TVS Racing Diaries | A look back at Harith Noah’s performance at the 2022 Dakar Rally
The Dakar Rally is one of the, if not the most gruelling and intense rally events that happen in the world. To participate in the rally, let alone finish is no small feat. Harith Noah (Sherco TVS Factory team) made his debut in the 2020 edition of the rally. He did exceptionally well in the 2021 season finishing an overall 20th. Harith was all set to better that finish in the 2022 season and participated in various rallies both in the national and international circuit all as part of training for the Dakar until disaster struck and he was unable to finish. We talk to TVS Racing's Harith and get a lowdown on how the 2022 Dakar Rally was for him.
Q: How was your experience in the 2021 Dakar Rally?
A: The 2021 Rally was a bit better than the year before with Covid restrictions having eased off significantly. I did the Rallye du Maroc, which was good preparation for the Dakar and the team also conducted some testing there. So it was really nice to get some time in the Desert on the bike. Then the 2022 Dakar came up. It all happened so fast from the 2021 Dakar to the 2022 Dakar. It was almost like it was just the next week.
Q: Can you walk us through your preparation for the 2022 Dakar Rally?
A: Yeah, I spent a lot of time in India after the 2021 Dakar. I had two surgeries — one to remove the plate from my collar bone and then a little cleanup for my knee. After that, I just stayed in India and trained a lot in Kerala. Then I went to Europe, around the end of the year and did some roadbook training in Spain, France and most importantly Morocco because it is most similar to the desert. It is so important to get as many rallies under your belt. But as I have always said. You can't really prepare for the Dakar. It's a long process, not just a month or two or a year. It's over a long period of years. So your basics need to be strong. You need to be strong in your endurance which is the most important and you also need to have a little bit of pure strength to lift the bike when needed. So for that my training involved a lot of running, road cycling and spending as much time as possible on the rally bike in the desert in race-specific scenarios and doing road books as well. Me and team TVS tried to do the best we could and I think we did a good job.
Q: What do you do to stay mentally fit to take on the Dakar?
A: I have a coach for my mental training. That's the only kind of coach I have. We get on a call every now and then whenever I need it and also during the races. It's just the small things. It is incredible just how small things can have a big impact on a race like the Dakar. It definitely helps me a lot.
Q: You had an all-new bike for the 2022 season. What’s new and how did it perform?
A: I was super pumped about the new bike. For me, it was a great step in the right direction. It is much slimmer, and I am not a very big rider. It is lighter as well. But most importantly, it is slim and it feels less like a bigger bike now while also feeling much more agile. I felt really comfortable on the bike almost from the first day. My comfort level increased as I did more hours on it, and I was definitely quicker on it. The engine is almost the same barring reworked mappings. But we changed the plastics and the fuel tank and a lot of other components. Basically, the ergonomics were changed completely. The weight was also focused lower, with a lower centre of gravity. That was also one of the reasons why the bike was better. I also changed the suspension which was initially sourced from WP to BOS MAC suspension. It was a big change for me and it turned out to be a very good one. It was working completely good every day. But, you all know what happened. It was not completely 100 per cent. There was a small error which we learnt from, going forward.
Q: Could you give a breakdown of your participation at the Rally? Also, how did you injure your ribs?
A: The first day was not so good, I was not in the right zone. I was either riding too fast and not following the roadbook or riding too slow and following the roadbook too much. I just didn't get the hang of things and I had a small crash. So not the best start but it was okay. Apart from that, the whole first week was okay. I struggled in the dunes. Whenever I saw the dunes, I was a little insecure about my riding which kind of went away in the second week. This is when I started feeling most comfortable on the bike and with the terrain. But throughout the race, whenever the stages became more hard-packed, I was very confident and I was pushing really hard and made up time in those areas. My ribs sustained injury around Stage 7 and despite what everyone assumed I didn't crash. It was because of a rock that flew up from another bike. I didn't know about it the first day and the pain started coming in the next day. So it was a little strange. The best day I had was Stage 10 and 11, after which everything went wrong. I went to Stage 11 with nothing to lose and I didn’t really think about anything else. Unfortunately, I had some issues that day too. I had a crash and some other technical issues which weren't so great.
Q: Now let’s get to what actually went wrong for you at the 2022 Dakar Rally?
A: It was supposed to be a nice stage with almost no dunes. That is something I like. I started off and the track was pretty flat. It was a very fast stage, mostly full throttle. 35km into Stage 10 which was around 360km long, the bike kind of gave up, rather completely gave up. I stopped, and somehow I had a feeling that maybe someone would help me and tow me to the finish. But it was completely unrealistic because there was still some 300-odd km of the stage left. I gave it a shot trying to ask everybody, especially the people in the back, who were just riding to finish the race. But obviously, nobody really wanted to help, which is fair, to be honest. After that, I had to call it in and told the officials that I am out and they came with the helicopter, picked up the bike and left. Then they came back again to pick me up and I ended up in the bivouac.
Motorsport is unpredictable, especially when the scale of the event is like it is with the Dakar. Very little is in your control and the only thing you can do is get up, dust it off and continue, a little wiser. Despite not being able to finish competitively, Harith pushed on and finished the 2022 Dakar Rally in the Dakar experience category. He is all set to begin his training and participation in local and international rallies to get even stronger and faster to make a grand comeback at the 2022 Dakar Rally. For that, you star, we wish you all the best!