Ashish Raorane qualifies for Dakar 2024, becomes only fourth Indian to do so

Ashish Raorane qualifies for Dakar 2024, becomes only fourth Indian to do so

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Indian motorcyclist Ashish Raorane, finished the seven-day Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge (ADDC), the second edition of the FIM World Rally Raid Championship (W2RC), in a creditable 11th place in the Rally2 category, and qualified for Dakar 2024. This makes him only fourth Indian to qualify.

Several of the Dakar veterans competed in the gruelling Desert Challenge, which involved racing through a route spanning 1,915 kilometres of difficult terrain amidst the vast sand dunes.

The 41-year-old won the international cross-country rally while riding a KTM 450 Rally Factory Replica in competition with some of the biggest names in racing, securing his admission for the Dakar 2024.

The former marine engineer finished Stage 5 of the final day with the help of painkillers, earning an Overall P20 among 49 competitors and placing 11th in his class. His overall timing was 25:09.05.

"I am delighted and happy that the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge is in the bag. Going in I knew this was a tough and very physically-demanding rally and I am happy to have persevered despite the multiple challenges," said Raorane, who has the backing of Big Bad Bikes, Rynox Gears, Dosmoto Design, Motousher, and Lazy Ass Bikers.

A minimum of one World Championship event or other rally that comes within the "Road to Dakar" umbrella must be completed by riders, and finishing ADDC clears the way for Raorane to compete in Dakar 2024.

"The meaningful experience gained each day will go a long way in the upcoming rallies as well as our Dakar 2024 campaign and the result has certainly boosted my confidence.

"Thank you to all the fans and supporters for the messages over the last week, they really kept me going," said the KTM racer, who receives technical help from Slipstream Performance, the Indian tuners from Pune.

He established Off-Piste Racing and instructs motorcyclists in cross-country rallying as part of his commitment to supporting racing. The rider for the #34 team, "Xraids Experience," through a trying period, but with unwavering will, Raorane bounced back every day to finish the difficult rally.

At Stage 1, at about the 204-kilometer mark, he lost the front gasoline tank. He also had an air bag deployment following a hard landing in the "empty quarter," and he finished the day's competitive part with fumes in the rear fuel tank.

Finding the drop-offs in Stage 2 was quite difficult the next day. The earth below "suddenly disappeared" as the Indian descended a dune crest.

When Raorane had a terrible collision and damaged his right bicep muscle on Stage 3 on March 1, it appeared as though the rally would end in disappointment. Despite this, he continued for another 160 kilometres, unfazed.

He endured excruciating discomfort, but he finished the day's competitive section. Raorane eventually healed, returned the next day stronger and, despite having a sore arm, finished the final two days, overcoming a slight fall and a defective Roadbook roll.

Adventure travel rider Raorane had won the podium in his INRC (Indian National Racing Championship) debut at Nashik in 2015 and quickly adapted to cross-country rallies.

He participated in several major national and international competitions, including the Raid de Himalaya, which helped him develop into a high-performance rally raid athlete and planted the seed for his ambition of competing in the Dakar Rally, the mother of all rallies.

Raorane became the fourth Indian to finish the Dakar Experience class in 2021, following pioneer CS Santosh, KP Arvind, and Harith Noah. The fantasy will continue in Dakar 2024 in January.

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