Hero MotoSports Team Rally riders Joaquim Rodrigues and Aaron Mare finished 11th and 16th respectively in the qualifying stage (Rally GP Class) of the 44th Dakar Rally.
Rodrigues finished three minutes and five seconds behind leader Daniel Sanders of Gas Gas Factory Team (55 minutes and 30 seconds), while Mare was six minutes and 30 seconds further back.
Participating in its sixth consecutive Dakar Rally — arguably the toughest race on the planet — Hero MotoSports Team Rally is represented by a two-rider team — the experienced and in-form Rodrigues and young gun Mare, who replaced injured Franco Caimi.
Monster Energy Honda Team duo of Pablo Quintanilla and Ross Branch were second and third respectively.
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Hero MotoSports Team Rally started their campaign on Saturday with a 19 km long qualifying stage (earlier known as Prologue).
This edition of the Dakar Rally also marks the beginning of the newly announced FIA and FIM World Rally-raid Championships for cross-country rallying.
The competitors in the motorcycle category are subdivided into multiple classes as per the new championship format. Hero MotoSports riders are participating in the premier class, named Rally GP, which comprises the top 27 riders in the championship. The other classes are Rally2, Rally3 and the Originals.
The short qualifying stage, set in the middle of a long liaison between Jeddah and Ha’il, gave the top 15 finishers in the Rally GP Class an opportunity to choose their starting positions for the first stage.
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The first stage of the Dakar Rally will take the riders on a 513 km loop around Ha’il, with a 333 km long special. Here, the riders will get their first taste of the treacherous terrain typical of the deserts of Saudi Arabia.
“The Dakar 2022 is not only the start of the new racing season but also of a new powerful World Championship which pushes the rally sport to a new level in many aspects.
“After a busy season participating in many races, we have put in consistent efforts to bring our riders and machines up to the next level of competitiveness, and we look forward to proving this growth over the next two weeks,” Hero MotoSports Team Rally manager Wolfgang Fischer said in a statement.