For the last 40 years, the Dakar Rally has been testing the grit of Men, Women and their machines to the very extreme. As contestants race against time, fatigue, life-threatening injuries and forces of nature to cover extreme distances on mostly non-existent routes, only a few hardened souls have managed to survive the challenge. Many took the ultimate fall, and such is the extreme nature of the event, even those who simply cross the finish line are looked at with a lot of respect and reverence. Armed and ready, the TVS Sherco Factory Rally Team crossed the Atlantic for the second successive year to compete in the grueling event along with their purpose-built bikes.
India’s very own Aravind KP astride one of the machines backed by an Indian bike maker. TVS Sherco fielded a trio of bikes, where Aravind’s teammates – Dakar Legend Juan Pedrero Garcia and Adrian Metge took control of the other two motorcycles.
For 2018, the Dakar Rally snaked through the treacherous dunes and Martian terrain of three countries – Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The event kicked off at the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Peru’s capital Lima, where the first stage was more of an acquaintance affair before things got serious. The trio of TVS Sherco bikes finished the 300 km long stage, including a 31 km long competitive section, at a respectable 24th, 25th and 30th position. Adrian led the pack, followed by Juan and Aravind.
Starting from stage 2, the Dakar 2018 began turning up the wick on its gritty participants. After the inaugural stage, participants moved from Lima in Peru, to Pisco, a city that gave birth to the name, of one of the most famous hard liquor of America. They had to cover a total of 279km, of which, 267 km comprised of a special competitive section. The second stage of the Dakar turned out to be difficult for the TVS Sherco Factory Rally Team as Adrien Metge took a fall after crossing 72 kmand went down with a broken Tibia. However, Aravind rode steadily to finish at the 40th place while Juan crossed the line at the 23rd position at the end of stage 2.
With Adrian being injured and hospitalised, team TVS Sherco’s remaining two soldiers had to tackle the dunes of the Ica Desert for one last time. A stage described as “for the hardened off-roadies”, the terrain offered 63% sand and more dunes with a total of 504 km, including a Special Stage of 296 km. Astride, his TVS Sherco Factory Rally bike, Dakar legend Juan Pedrero Garcia finished the stage at a strong 16th position, while Aravind brought back the bike home and himself in top shape, crossing the line at 29th position.
Stage 4 was a 444 km long challenge with hidden waypoints and difficult terrain to be tackled. It started on the beachfront in a mass start format with 15 bikes per set. After this sprint along the beach, the competitors were challenged to tackle one of the longest sandy sections ever in the history of the Dakar, a total of 100 km with dunes of all sizes thrown in the mix. Juan Garcia continued to shine and finished the stage at 17th position, moving up to a similar position in the overall rankings. On the other hand, Aravind continued his steady but strong performance and crossed the line at 44th position.
Stage 5 of the 2018 Dakar Rally had to put a spanner in someone’s wheels and as it turned out, it was TVS Sherco’s Aravind KP. The Indian rider crashed out during the stage with a broken ankle and had to be hospitalised. With Aravind’s hopes of finishing the Rally all but over, Juan Garcia was the last man standing for the team and their only hope. Unfazed, he continued to put on a strong show and finished the stage AT 18th position, moving up to 15th position in the overall classification.
The next 6 stages were a cliffhanger for the team, as all their hopes were pinned on the lone survivor who carried all their hopes of crossing the finish line in the final stage. Juan Garcia turned out to be a tough cookie though. Not only did he finish the remaining stages, he did so in strong positions to triumph above the arduous challenges of the event.
In the face of atrocities and running the risk of losing the last remaining bike, Juan shone through on the face of it all by finishing the 907 km long penultimate stage – the longest in the Rally – in a stunning 5th position. He finished the last stage in the 10th position, which cemented number 11 for the team and himself in the overall classification. Says a lot about the team’s grit, where the last remaining bike and the team’s sole surviving rider stood against the challenges of the toughest motorsport event in the World and triumphed!
Aravind and Metge have been recuperating well and will be back on the bike soon to bring Team TVS Sherco to its full strength. And before the Men and their machines cross the Atlantic again to keep their date with the Dakar Rally next year, they will be kicking a lot of dirt at some seriously competitive events across the planet. Until then, the only way we can describe the team’s performance at the 2018 Dakar Rally is through our belief – #GritMakesGreat