Raakesh.com / Motor Sports
MotorSports has been one of my passions since my early ages. I have been involved in various levels of motor-sports including organizing motor-sport events, working voluntarily as an official (Check post Marshal) and of course, a participant in motorcycle races.
Podcast: Raakesh Blokhra introduction to Motor Sports (MP3 File)
I started practicing for motor sports when I was 14 years old. I religiously used to go for my practise rides at least 3 times a week, out of which one would be a comprehensive ride over various terrains. Since I was brought up in Shimla, I had more than 10 off-road tracks within a radius of 20Kms, which was one of the reason why practising was never a mission that required too much preparation. I would just pick up my motorcycle, and hit the dirt.
I was blessed with a team called Team Avalanche, because of which I was able to even get started. Manoj Biswas, the President of Team Avalanche, and a dear friend of mine took me through each step of rallying one step at a time. I owe all my achievements to him and Team Avalanche as they were always there for me - Team Avalanche sponsored me, Gave me one of the most generous and professional service backups, support and motivation. Throughout my rallying career, I raced under the banner of Team Avalanche and later when we formed our racing team with Team Premier ISP, I raced under the banner of both teams.
Another person who has really helped me with all his heart is the President of CMSA - Mr. S.P.S. Garcha (Shashi Garcha). He has helped me on the technical side of rallying by building my motorcycle, modifying it to match the terrains of the Raid and increasing it's overall power and torque. Sometimes all it took was to get the correct part, whether it was a Suzuki part or a Yamaha motorcycle part, one simple part made the difference in the way my motorcycle performed. Interestingly, he was a motocrosser himself and only worked on motorcycles as a hobby (Not Professionally). He put in hours after hours with me on my motorcycles just because of his passion for motorsports.
My first rally was the SJOBA Sub Himalayan Rally held on the foothills of the Himalayas in March, 1997 at the age of 18, followed by Castrol Mountain Challenge 1997, Avalanche Open Challenge, held in Shimla in October 1998 (which was my first win as I won the Overall Champion Title as well as Class C category as well), Castrol Desert Challenge in December 1998 which I could not finish as my motorcycle's engine stalled (ceased).
One of the most challenging motor sport events in India is the Raid-De-Himalaya which started in 1999 and was held on the Himalayan ranges. The first raid was flagged off from Shimla, and being a 4 day rally, it went to Manali, Kaza and back to Manali, then back to Shima on the 4Th day. This rally crossed 3 major passes on its route, namely - Jalori Pass (3134 m), Rohtang Pass (3978 m) and Kunzum Pass (4590 m) before reaching Kaza (3600 m). This rally tested the man more than the machine as these high altitudes suffocate you due to lack of oxygen, exhaust you before you even get started and dehydrates you like you've never experienced before. I won in my category but was placed 3rd overall.
It was this rally that just made me focus more on fitness than on my riding skills. During practising in 2000, I had a bad fall from the motorcycle and hurt my back so I had to skip the Raid-de-Himalaya 2000 and was able to participate in the Raid in 2001. The Raid in 2001 was a 7 day event and was flagged off from Shimla again, stopping at Manali the next night, then proceeding to Kaza the next night, then from Kaza to Pang the following night before reaching Leh the following day. From Leh the rally headed for Kargil and back to Leh on the same day, then from leh to Manali and on the last day from Manali to Shima where it finished. The Raid in 2001 witnessed the death of one motorcyclist and 2 of my very dear friends who were participating in a jeep. I finished 3rd overall in the 2001 raid and won my category, but the win was very bitter due to the tragic death of my friends Jaswinder Pal and Chowdhari. I still see them often in my dreams and remember the last night we spent together at a restaurant in Manali before their accident on the way to Shimla the following day.
We participated in the Raid 2002 as a Team but I did not participate due to some personal reasons. We serviced our team - Team Premier ISP, and we won the raid fair and square (all spots on motorcycle category).
Despite my accident, when I decided to come to the states in 2003, I wanted to participate in as many rallies as I could because I was not sure if I will be able to pursue motor-sports here. So I participated in SJOBA 2003 and Highland Rally 2003 but didn't get any podium finishes because winding up my business was something that just took away all the time that I possibly had.
Since the past 6 years I have not participated in any motor sport event but the time has now come that get back to it. I realised (too late) that not everyone is passionate about something in this world, and even if a majority of people do have some passions, they just can not afford to do what they love. I know, with a little hard work and dedication, I can be one of those few people who can balance between a professional life, family life and the life I dream about every other night ... the Motor-sport Life !
I am currently looking for sponsors so I could participate in the Raid-De-Himalaya 2013. I will be driving a KTM 530 EXC-R and have a team of 2 participants so far, with my partner (Gurinder Singh aka Garry) riding a KTM 450 EXC-R. We have started practicing and are currently negotiating with KTM to sponsor some spares and shipping of the motorcycles to India. If KTM inc will help us, we can offer a great coverage to our other sponsors as well as KTM.
MotorSports is not a game, it is a true sport. A sport where you ride with the risk of serious injury or even death at any given moment because due to the adrenaline rush in your brain, all you want to do is ride faster and make time on the others without thinking about the risks of accidents or the consequences of a crash.
I feel that my biggest strength in motor-sports is my ability to control the adrenaline and not letting it blind me of the risks involved. I know I am a very fast rider, all my wins from the past are a proof to it, but more than riding fast, I have a fair understanding of how fast do I need to go before I risk a DNF (Did not Finish) in the race. I also know where I stand in a competition and since there are Great riders, good riders and bad riders, I consider myself good and will never go out of my way risking my life to catch up with a rider who has made good time on me.
This doesn't mean I wont participate to win, but first I will participate to finish, and then will do my best to win and compete with anyone out there with the track with me. This is very important. Specially when you know that there are other riders who would just overdo it every time and end up breaking their motorcycles / cars or themselves resulting in a DNF (did not finish).
As far as my riding skills are concerned, I can not pin-point any specific skills, but all I can say here is that I have spent lot of time riding on the dirts since I was a kid and that experience is responsible for giving me a thorough understanding of the riding techniques.
Wish me luck in getting everything organized and if everything goes as planned, I will be adding more pictures and information about my next rally.
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