India Baja Rally: ‘Enduro advantage’ for TVS over Hero’s Dakar beast
India Baja Dakar Challenge rally is poised for an interesting battle in the moto segment with Hero Motosports team fielding Portuguese ace Joaquim Rodrigues on their Dakar-proven machine against TVS Racing’s riders, who possibly have the best bikes for the terrain in Jaisalmerother sports Updated: Apr 07, 2017 22:37 IST
The 2017 India Baja have a lot at stake for the two major players in the moto (bikes) segment -- TVS Racing and Hero Motosports Team Rally.
With its Dakar Challenge status -- the winner of the rally will get entry into next year’s Dakar Rally as well as the Merzouga Rally in Morocco -- TVS and Hero, both of whom have Dakar aspirations, are fielding their best riders to seal that qualifying slot.
However, Hero would be missing the services of their Indian champ, CS Santosh, who has skipped the event due to an injury. That doesn’t mean they would be have a lesser rider to take on the very talented TVS Racing bunch -- talented and fast Indians R Nataraj, KP Aravind, Abdul Wahid Tanveer and France’s Adrien Metge.
Hero has fielded Portugal’s Joaquim “J-Rod” Rodrigues, who finished a very creditable 15th in the last Dakar. And J-Rod is more than capable of taking the fight to the TVS camp.
While Hero may have the more seasoned rider, that advantage could get negated on the fast but unstable dunes around Jaisalmer because of the hardware.
J-Rod will be riding Hero Motosports’ Dakar-proven Speedbrain 450 Rally bike, which is designed to tackle any terrain, but are slightly on the heavier side compared to the RTR 450 enduro bikes TVS is fielding. TVS appears to have made the right call by not using their Sherco TVS Dakar machines.
The weight differential between the two bikes is approximately 20 kg on paper (Hero’s dry weight of 140kg to TVS’ 120, approx), and the Hero Dakar machine’s larger fuel tank and slightly stiffer build make it a bit of a monster on the dunes.
Hero’s Santosh acknowledged that disadvantage, though he believes J-Rod has the skills and experience to adapt to the conditions fast and ride all the way to victory.
“Yes, if they (TVS riders) are riding their enduro bikes, they will have an advantage as those bikes are nimble on the dunes and carry less fuel too,” said Santosh. “But rally is not just about the machine, and J-Rod is one of the best riders in the world. Having said that, TVS’s Nataraj and Tanveer are the ones to look out for as they are familiar with the terrain and are on a high after a training stint in Spain.”
Nataraj’s confidence and form is in an all-time high after his win in the Desert Storm in Rajasthan last month while Tanveer is raring to prove his worth.
TVS’ third Indian rider Aravind, who is making a comeback from the injury he suffered during his Dakar adventure in January, will be “taking it a little easy” in the rally.
“We have big competition from within the camp and all of us are raring to go,” said Aravind, after the scrutiny on Friday. “J-Rod is one of the favourites but Nataraj, Tanveer and Adrien have been training on the RTR enduros. We have that slight advantage, like you mentioned, but on the dunes there are many factors that we cannot predict. Of course, we will be riding to win and are confident of a great show.”
India Baja, organised by Northern Motorsport, has two legs (Saturday and Sunday), divided into six stages covering a competitive distance of 430 km, with an additional 200 km as liaison.