Pisco (Peru), Jan 16 (PTI) Spaniard Oriol Mena rode flawlessly to break into top 10 in the overall rankings with a 12th place finish in stage 8 as Hero MotorSports continued to make gains in the 41st Dakar Rally here. Also Read - Lawyer Caught Stripping Naked & Having Sex with 'Client' During Zoom Court Hearing, To Face Probe

Mena’s teammate Joaquim Rodrigues of Portugal too had a good outing on Tuesday as he finished the stage in the 13 spot to be placed 18th in the overall rankings. Also Read - Machu Picchu in Peru Reopens After 8 Months, But Only For 1 Japanese Tourist. Know Why

Mena finished 24 minutes and 13 seconds behind stage 8 winner Matthias Walkner of KTM (3 hours 55 minutes and 25 seconds). Also Read - Peru Opens Machu Picchu For a Single Japanese Tourist After Being Shut For 7 Months, Here's Why

Pablo Quintanilla of Husqvarna Factory Racing finished the stage in the second spot ahead of KTM Factory Racing’s Toby Price.

Price is leading the overall rankings with a total timing of 28 hours 53 minutes and eight seconds ahead of Quintanilla and another KTM rider Matthias Walkner. The riders encounter yet another day of fog, dust and fast riding as the stage 8 went underway from San Juan De Marcona to Pisco.

Unlike the first half of the rally where Hero riders were marred by crashes, Mena and Rodrigues have managed to improve their rankings significantly in the later half.

Rodrigues, however, seemed in pain as he arrived at the finish line, having suffered a minor injury to his back while tackling the fast stage.

Being the “Super Ica” stage, it meant that the fastest 10 competitors across the cars, quads, bikes and trucks, from Monday’s stage started one after the other in a mixed start format.

This compounded the difficulty for the riders starting behind who were forced to ride in the dust of the lead pack for a long time.

The long stage with 207km liaison followed by a 360km special section, tested the competitors with roughly about 40 per cent of sand and dunes and 60 per cent of gravel and soft terrain.

The penultimate stage of the Dakar 2019, will take place in Pisco area with a mass start for a 313km loop of special stage. The rally will then move to the grand finale in Lima.

“When I started it looked like a difficult and dangerous stage so I decided to ride safe and steady with no crashes or mistakes. The stage terrain was completely damaged due to the previous stage tracks and mixed start. So I focussed on my rhythm and rode more like an endure race with good speed and flow,” Mena said.

Rodrigues said even though he hurt his back during the stage, he was happy to cross the finish line.

“It was really difficult with lot of fog in the mountain and lot of fesh-fesh with rocks making it extremely dangerous to push ahead. I encountered dangerous large hole in the track, which wasn’t mentioned in the road-book,” he said.

“I hit the hole really hard and hurt my back. I am a little bit in pain but happy to cross the finish line.” The other Indian interest in the rally, Aravind Prabhakar of Sherco TVS Racing too had a good outing and finished stage 8 in the 39th position. He made significant improvement in the overall rankings and is currently placed at the 39th spot.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.