It wasn’t Hero Motorcycles’ first visit to the Dakar Rally, but it was, by any measure, a hugely successful campaign for India’s – and the world’s – largest motorcycle manufacturer.
With seven of the world’s top manufacturer teams battling for the top prize, Dakar 2022 was the most competitive edition ever: 12 gruelling stages and over 8000 kilometres of unforgiving terrain. Through it all, the Hero Rally 450 machine proved its mettle yet again with no technical failures.
Hero rider, Portuguese Joaquim Rodrigues (also known as J-Rod), set the fastest time on Stage 3 of the rally, the first for an Indian motorcycle manufacturer and went on to claim a third-fastest stage time as well, on his way to 13th overall, with teammate Aaron Maré taking 15th place, in the RallyGP class. In all, Hero claimed eight top-ten stage finishes.
Team manager Wolfgang Fischer said, “We’ve made history! It’s amazing to enjoy the first stage win for Hero MotoSports at the Dakar today. We’re experiencing the sweet taste of victory after all the hard work a lot of people have put in over the past few last months and years. It is also J-Rod’s first stage win at the Dakar, and he absolutely deserves it. I’m really happy that he’s the one to have brought home this achievement for Hero MotoSports. Congratulations to the entire team, and to all our fans around the globe.”
After winning the stage, J-Rod said, “I’m extremely happy with how my day has turned out. Even though the stage was really fast, with a lot of difficulty around alternating dunes and tracks, I was able to push hard right from the very first kilometre. The Hero Rally 450 has been performing extremely well, and I’m happy that our great combination has helped bring home the first stage win at the Dakar. Thank you, Hero MotoSports, for all the effort they have invested in me, and for putting me through a large number of races this year – this has definitely boosted my confidence by leaps and bounds.”
There was an added South African element to the Hero Motorsports team. Aaron Maré was born in SA and lived and raced in Europe and America before settling in Dubai in 2016 and being bitten by the sand racing bug. His career highlights include podiums and wins at the UAE Baja Championship, Dubai International Baja, and Emirates Desert Championship. He also won the Desert Storm Rally 2019 in Jaisalmer, India. This was his second Dakar Rally.
The challenges of the Dakar are well known and understood by motorcycle enthusiasts the world over, but a reminder of the extent of the challenge never goes amiss. For example, the following day’s Stage 4 comprised a total of 707km in the saddle, including the special, timed, section of 465km. Of that, 200km was fast, sandy tracks, wadi crossings and chains of sand dunes, all of which has to be navigated accurately, while riding as fast as possible and, most importantly, not crashing. The strain on the bike is no less harsh. And that is just one of the 12 racing days!
The challenge can hardly be fully appreciated from the comfort of an armchair but any team relatively new to the Dakar that manages to achieve what Hero MotoSports has achieved, is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as its established competitor manufacturers.
Hero Motorsports is very quickly getting to grips with extreme enduro racing and looks likely to shake up the old order as dominated by Honda and KTM, GasGas and Yamaha. With such a successful 2022 Dakar campaign behind them and with a further year of racing experience, expect big things from Hero at the 2023 Dakar.