It was a mixed bag for the Indian privateers in the 813km (including the 337km special) fourth stage of the Dakar 2021. Ashish Raorane continued his progress in the Malle Moto (officially called Original by Motul) class with a commendable six-place leap in his rankings, while Sherco-sponsored rider Harith Noah encountered a high-speed crash, causing him to lose significant pace, and with it his place in the cumulative rankings.
Starting with Ashish, he seemed to have developed a rhythm for the stage, which continued with with no navigation errors, or in his words ‘felt like a rally, compared to all the enduro zones that they put us through in the first few days.’ He was piloting his 2019 KTM 450 Rally replica with aplomb, too, until he chanced upon C S Santosh’s damaged motorcycle. Now, considering that Ashish has extensive training experience alongside the Hero MotoSports rider, it was but natural for him to feel mentally downcast. Taking some time to compose himself again, Ashish continued on his way.
Towards the end of the stage, though, some issues came up with his roadbook’s controls, which caused him slight navigation issues, this was compounded by a leak in his front fuel pump, which was tended to immediately, but no doubt impacted his progress.
Despite all this, however, Ashish was able to make up three spots in the overall bikes’ category, and is now slotted at 80, while maintaining the 23rd spot in the Originals by Motul class.
Moving now to Harith Noah, and luck wasn’t in the air for the Sherco Factory-backed rider. Though he started off well enough for the day, a freak high-speed crash majorly impacted his overall pace. Though Harith was fine after the crash, his riding pants were badly torn, and his rear fuel tank was also cracked. This meant he needed to refuel twice to make it to the stage finish, borrowing fuel from Zigma Dakar Team’s Arunas Gelazninkas and Jantar team’s Rudolf Lhotsky.
At the end of the stage, Harith came in at the 66th spot (a massive drop from the P27 finish he had in the previous stage), which in turn meant he has been relegated to P37 in the overall standings, a drop of six spots from his prevailing P31 spot thus far.
As it appears, a lot depends on the Stage 5 sprint from Riyadh to Al Qaisumah, a distance of 662km, with a 456km special stage. This is because the long stage will not only give Ashish a chance to further solidify his lead, but also for Harith to vindicate his loss!