Indian Dakar privateer Ashish Raorane, participating in the 2021 edition in the unassisted Malle Moto category for motorcycle competitors, speaks to evo India
evo India - How are your preparations for the 2021 Dakar shaping up, considering the pandemic? Also, how will the pandemic affect the competing stages of Dakar?
Ashish Raorane - I’ve come back after a 7-month-long stint at sea. It was pretty difficult getting home with all the restrictions put in place by several countries. Now with my mandatory 2-week quarantine over, I’m focused on getting back to training. The biggest challenge I face right now are travel and visa restrictions. My race motorcycle is in Spain and I need to get there for training but with the embassies closed, this is proving to be the greatest challenge at the moment.
evo - How difficult is it for an individual rider to acquire sponsorships? Which brands are you associated with?
AR – Motorsport being a niche sport in India, acquiring sponsorships has always been a challenge, although progressive thinking companies who associate with the endurance and competitive nature of the sport have come forth with sponsorships. I’m currently associated with Luminox Watches, KLIM, LEATT, Gaerne, Slipstream Performance, Dosmoto Design, Motousher and Hellraiser Motowear.
evo – Tell us about your association with Luminox Watches?
AR – Luminox Watches as a brand embodies endurance and reliability which mirrors my personal values and goals. My association with Luminox started in 2019 and it has been nothing less than a natural fit. As a mariner whose occupation involves a good part of the year on the ship, I make the most of my time on land practicing, training and focusing on my next race/ goal. This incidentally embodies Luminox’s mantra #EverySecondCounts.
Having a Swiss watch brand onboard has also piqued interest from other reputed brands which is tremendously helpful to a privateer with a dream such as the Dakar Rally. A long-term and common goal such as the Dakar requires grit and consistency. One can #NeverGiveUp no matter the hurdles or challenges – they all are part of the journey and I am very happy Luminox is on this one with me.
evo – What is the extent to which an independent racer struggles to compete against teams? How do you deal with the level of risk that the Dakar rally poses?
AR – Competing against factory teams with their huge budgets and multiple support functions will always be a challenge but that’s racing; there’s always someone with better equipment and bigger budgets. I focus on putting in my best for each race, the rest always falls in place.
Rallies are in general the riskiest form of motorsport, especially marathon rallies like the Dakar and the Africa Eco Race. It’s important to focus on recovery at the end of each day, managing fatigue is key.
evo – What lessons are you taking into Dakar from the Africa Eco rally? What is your opinion of the Saudi Arabian rally stages?
AR – The Africa Eco Race was a great testing ground for me. It was my first marathon rally and tackling its long stages day after day have definitely given me the confidence to go well prepared into the Dakar. A lot of key learnings, fatigue management and handling the extreme cold weather stages are some of the important ones. The Saudi stages are also expected to be extremely cold as was the case in 2020. For 2021, the stages are expected to be more technical with tricky navigation. I expect this Dakar edition to be as gruelling as any other preceding it.
evo – What do you consider as your biggest foe, and ally, this season?
AR – Rally sport teaches you to adapt to the changing terrains and circumstances, just as we do in life. This season, if we can even call it that, has been unpredictable but we keep doing our best and finding out of the box solutions.
evo – What challenges do you see coming your way in the Malle Moto category?
AR – Time management is always the greatest challenge for a Malle Moto racer. The time a regular competitor would spend recovering at the end of the day, is spent working and getting your bike ready for the next day. It’s important to run a strategic and focused race from the start to the end.
evo – What is your opinion about the scope and growth of Motorsport in our country? Is there a message you would like to convey to aspiring racers?
AR – Motorsport is definitely on the rise in the country and it’s great to see young riders already dreaming the Dakar dream. With recognition coming from the sports ministry and efforts from the federation, hopefully the eco system around the sport will grow and young riders will benefit from it. For anyone aspiring to race, be it young or old, the key is to get started and stay consistent.
evo – Any specific reason you chose to race independently, and if you had to, which team would like to race for? Who are some of the racers you look up to and want to emulate?
AR – Rally sport is pre-dominantly made up of privateers; it’s where the journey starts for most. As you improve your performance, hopefully teams will take notice and invest in you.
evo – Is there a day you can look back on, where you knew that you wanted to be a racer? What are some of the challenges you faced along the way?
AR – I don’t think there’s one particular I can point, I’ve been seeking challenges all my life, after the the first rally there was hunger to do a more tougher one and then another one, competing with my own best is what has always driven me.