Harith Noah etched his name in history books by becoming the first Indian racer to win the Rally 2 class at the Dakar Rally last month.
The 31-year-old from Kerala, backed by Sherco TVS Racing Factory team, finished 11th in the Rally GP Overall Class after covering over 5,000 km across 12 stages in two weeks astride a 450SEF Rally bike in the 46th edition of the world’s toughest rally in Saudi Arabia.
He is the third Indian rider to finish the Dakar rally successfully after C.S. Santosh and Aravind KP, who finished 36th and 37th respectively.
In an interview with Sportstar, Harith talks about his motorsport journey, the historic achievement at Dakar Rally, his association with TVS and more:
How was the experience of this year’s Dakar Rally? Is it possible to explain in words how tough it is?
Finishing a Dakar any year is a big achievement. It’s a really good feeling once you finish because the chances are high that you don’t. So, finishing is really important and that’s what I did. After that, knowing that I won the Rally two class and 11th overall was a really big step. In the second week, how I rode and how the bike was performing felt good, especially the suspension on it. The whole team of TVS and Sherco made it work.
Dakar is tougher than you can imagine. If you think something is tough, it’s tougher than that. Every time I go there, I know it’s going to be tough and yet, I get surprised how tough it is even though I train so hard. Especially this year, in the first stage, I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe it could have been dehydration but in the first stage, I had muscle cramps and a super bad headache. I was almost thinking of giving up. You need a lot of endurance and patience.
How did the fascination for racing and bikes begin? What was your parents’ reaction when you told them about your interest in motorsport?
Racing started pretty early. I used to watch cassettes of the Dakar when I was around 5-6. I was more interested in cars but I had to be 18 to race cars and I knew it was going to be expensive. I didn’t really do more research.
Later on, when I was 16, I got a motorcycle and learned how to ride and around the same time, there was a race happening in front of my house on the paddy fields. I ended up taking part in that race and finished last but that’s how it started. Then, I wanted to do it more. We found out a little bit more about racing in India and how we can do it. In 2011, I started taking part in the National Supercross Championship and in 2012, I joined TVS.
My parents have always supported me to do whatever I want as long as there’s nothing illegal (jokes). My dad used to come for all the national races with me as my pit mechanic.
How did your association with TVS begin and how has it supported you in your career?
In 2011, I did the National Supercross as a privateer. Next year, I signed a contract with TVS. They scouted me from the races. We’ve been building on that every year, getting better and planning everything. Now, we’re at a stage where we won in the Rally two category. TVS and I want to reach the top and it’s not an easy job but that’s why it is so special and so interesting. That’s what we work for almost every day and that’s the plan moving forward too.
When did you decide to get into rally racing?
Santosh was the first Indian rider and TVS was the first Indian manufacturer to take part at the Dakar in 2015. When TVS started taking part, I was still into Supercross and not doing rallies but that’s when I saw that there was an opportunity. If I wanted, maybe it was possible to race at the Dakar and Dakar is the pinnacle of off-road rally racing. That’s the biggest race in the world. That was always my dream growing up - to do something in motorsports at the world’s best level and try to compete against the best.
Two-three years after its Dakar debut, I asked TVS if I could do some rallies. I started doing a few rallies, did well and they gave me the first opportunity in 2018 to race in Morocco in Rallye du Maroc. I did alright and that’s how we decided to continue doing international rallies. I did my first Dakar in 2020 and it has been a long journey.
What is the next goal that you want to achieve after the success at Dakar?
I want to get better and beat myself. I don’t really follow the results every day during a Dakar or any race. For me, it is important to ride every kilometer as best as I can and try to ‘live in the now.’ That’s what I call it. Whatever the results may be after is where I belong, right? That’s always going to be the plan and the strategy for me for a race.
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