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Monday, November 6, 2017

The Baja Dream

“Indiaa India…Indiaa India…” a chant we’ve all grown up hearing at different sporting venues…well mostly cricketing venues!

However, in 2015, this changed when CS Santosh, a multiple National Supercross, Dirt Track champion and Rally Raid Champion, stood at the start line of Dakar Rally, there was a small yet passionate group of Indian motorsport enthusiasts across the globe praying for his success and the “Indiaa India…Indiaa India…” chant could be heard across motorsport groups. CS participated in the event as a “Privateer”, he approached 15 companies for sponsorship but nothing materialized. He raised funds, rode his heart out overcoming injuries and hardships to finish Dakar in 36th position. The only company that supported CS was Red Bull. They provided on-ground support and gave him all that he needed to finish the rally. In 2016, CS rode the Dakar for Team Suzuki Rally. The same year he signed up with Hero MotoSports Team Rally and is now preparing for his 4th Dakar.


While all this was happening, another Indian motorsport enthusiast, Gurprinder Singh Sarao, a.k.a. Nick to his friends, was nurturing a dream of competing in another marathon enduro event - The Baja1000 (Pronounced: Ba Ha).
Nick started racing at the age of 16 when he bought his first motorcycle—a Suzuki Shogun. As soon as the bike was in his hands he signed up for his very first rally, SJOBA, in Chandigarh. He took part in Raid De Himalaya on his Yamaha WR450 in 2009, 2010, and 2014 with podium finishes in 2010 and 2014. In 2002 Nick moved to Texas and started taking part in enduro races there. 2011 saw him embark a life-changing journey around the world on his BMW R1200 GS Adventure along with his wife. He covered 120,000 kms and travelled through 73 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, Central America, North America and Australia, over the course of almost 3 years. It was while he was traveling through South America, Nick had the opportunity of following the British team Race 2 Recovery in the Dakar Rally in 2014. Navigating through different countries, terrain and always taking the road less traveled made Nick realize that he wanted to compete in these terrains and not just travel through them. Baja1000 was something that Nick had been following for some time and set his eyes to ensure that a team from India made their presence felt during the 50th Score Baja1000. Whether it is to heal the soul or the ultimate chase to find joy in life, the potential to realize a dream can be intoxicating. The thing about Baja is, it takes on all comers. From the greatest racers in the world to the working-class man looking for a spark in life. The was taking shape in him mind.

The Baja1000
One of the most grueling endurance race in the world – SCORE BAJA1000. Starts from Ensenada (Baja California-Mexico), 65 miles south of US/Mexico Border. Each year sees nearly 250 Entries from 30 US States and 30 countries competing on trucks, motorcycles, buggies and VW Beetles. The race is from Ensenada to La Paz (1134.4 Miles / 1825.6 kms - route changes every year) where each team is given around 48 hours’ time limit to finish the race through those thousand miles of treacherous terrain (different for each year). Every weather condition can come into play, from impenetrable fog to rain and extreme desert heat. It’s sort of a mix between Mad Max, the Dakar Rally and The Twilight Zone, attracting hundreds of racing legends, thrill-seekers, movie stars and rank amateurs to Northern Mexico to take on the longest non-stop point-to-point race in the world. Everyone has their sights set on crossing the finish line. But historically, only half will make it till there.

Once back in Texas, Nick started putting a together a plan to realize his dream. The hunt for a unique band of brothers who were joined by a common thread to push themselves to the limit…almost bordering on self-inflicted torture and a certain amount of lunacy. He was looking for riders with big hearts and even bigger balls! ;-) 


Relentless hunt and never give up attitude assured Nick was able to form a team comprising of:
  • Anand Dharamraj: A seasoned rider who has competed in some of the toughest rallies across India with multiple podium finishes. Anand raced three complete seasons at Willow Springs with podium finishes. An avid traveler with over 300,000 kms of touring experience covering India and around the world under his belt. Anand introduced the concept of track days in India through his company, Indimotard.
  • Aditiya Devabhaktuni: Has ridden all across India, Europe and parts of USA. Aditya is a guest instructor at Apex Racing Academy and has had multiple top 5 finishes in various national level rallies and races.
  • Ilyas Bham: A seasoned rider with podium finishes at each of his 3 outings at Raid De Himalaya. Ilyas runs a private motorcycle riding school in Los Angeles.
  • Bhaskar Ramani: Rider with both competitive and touring experience spanning over 28 years. Bhaskar has ridden extensively in India, Southern Africa and USA.
  • Gurinder Rahal: A rider with guts of steel…extremely patient with a strong will power. Garry has been riding since he was 18 and has won events like Mountain Challenge, MASA Rally and Raid De Himalaya.

Team in place, now the challenge that was staring them in the face was to look for a sponsor. Various corporates were approached, however, as has been the case in the past, none found motorsport to be a worthy platform! This only made the team’s resolution stronger and they pooled in from their savings to ensure that the Baja1000 Dream didn’t die. Garry agreed to give his KTM 500 XC-W, Nick agreed to prepare the bike for the grueling ride with Anand’s help. Their objective: To be the first Indian Team in history to compete and complete the Score Baja1000.

During the course, it was decided that 2017’s participation will be documented properly to lay the foundation for upcoming “Privateer” Indian talent to be showcased on the world stage. 

To sum up the life of a “Privateer” in the world of motorsports, “Some roads lead to one finding purpose and meaning. For some dedicated men and women, the pursuit itself is a vehicle to life's fulfillment. Through discipline and devotion, they have formed a permanent bond that thrives long after the green flag drops.” 

Here’s hoping that Team India is able to fulfill their objective at the Score BAJA1000.

“Indiaa India…Indiaa India…”


About the author

Nitinjit Singh Bawa, a marketeer by profession and a rider by passion, has been riding for over a decade now. He has competed and finished on the podium (in his class) of rallies like Raid De Himalaya and Desert Storm. He has also directed a short documentary on motocross – Motocross Madness (https://vimeo.com/99801274 ) Nitinjit is the co-founder of 226 Motorsports (https://www.facebook.com/226Motorsports/ ) which provides rider support for rallies in India. He can be contacted on nitinjit.bawa@gmail.com 
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Item Reviewed: The Baja Dream Description: Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Unknown
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