Stage 5 of the 2021 Dakar Rally, an overall distance of 662km (including a 456km special stage) brought with itself a bittersweet aftertaste. Post his loss of placings due to the crash in the previous stage, Sherco Rally Factory-sponsored rider Harith Noah put in a strong performance, once again moving up the stage rankings. However, it was a disappointing day for Ashish Raorane, India’s first Malle Moto contender, who suffered a crash, causing him to cut short his Dakar debut.
Starting with Harith, he found the stage to be one of the difficult ones, considering he got lost in the beginning (along with many others). Subsequently, he rode together with Sherco teammate (and Dakar debutant) Rui Goncalves. Subsequently, he faced an electrical issue about 25km from the finish line, and came in P41 at the end, a competent leap back up from the disappointing 66th place finish in the previous stage. He finished the stage with a total time of 7:01:44 hours, a difference of 1:51:54 hours from the leader, Monster Energy Honda Team’s Kevin Benavides. Now, though Harith currently stands 39th in the overall rankings (a drop of two spots from his P37 spot in the previous stage), it’s only a matter of time for him to regain him momentum.
Moving now to Ashish Raorane, and everything seemed to go well initially for the Original by Motul contender at the start of the stage. Progressing quickly through the difficult sections, he overtook several bikes and gained confidence. This was clear in his preliminary rankings which improved through each waypoint up to 75th at Waypoint 8. It was in this section, however, that he suffered a crash. The resultant impact to his head had him feeling dizzy, and he had to request medical assistance, thus ending his 2021 Dakar journey.
Ashish’s vitals are stable and CT scans are also normal, and he is currently at the hospital in Ha’il (near the rest day bivouac) where he will be under observation for 24-48 hours in the ICU. Though he was naturally upset with regards to calling off his maiden Dakar attempt, it’s better to recoup and come back stronger after a full recovery next year. We too wish him the best and hope for his full recovery.
Stage 6 is a comparatively short sprint to Ha’il (ahead of the rest day), consisting of a 170km liaison and 448km special stage, with the terrain slated to be completely smooth and sandy.