The 2021 iteration of the iconic Dakar Rally was challenging to say the least. The fate of the 2021 rally was uncertain due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The rally, however, was finally flagged off on 3 January, 2021, albeit with fewer audiences at the Prologue in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Among the list of riders were three Indian competitors – CS Santosh (Hero MotoSports), Harith Noah (Sherco Factory), and Ashish Raorane (Privateer).
The Dakar Rally is among the most physically straining motoring events on the planet. It’s even more challenging for Privateers who do not have a support team to look after their motorcycles at the end of every stage. Among the list of Privateers was Indian rider, Ashish Raorane who started the 2021 Dakar Rally on January 3 in the Malle Moto or Original by Motul class. But his journey began way before the flag-off. The 39-year-old participant spent most of 2020 on boats as a marine engineer. He landed in India in August 2021, and was soon on his way to Paris, France, and later to Spain to prepare for the event.
With the lack of the support that factory riders get, Raorane had to rush around, completing all the paperwork and formalities to ship his KTM450 Rally Replica to Saudi Arabia, and then pick it up from the docks before the event.
Then began the actual race, and with it the challenges that awaited the rider. Raorane spent his days riding the motorcycle, and the evenings fixing any damage to the motorcycle and prepare it for the next leg of the rally. His engineering background helped Raorane to grasp things relatively easily, as he worked on his motorcycle. Malle Moto participants get a trunk to carry their equipment, a set of spare wheels, a set of tyres, and a quick-opening sleeping tent from the organisers.
Keeping oneself hydrated and nourished during the calorie burning ride is crucial, and the Indian rider relied on energy bars, gels, and his hydration packs for all the necessary nutrients.
His Dakar journey, however, hit an abrupt halt after he suffered a crash in Stage Five. Adamant to complete the stage, Raorane picked up his KTM 450 RR and continued to ride, but a persistent headache following the crash forced him to tap out from the stage. He was airlifted and taken to the nearest medical centre for treatment.
While Raorane could not continue in the Malle Moto category, he got to continue in the Dakar Experience class after receiving all the medical clearances two days after his crash. The motorcycle needed some attention too as the wiring was damaged during the transportation from his crash. He returned to the rally in Stage Nine that was amongst the most challenging legs of 2021 Dakar.
Unfortunately, Raorane suffered another crash during the stage as he was flung over the handlebar. The 2021 Dakar Rally was not a one-time thing and he plans to build on this first experience. Raorane is looking forward to the next iteration of Dakar. The experience from his debut year will help him in the 2022 rally and we wish him all the best for the event.