Dakar 2017: Navigation
Words: Sirish Chandran
Cars have a navigator, trucks have a navigator and mechanic, one a bike you navigate yourself while standing on the pegs and riding your heart out. It has to be the hardest thing to do!
In past conversations, CS Santosh told me of how the biggest challenge was to learn navigation – made particularly hard by the fact that our Indian Rally Raids do not have an element of navigation. It was only when he went abroad that CS learnt about navigation and it’s only natural that it doesn’t come naturally to our Indian riders unlike the Europeans.
In the Speedbrain truck, CS Santosh, along with his teammate J-Rod, are going through the road book for tomorrow. Using eight different coloured markers he highlights each and every instruction. Green is for not very important, pink highlights important calls and group instructions, yellow marks change in surface, blue is important as it marks out the turns and that’s important as you don’t want to take a wrong turn on the Dakar and head for another country! Red highlights the Double Cautions but on a bike CS tells me these aren’t a big deal, “just a slight lift off the throttle, check the road, and go”. Triple caution means slowing down and looking for the danger.
The road book goes into the navigation tower perched right at the top of the handlebars and the rider scrolls through the instructions manually, hence all the markers, to make sure he doesn’t get lost on the calls. Of course riders can always follow the tracks of the bikes in front but what is the guarantee that the rider in front is on the right path? Of course if you fall and break your navigation tower that is that, and you got to pray that the tracks you’re following are heading to the right direction.
Day 3 of the Dakar from Resistencia to San Miguel Tucuman is a 250+ km stage but navigation isn’t very important says Santosh as it is mostly over defined paths. From the next day onwards navigation becomes super-critical as the Dakar heads into the desert and you navigate yourself using the compass with only the vast open nothingness of the desert in front of you.