For the very first time there will be a team of Indian riders participating in the gruelling Baja1000 Rally. Here’s how it all panned out!
Team from India @ Baja1000
The concept of Baja was introduced to India in the year 2016 by Northern Motorsport. The event saw riders from different parts of the country assemble in Rajasthan. The start was scheduled at midnight. Competitors were to do 3 night stages and another 3 stages in the morning.
Many compared this format of rallying to T-20 Cricket. If Raid de Himalaya, Desert Storm and Dakshin Dare were test cricket, this was one-day cricket or better T-20 Cricket. Short, Sweet but GRUELLING. It was a sprint format with no night halts, just outright madness from the word go!!!
New to this part of the world, however, with a lineage of close to half a century, the 2017 edition of the SCORE BAJA1000 will be the 50th edition of this cult event.
For the uninitiated, the SCORE Baja1000 is an off-road race that takes place in Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. The first official race started in Tijuana, Baja California, on October 31, 1967, and was named the NORRA Mexican 1000 Rally. In 1974, Baja California governor Milton Castellanos handed over sanctioning of the event to a non-profit Mexican corporation called the “Baja Sports Committee” (BSC). BSC found promoting Baja races more difficult than anticipated. Instead of giving up the race, the Mexican government requested help from Southern California Off-Road Enterprises (SCORE) in hosting and promoting future Baja races.
The 2017 round will be the 50th SCORE Baja 1000, occurring from November 14–18 over an 1134.4-mile loop starting in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and ending in La Paz BCS, Mexico.
The 50th Score Baja1000 2017 (November 14–18)
The race will start from Ensenada (Baja California-Mexico), 65 miles south of US/Mexico Border. This year will see 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.
The concept might be new to us, but to the ones living in the western parts of the world this is an annual occurrence, a cult that finds itself on the bucket list of many motorsport enthusiasts like Gurpinder Singh Sarao, a.k.a. Nick to his friends, who has been nurturing a dream of competing in this event for some time now.
Nick started racing at the age of 16 when he bought his first motorcycle—a Suzuki Shogun. The same year he took part in his first rally first rally, SJOBA, in Chandigarh. He’s also participated in Raid De Himalaya astride 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 seemed the ideal platform and he 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.
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! 😉
He reached out to friends who were passionate about riding…extreme riding. 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 and a big heart…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.
Apart from the riders, the team also had to finalize on someone who would lead the backup…someone with technical know-how, someone with relevant experience, someone as crazy as them! Prashanth PK a.k.a Prashi was approached. With over 24 years of riding experience, Prashi has finished on the podium of Raid De Himalaya and has traveled the length and breadth of India, he was the ideal person to take charge as the technical lead.
They say stickers and merchandise are almost equivalent to currency in Baja1000. A complete package would require someone who is not only a talented designer, but has worked on similar projects in the past. Aniket Das, a talented industrial designer specializing in motorcycle design and motorsport graphics agreed to come on-board. His credentials speak for themselves…from starting out as CS Santosh’s graphic designer to working with the KTM Factory Racing and Speedbrain on Dakar motorcycles, Aniket knows what it takes to ensure top notch marketing collaterals are in place.
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. It was decided to run the team under the Indimotard banner with the 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 our is able to fulfill their objective at the Score BAJA1000.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
About 226 Motorsports
226 Motorsports is a result of like-minded people from different walks of life ranging from corporate professionals and self-employed individuals getting together. A common thread that connect them all is their love for adventure and motorsport. The founder members Yogesh Lakhani and Nitinjit Singh Bawa have a collective motorsport experience of 25 years in participating and providing rider back up in rallies such as Raid De Himalaya, Desert Storm, Mughal Rally, OYA Autocross and SJOBA to name a few.