Hero Team's Mena named best rookie rider of 2018 Dakar Rally

Motor sports
Motor sports (Representational picture) Pixabay

Hero MotoSports Team Rally's Oriol Mena finished seventh to claim the 'Best Rookie Rider' title of the Dakar Rally while C.S. Santosh became the first Indian to finish the competition thrice.

Spaniard Mena on Saturday ended the 14th stage in the sixth spot in an hour, 31 minutes and 42 seconds. The 30-year-old's overall timing stood at 45 hours, 28 minutes and 58 seconds.

"I am really happy with my results. I enjoyed the Dakar a lot. The last stage felt the longest, as I approached the finish line. But I am now at the finish line and also having won in the rookie class, I feel elated. It's a really good result and what can I say, dreams do come true," Mena said in a release.

His teammate Santosh achieved his best performance ever, finishing the Rally at 35th position with a timing of 54 hours, 35 minutes and 37 seconds.

Santosh said: "It was a tough Dakar this year for sure, every day you had to bow down to the stages. I had lots of ups and downs, some high points in the beginning, and then some lows as well.

"I think it was everything that you would envision a Dakar to be. I am happy to make it to the finish line of yet another Dakar. My best Dakar so far so I am really happy to be going home with that."

Austria's Matthias Walkner of KTM won his first Dakar Rally bike title, beating Argentine second-place finisher Kevin Benavides of Honda by 16 minutes and 53 seconds, reports Efe.

Walkner, who finished second last year, became the first Austrian to win the world's most daunting rally race. He provided another victory for Austrian motorcycle manufacturer KTM, which has dominated Dakar for 17 years but faced stiff competition in 2018 from Honda and Yamaha.

The Austrian finished the race in a time of 43:06:01 hours while Benavides, who was bidding to become the first South American to win Dakar, won the 14th and final loop stage around Cordoba and posted an overall time of 43:22:54 hours.

Benavides' second-place finish was the best ever by a South American in the bikes category.

Australia's Toby Price of KTM, winner of the 2016 Dakar bike race, came in third in the general classification.

Three pre-race favorites -- the United Kingdom's Sam Sunderland (KTM), the defending champion; Spain's Joan Barreda (Honda); and Frenchman Adrien Van Beveren (Yamaha) -- all were forced to abandon the competition during earlier stages.

The motorcyclists completed just 11 and a half of the 14 stages initially scheduled for this year's Dakar. The ninth stage was canceled due to rain, the 12th stage was not contested after riders refused to accept a change in the route and one stretch of another stage was canceled due to fog.

The 2018 edition of the Dakar Rally was the 40th overall and the 10th successive edition to be held in South America.

One of the most challenging competitions in recent years, less than half of the participants who started the race on January 6 completed the 9,000-kilometre (5,592-mile) trek through parts of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.