Hero MotoSport Team Rally ‘s Oriol Mena and Joaquim Rodrigues had a promising start to the Merzouga Rally 2019. The two stages of the five-stage rally has concluded, with Joaquim and Oriol currently standing at third and fifth positions.
The first stage of the rally started with an 8km liason, followed by a two-part stage of 208km: 86km and 115km. The stage was tricky, comprising mixed terrain and fast piste coupled with stony off-piste. The two major difficulties that the two Hero MotoSport riders faced was a big dune sector in Merzouga and another section with smaller dunes. The first section focused on navigating through small dunes, followed by the entry into the Erg Chebbi region. The second sector had the riders traverse rough terrain, testing the rider’s navigational skills.
Talking about his experience, Joaquim Rodrigues said “It was a tough stage to start, with a few dangerous zones and a lot of navigation. I did well in the first part, but lost some time in finding a waypoint and then some more time towards the stage end as well. Overall it was a good day with no big mistakes and no crashes. [I am] Happy to arrive at the finish line safely and we’ll see how it goes from here.”
The team fared better in the second stage of the rally, with both riders finishing in the top 5. The stage had a new loop around Xaluca Hotel, where the race had setup the bivouac. The 212km special stage had the infamous dunes of Erg Chhebi. The second part was a bit faster and had tricky navigation. The rain before the race had washed out the tracks, making it difficult for the riders to navigate.
The next stage will be a two-day marathon stage, where riders will be out in the Moroccan desert sans assistance.
Speaking on his commendable performance on the second stage, Oriol Mena said; “It was a good day for me today, got into a nice rhythm and rode well. I did not commit any mistakes today and manage to catch up with the guys in front. In the second part too, did not commit any mistakes and rode with a nice pace all through the way. I feel good after today’s stage so now one day less to go.”