Indian racer Ashish Raorane training for Dakar Rally 2021

The privateer from Pune will be competing in the Malle Moto category of the prestigious rally raid event, which is set to run from January 3 to 15, 2021.

Raorane, 39, stressed on the importance of sponsorship in motorsport and called for top Indian brands to come forward and support young racers.   -  TWITTER/ @AshishRaorane00

Only three Indian racers, C.S. Santosh, Aravind K.P. and Harith Noah, have been part of the Dakar Rally since its inception in December 1978, and next year's edition will see the fourth Indian -- Ashish Raorane -- participating in it.

The privateer from Pune will be competing in the Malle Moto category of the prestigious rally raid event, which is set to run from January 3 to 15, 2021. A Marine Engineer by profession, Raorane has also completed the 2019 Baja Championship and 2020 Africa Eco Race.

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"I've been working on the Dakar Rally for a while now. So, excitement levels are high and I'm looking forward to it," he told Sportstar, during an interaction facilitated by Luminox Watches, a brand which the professional motorcycle rallyist represents.

"It's been five years since I started cross-country rallying and as a privateer, it's been a tough journey. But I've had lots of support from my sponsors. I would really like to thank them for the trust they've shown in me."

Raorane, 39, stressed on the importance of sponsorship in motorsport and called for top Indian brands to come forward and support young racers. "Sponsors are the backbone of motorsport. Involvement from sponsors is important not only to go out and race but also to have a good training regime," he added.

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"We need involvement from not just manufacturers but also from big brands to create an ecosystem to help not just people who are already in the sport but also youngsters who are trying to get in. Developing infrastructure is important." 

Next year's Dakar Rally will be staged entirely in Saudi Arabia for the second consecutive time. During the 2020 edition, riders Edwin Straver and Paulo Goncalves tragically passed away due to race incidents. Since then, the rally's organisers have drafted new rules to improve the safety of competitors.

"Motorsport is a high-risk sport. There's always going to be some sort of injuries and fatalities. The Dakar organisation has been one of the safest. They've now stepped up their game by mandating airbags and slowing down the rally for safety. It's good that they've implemented new measures," said Raorane.

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He opened up on his training routine during the coronavirus lockdown. "Being a mariner, I'd spent most of the COVID-19 lockdown stuck onboard a ship. I got back in August and now I'm spending as much time as possible training. Travel restrictions are making it challenging to go out. We're trying to find solutions."

"I alternate between on-track and off-track training. When I'm off-track, I start the day cycling. The evenings are spent on strength training to build core strength. On-track I usually spend half-a-day riding either motocross or on a terrain with conditions pretty close to those in rallies," he claimed.

Raorane also termed his performance at the Baja World Championship the favourite moment of his rally career.

"The Africa Eco Rally that I did in January helped me prepare for the Dakar Rally because it's also a marathon rally. Finishing the Baja Championship last year was one of the favourite moments of my career. Getting to the last mile of the last round there, with a world ranking of 12, was special."

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