The story of Ashish Raorane’s baptism by fireplace on the Dakar 2021
“An Unintentional Racer” is what Ashish Raorane likes to name himself. Hailing from Pune, India, Ashish is certainly one of three Indian racers who participated within the Dakar 2021. As a privateer, his alternative of class was “Unique by Motul” or the “Malle Moto,” thought-about to be essentially the most difficult class on this planet’s hardest rally. We had a chance to rise up shut and private with Ashish, indulging in his expertise on the Dakar Rally 2021 and the life occasions that led him there.
Ashish has all the time had a aggressive streak, which he attributes to his love of sports activities. And he discovered himself surrounded and fascinated by two wheels, whether or not BMX bikes, his father’s Jawa, or the Japanese motorbikes he rode in school. Coming of age, he owned a Triumph Tiger 800, Harley-Davidson Fatboy, and 48, in addition to different bikes. When not at sea as a marine engineer, he toured India extensively however by no means gave aggressive off-road/ADV using a thought. It was the documentary, “Mud to Glory,” that began all of it. The day after watching the movie, he was out getting his first style of off-roading.
Even again at sea shortly after, the fireplace was lit, and Ashish hankered for extra. As quickly as his sortie was over, he determined to partake within the Raid de Himalaya, the world’s highest rally raid within the treacherous terrains of the Himalayas. To the amazement of spectators, he did it on a Tiger 800, a comparatively heavy and hulking bike towards different opponents and their purpose-built rally and dust machines. To suitably put together for the occasion, he competed within the Indian Nationwide Rally Championship (INRC) at Nashik and secured a podium end. Ashish was hooked. Together with his child-like smile and utmost modesty, Ashish says that up up to now, he had completely no data of rallies.
So, what made him gun for the Dakar? It was the whiff of competitors at INRC. Between months at sea and leaves in 2015, he gave himself 5 years to arrange for the Dakar. And with that single goal in thoughts, he labored judiciously in direction of 2021, the place he ended up rubbing shoulders with among the finest and most skilled within the enterprise.
Pankaj Yadav(PY): You educated in your bike solely in Pune, India, and at Large Rock, Spain. How did you make up for not with the ability to prepare in Dakar-like circumstances? Was it discouraging at any time?
Ashish: I had plans to coach extensively in Dubai throughout 2020, however because of the pandemic, it didn’t materialize. I attempted my finest to make the most of the time at sea for increase in order that it could be solely about getting used to the bike once more as quickly as I used to be ashore. Lastly, it got here all the way down to deciding whether or not I used to be going this yr. Did I’ve sufficient coaching? I imply, it’s the Dakar Rally. Then I spotted you can by no means be totally ready for one thing like Dakar. This helped me make up my thoughts to go for it.
It was my first time using the KTM 450 Rally Duplicate in a racing surroundings and dunes. I had anticipated the preliminary days to have steep studying curves, particularly getting accustomed to how the bike behaved in numerous terrain. The accident in Stage 5 was a setback, however I used to be decided not to surrender. Levels 9, 10, 11, and 12 noticed me get higher and higher. And I’m glad I didn’t push participation to the following Dakar due to lack of coaching. Typically, you simply must take possibilities.
PY: Talking of the mishap, how unhealthy was the autumn?
Ashish: We have been briefed in regards to the size of the Stage. A checkpoint was arrange the place each rider needed to test in earlier than a set time or be out of the race. There was additionally a three-hour penalty when you didn’t make it to the Stage finish earlier than 10 p.m. All the things indicated it was going to be powerful. By the way, Stage 5 noticed me show among the finest using of my life. Seventy kilometers into the stage, I got here throughout Pablo, my teammate from Africa Eco Race. We rode collectively from kilometer 70 to 330, the final refueling level. We rode like males possessed.
We had made glorious time and have been in good spirits, however with about 60 kilometers to go, my bike acquired caught in a dune at a bizarre angle, and I misplaced numerous vitality digging it out. Twenty kilometers later was the fateful crash. It wasn’t my worst fall within the rally. However, sadly, it was an especially laborious floor the place I hit my head. Each time I attempted to rise up, I might get dizzy, and my proper ear was ringing. I knew straight away one thing wasn’t proper. I used to be oblivious to the damage’s extent and was not in form to make it to the Stage finish. That’s after I determined to name SOS and acquired in contact with the rally HQ. The EVAC chopper was overhead in a couple of minutes, and I used to be airlifted to medical supervision.
PY: What did it take to get again on the saddle to complete the race?
Ashish: Because it was a case of head trauma, it was tough to say something with certainty till an intensive scan and follow-ups proved in any other case. My first scans got here again clear, however the medical doctors have been apprehensive and needed me underneath statement. One other scan was recommended, and probably one other 48 hours later. After a day’s relaxation, I felt higher, and the second set of scans and X-rays have been clear. The extra extreme Stage 4 incident with my good friend and fellow Dakar rallyist C.S. Santosh stored lingering in my thoughts. He wasn’t as lucky as me and was banged up fairly unhealthy. However I needed to complete the rally on a optimistic be aware.
I made a acutely aware resolution to provide reaching the checkered flag a shot. I approached the organizers about rejoining within the Dakar Expertise. Per laws, I needed to get again in inside three days. So I rejoined in Stage 9, one of many longest and most difficult of this yr’s version. It was a fantastic observe for the run, however my rhythm was amiss, and I used to be overcautious. About 30 kilometers into the stage, I had a tip-over. It hit me there that I couldn’t proceed using at that tempo if I needed to see the end line. Once you’re using laborious and quick, you don’t have any area for ideas apart from specializing in the job at hand; it’s weirdly calming. I completed Stage 9 as my private finest. The next phases stored getting simpler for me. I’d discovered my kind once more.
PY: Contemplating this was one of many hardest Dakar rallies ever, how laborious was it to sort out the transition within the day-to-day terrain?
Ashish: It was extra like from time-to-time inside the days. What would begin as a dune would change right into a rocky plateau, which might change into a sandy plain, all inside a few hours. The organizers had deliberate the route meticulously. For instance, Stage 1 was 277 kilometers however required all the day to navigate because it was a completely rocky path. The later Levels noticed all types of landscapes. Even Toby had a go at us first-timers, “You guys picked the improper yr on your first Dakar.” All of us laughed, however I really feel it’s good to have the hardest one as your first as a result of, hopefully, it would solely get simpler from right here.
PY: Figuring out what you understand now, would your method or preparation be totally different for the Dakar?
Ashish: Sure, fairly just a few issues. First, I’d carry a smaller package bag in order that it’s simpler to pull to my tent each night. I might try to change into sooner, shave off one other half-hour or so of using time, translating into 1–1.5 hours on the finish of a Stage. The race is progressively tough the slower you might be. Being overtaken by automobiles, vans, and 6x6es simply destroys the observe and makes using a lot harder. Using is just one facet for Malle Moto members. Starting from the way you pitch your tent, once you pack up, the way you stow your gear, there have to be a circulation of issues.
Regardless of how a lot you assume it by earlier than the rally, take just a few days to determine the method and get it proper. The night includes many small however important duties that can accumulate and create a time deficit that eats into your relaxation if not addressed on the proper time. After all, everybody desires to be sooner, extra bodily match, and extra environment friendly, and I’ll sharpen these abilities. I will even spend extra time engaged on the bike after every Stage. One should prioritize between relaxation and upkeep. Lack of relaxation catches up together with your efficiency. One other vital factor is weight loss program on the finish of every Stage, which I usually uncared for as I needed to work on the bike. Fatigue is an enemy.
PY: What’s your greatest takeaway from the Dakar?
Ashish: I feel the rally sticks to its ethos of being the last word human problem. It’s all cool to throw round cliched phrases like “by no means hand over”—the Dakar will provide you with a chance to show you probably have that high quality in you. It’ll put you thru a variety of feelings on daily basis, and also you’ll see odd individuals discovering extraordinary energy to maintain going. Having this chance to show your self on a bike might be the most effective factor in regards to the Dakar Rally.
Ashish is trying ahead to the following version of the Dakar Rally. Till then, he spends time both at a dust observe or together with his household. We commend Ashish on his resolve and need him all the most effective for his future endeavors.
Pankaj Yadav is an Indian Armed Forces veteran and a father of two with a deeply ingrained ardour for journey touring. He has been exploring trails in India relentlessly after hanging up his Naval uniform for good in 2018. An beginner photographer, Pankaj enjoys capturing photographs of and writing about bikes, locations, and the private experiences of journey fans.