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In conversation with veteran rally rider Ashish Raorane who endured all odds to finish 57th at the 2020 Africa Eco Race
Ashish Raorane ( a Marine Engineer by profession and rally pilot by passion) has been under the limelight for entering a bunch of notable rallies as a privateer, having previously participated in the Raid de Himalaya and Desert Storm, alongw with four round of the FIM Bajas World Championship. His first full-fledged navigation rally was the PanAfrica rally. For Ashish, the idea of traversing the old Dakar route, as is done in the Africa Eco Race, was a dream he wanted to fulfil no matter what. Even the fact that he was diagnosed with dengue only a week before the flag-off in Monaco did not shake his resolve. We get in touch with the #Mariner to know what exactly went down at the 2020 Africa Eco Race
How was the experience treading the old Dakar route?
It was a fantastic experience. I've raced in Morocco before so that was a bit familiar but Mauritania is something else. Desolate landscapes for miles on end, you truly feel alone traversing the country. Being at the Lac Rose for beach race which is last stage of the Africa Eco was very special too. I had seen numerous videos of this stage and it was pretty special to live the real Dakar experience.
What were the problems you faced along the way and in which stages?
Having spent ten days in the hospital only four days before the race, the aim was to manage the physical exertion and make it to the finish. The rally started pretty good for me and by the halfway point I was holding P17. In the Mauritanian soft sand stages we had issues with the fuel range, so I had to change my riding style a bit. On stage 8 of the race, I made a navigation mistake early on which further reduced my fuel autonomy. The stage was tough; I was struggling through the dunes. At km 175 of the stage, the bike was buried in the dune, I was out of water and food and did not have enough fuel to reach the refueling. I had to make one of the most difficult decisions to call the PC course. Little did I know at the time that I would be spending the night in the dunes, which was another adventure by itself. 13 hours in the dunes in the dark with a sandstorm brewing, that was a crazy experience.
What stages did you feel that you improved as a rider?
This was just my second navigation rally, the first being the PanAfrica in 2018. So I wanted to focus on getting the navigation right and the Moroccan stages really helped me do that. The roadbooks from the Africa Eco Race were really good and accurate, building a lot of confidence when you start getting your navigation calls right.
Given the time, budget and the strength, would you go back to the rally next year or bigger plans?
This rally has definitely captured my imagination. I'd love to do it again, hopefully with more Indian competitors.
Apart from the rally, what kind of experience did you have with the team and the other competitors?
I was part of the Nomadas Adventure Rally team. My team mates Pablo and Andrew are the most helpful and kind people. Hernan, the team owner and Herbert did a fantastic job making sure we were comfortable throughout the rally, especially the cold stages in Morocco. It felt like a family more than team.
Africa Eco Race - Read the full race report here