The Afriquia Merzouga Rally was a kind of “Mini Dakar”, with similar regulations but much more navigation and open desert than Dakar offers. It concluded on May 27 with the final stage held near the town of Erfoud.
Joaquim Rodrigues placed his Hero 450 finished his very first rally in ninth position overall - a great result for a rider who has never competed in such difficult circumstances. His Indian team-mate CS Santosh had raced in Africa before, but never the Merzouga. He secured the 16th position.
- Date: 16th – 27th May 2016
- Total: 1.519 km
- Timed Stage: 972 km
- 102 starters in Moto Pro Class
- Temperatures: 25 – 45 degrees
- Region: Southeast of Maroc, Erg Chebbi
CS Santosh commented: "The Merzouga is in the books. It was a very hard week, the navigation was tough, the dunes were tough, so were the rocks and the heat. I'm happy to be here at the finish. I learnt a lot of things that will help me build towards the Dakar. Really glad to be safe and sound and to be involved in this exciting project with such great people."
"Mission accomplished," said the team´s Managing Director Wolfgang Fischer. "A new era has started for our team. It´s great both riders made it to the finish. We are very happy to have come here with the recently formed Hero MotoSports Team Rally. It was a nice race and it gives us a very good feeling. We have fun and a great spirit in the team and that is important for the future and the results. I look very positively at the experience we collected. This was just the first step. The bike is excellent and we will provide our boys with a good backing for the future. Looking forward to the things ahead. Thanks to everyone involved and best regards to India."
Final standings after 5 stages (provisional)
- 1. Kevin Benavides, ARG, Honda 15:05:52 hrs
- 2. Stefan Svitko, SVK, KTM 15:09:37
- 3. Adrien van Beveren, FRA, Yamaha 15:15:50
- 4. Gerard Farres Guell, SPA, KTM 15:22:06;
- 5. Helder Rodrigues, POR, Yamaha 15:22:45
- 9. Joaquim Rodrigues, POR, Hero 17:52:39
- 16. CS Santosh, IND, Hero 19:23:10