Neom, Saudi Arabia, January, 2021.
In a stage that was touted to be the toughest of the 2021 Dakar, and was made even tougher by the weight of the recent past, Hero MotoSports Team Rally paid an emotional tribute to their late teammate Paulo Goncalves by delivering a strong performance in Stage 9 today.
Motivated by the mission to dedicate this Dakar to Paulo’s memory and driven by his personal resolve to come back and race one more time for Paulo, Joaquim finished the stage in the 13th position.
Sebastian Buhler, started the stage well but then lost his way and as a result conceded some time. However, he rose to the task and finished the stage on the 24thposition.
After nine stages of the Dakar Rally that demanded a completely different level of mental and emotional toughness from Hero MotoSports Team Rally, Joaquim Rodrigues entered the Top 15 in the overall rankings to find himself on 12th place and Sebastian Buhler also moved up a few places to stand at the 16th place in the overall standings.
Tomorrow’s stage will take the team one more step closer to another Dakar finish, as they will look to tackle a relatively shorter Stage 10 with 342 kms of special to arrive at the next bivouac at Al-Ula.
Update on C S Santosh:
In the latest update from the medical team, Santosh is stable and continues to be under observation. Based on scans and assessments, he has been cleared to be flown back to India, where he will be attended by the local doctors. He will be transferred in a sleeping state to avoid any unnecessary stress during the transfer. This is a very positive development as he will now be with his family and in familiar conditions, which always helps in a faster recovery. He is scheduled to fly in the next few days and we will keep everyone updated with developments.
Wolfgang Fischer, Team Manager said, “It has been an emotionally draining Dakar for the team so far and today was particularly tough on us with what happened last year. We are very emotional today as we spare our thoughts for our amigo Paulo and his family. We knew how tough it was going to be for our riders to keep a clear head today and focus on the stage so we are relieved to see both of them arrive at the bivouac safely. As we look back and remember Paulo, our thoughts and prayers also go out to riders who got injured in this Dakar and to our mate Santosh, as we wish all of them a speedy recovery.”
Joaquim Rodrigues (Competitor No. 27) said, “Today was my worst battle. I was really emotional this morning remembering all that happened last year on this day. My mind was playing out all kinds of thoughts and memories on my way from the bivouac to the start of the stage. But I just told myself that I need to do this for Paulo and so I just jumped on the bike went on with the stage. The stage was really difficult and dangerous with too many stones and rocks. I saw a couple of riders crash on the stage and immediately decided to slow down and focus on making it to the finish line safely.”
Sebastian Buhler (Competitor No. 24) said, “It was a very tough stage today. As I started the stage, I faced some issues with my navigation tower and it got worse at one point,as I couldn’t use it at all to navigate so I lost some time in trying to manage the issue. But in the end, I think the day ended well considering what happened last year. I am happy that this stage is over as this day brings us some very sad memories and to be back with the team safely is a blessing.”
Provisional Rankings – Stage 9
1. Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team 04h 49m 15s
2. Ricky Brabec Monster Energy Honda Team +01m 18s
3. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Monster Energy Honda Team +01m 34s
13. Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +31m 48s
24. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +58m 28s
Provisional Overall Rankings at the end of Stage 9
1. Jose Ignacio Cornejo Monster Energy Honda Team 36h 51m 00s
2Kevin Benavides Monster Energy Honda Team +11m 24s
3. Sam Sunderland RedBull KTM Factory Team +14m 34s
12.Joaquim Rodrigues Hero MotoSports Team Rally +01h 48m 03s
16. Sebastian Buhler Hero MotoSports Team Rally +03h 03m 12s