“Joaquim Rodrigues does anyone remember him?” goes a message on a prominent US motorcycle racing website.
The post talks in glowing terms of Joaquim Rodrigues’ time as a KTM rider on the US circuit, terming the Portuguese ‘pilot’ “one of the most underrated riders in 450-class”.
If the participants in that discussion check out the Dakar 2017 standings after the fifth round, they are sure to find that the Joaquim Rodrigues they were talking about, has lost none of his speed and skills, and is currently the most talked-about rider --- he has zoomed to 11th position in general classification.
A good supercross and motocross rider, J-Rod as he is also called, joined Hero MotoSports Team Rally on an invitation from Wolfgang Fischer of Speedbrain Gmbh, who had offered him a ride three years ago too. “I thought I was now ready for the switch to rally-raid. I have known Wofi (Fischer) for some years and his idea appealed to me, so here I am doing my first Dakar and, touchwood, things have gone well so far,” J-Rod told HT at the La Paz bivouac on Saturday as the team settled in after the sixth stage was cancelled due to heavy rain.
“I never expected to be in this position as this was my first Dakar and I just hope to continue the good run and cross the finish line,” he said.
The Portuguese rider says this year’s Dakar is tougher than he had heard about. And he should know, because J-Rod is riding Dakar with a fractured thumb, an injury picked up during the second stage. “That was the toughest stage and very difficult for me as I injured my right thumb in that stage,” said Rodrigues.
J-Rod has adapted to the new discipline in spectacular fashion --- he came 9th in his first rally-raid at Merzouga Rally before clinching 15th position in October in Morocco against all the best riders in the field.
His performance has raised hopes of a podium position in the Hero MotoSports Team Rally. His co-rider CS Santosh said J-Rod is a great teammate and a good rider. “He is a funny guy, always jokes around and keeps things light after a hard day’s racing. He is a very good rider as is evident from his 11th position.”
Whether J-Rod actually manages to get on the podium or not, his exploits definitely have turned the spotlight on Hero MotoSports Team Rally.
So, whatever position J-Rod eventually finishes at when the Dakar ends at Buenos Aires on January 14, no one will ask questions like, “Joaquim Rodrigues who?”
His performance in Dakar 2017 has ensured him name and fame.