CS Santosh, who has ridden in the famed Dakar Rally twice, and KP Aravind, who is taking his first steps in international cross-country rallying, both faced their own set of challenges at the OiLibya Rally Morocco.
However, with solid performances in the five legs of the Oct 3-7 rally across the sand dunes and rugged trails of Morocco ― displaying riding skills as well as grit and perseverance ― the two Indians have enhanced their reputations on the world stage.
Aravind of Sherco-TVS Rally team, who consistently finished within the top-30 in all the legs, completed the rally in 26th position on Friday ― a great show on debut in the event which is the final round of the FIM Cross Country Rally World Championship.
Hero MotoSports rider Santosh, on the other hand, had a blistering run in the last two days ― finishing 29th and 24rd in legs 4 and 5, after starting from the back of the pack (65th). However, that didn’t help him climb up the overall standings and he finished 60th in the final standings.
The 31-year-old rider from Bengaluru was in the top-25 after the first two legs but lost out in the third leg on Wednesday when his bike stalled due to an electrical problem towards the end of the competitive stage. Though he restarted from the rally on Thursday, he was docked a time penalty and was pushed to the back of the pack.
That was a huge handicap for the rider as he got caught in the dust trails of the competitors ahead. Besides, making up 40-odd places in a field of world-class riders is impossible but that didn’t stop Santosh from trying.
“The OiLybia marked the final test before the Rally Dakar as well as the World Championship finale,” he said. “So all the top riders were here. We had two good days, a good pace and I was just outside the top 20. Then in the second part of the marathon stage (on Wednesday),
I had a mechanical problem. Luckily I could restart the following morning and we managed to put in additional miles. Today I tried to go fast to make up positions. Overall it´s been as tough as expected, but there has been a lot of positive learning. It´s good to have problems now instead of having them in January (in Dakar).”
Santosh is unhappy about the final result but should be satisfied by his overall performance. Meanwhile, his Hero teammate, Joaquim Rodrigues of Portugal finished 16th as per the provisional results released on Friday.
Aravind, who is aiming to make his Dakar debut next year, is taking home a lot of positives from Morocco. “I am thrilled to complete this rally,” he said on Friday. “Every stage was quite challenging, physically and mentally. But I managed to use all the training experience, especially while navigating, to stay in the race. This rally was a fantastic learning ground and now Dakar is next.”
Aravind’s teammates Juan Pedrero and Adrien Metge also had a successful outing at the rally, finishing eighth and 11th, respectively. The rally was won by Toby Price of Australia, riding a KTM.