow will be another day," he said.

Rodrigues said he concentrated on an incident free outing on Monday after his accident at the same stage in the last edition of the Dakar.

"It was an emotional stage for me. Honestly, I was a little bit nervous starting today as this was the same stage where I had crashed last year. So I rode really tight, maybe even breaking too much at times to be on the safer side," the Portuguese rider said.

The other Indian interest in the Dakar Rally, Prabhakar Arvind of TVS Racing finished the first stage in a disappointing 70th spot.