The Sad Condition of Motorsports in India

The Sad Condition of Motorsports in India

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Article written by Sarah Kashyap India’s first woman Royal Enfield rallyist, an adventurer, traveller and blogger.

Sarah Kashyap
Sarah Kashyap

Even in 2016, when you use the word ‘rally’ in India, majority of the oblivious Indians think that rally means going out in groups together for demonstrations! So when you say, motorcycle rallying, they think the same as above + doing it on the motorcycles!!

Thanks to the cricket crazy country that we are, and now slowly after years of persistence, developing interest in say ‘a kabbadi league’ or say ‘a wrestling league’ or say ‘a football league.’ That also just for the entertainment of it, you need not really understand the sport and what goes into making of those wrestlers or footballers! Right, yeah?

A small country like Spain (currently not financially strong even, if my GK is correct!) is much better off supporting people from Motorsports, recognizing the potential and providing them a platform.

And a massive country like India couldn’t even support the ONLY GUY that had the balls to make it abroad all by himself – C S Santhosh.

And now he’s drained! Of course, that goes without saying! It’s a bloody expensive sport! Currently, this is what the gentleman is up to. A man his caliber should have never had to reach this point to get support! I feel saddened seeing this!

For all the ‘demonstration’ guys: Folks, ‘Rallying’ is a form of Motorsport that takes place on public or private roads with modified production or specially built road-legal cars and motorcycles. It’s one of the most dangerous sport in the world and also the costliest! Unlike track racing, where there is no change in terrain, climate, conditions, surprise factors ; rallying on the other hand has all of these plus much more!

Rally racing need steel balls to even think of attempting! No wonder all the rally boys & girls are class apart. They personify the adventure spirit to another level, getting down and out but still never giving up – that human spirit that we all salute but few have!

A 28-year old Bangalore boy, Aravind KP, national supercross, motocross & now rally champion for quite a few years is struggling as much to find sponsors as C S Santhosh is. All he’s dreaming currently is about the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge which will cost him roughly 30 lakh rupees! You go to his hometown in Mangalore and all his house is filled with is – TROPHIES!

To think of it, 30 lakhs isn’t a BIG amount if a corporate decides to sponsor him! I’ve heard they spend much more in their daughter’s wedding or the wife’s diamond, isn’t it?!

Aravind KP
Aravind KP

Another gentleman who beat the shit out of all the foreign bikes in last year’s Raid-de-himalaya, on nothing else but his modified ROYAL ENFIELD was Sanjay Kumar N from Bangalore.

Overall 5th in the 17th Raid and 1st in his class, a National champion in Enfield category in all the Indian National Rally Championships’ rounds (so apparently, there isn’t a guy in India who races the old boy Enfield faster than him!) and now wanting to graduate to a faster bike, is struggling equally to find sponsors!

I don’t just get it, how hard is it to understand that if I guy can perform like ‘THIS’ on an Enfield, give him a foreign bike and some support and he will FLY on those tracks, in any race in the world!

Well, and to end all this rant, let me talk about myself:

No Limca record or Guinness for me, but I’m the first Indian woman to RACE a Royal Enfield, in rallies! I never thought I had it in me coz every time I spoke to friends or people in general about this whole ‘rallying’scene in India, they used to tell me that it’s useless to even dream about entering it. I’m not fast enough. Boys will beat the shit out of me. I don’t know how to ride. And the serious ones told there’s no support, no encouragement and no media coverage whatsoever. Pretty true though!

Sarah Kashyap
Sarah Kashyap

I finished Raid in October last year and so far only India Today, Deccan Chronicle & 1 Kannada newspaper has written about me. I was never the one who used to care about getting a picture in newspaper and I still don’t, but I knew that media coverage would matter for the prospective sponsors so I got in touch with all journalists in Chandigarh after raid, but NO ONE WROTE A PIECE! Yeah, true that! :)

Apparently, a girl ‘travelling’ on a motorcycle from say Point A to Point B and covering several kilometers makes better news than a girl attempting a rally race on a motorcycle and making the country proud. Regardless of what you ride, media doesn’t see the scope in a sport like this! And I honestly wonder why!

I’m the only woman in the WORLD (yes, you’re reading it right!) who picked up a 180 kg bike, a Royal Enfield, for a race like Raid-de-himalaya and managed well to finish it in good time, the 6 gruelling days of extreme! On one of the days, I was 16th overall, faster than one of the KTMs, the Impulse, the other Royal Enfields and my timing wasn’t far from the 14th and the 15th either – Leg5-Overall-MotoXtreme15

You all know that I work for Royal Enfield. But I never asked for sponsorship for Raid-de-himalaya from RE. I understand and respect the brand and their stand on being a leisure motorcycling brand rather than a racing brand. The bike isn’t really meant for racing anyway. People who do use it in races is because of sheer love and addiction towards the machine. Atleast that was the case with me, for sure! My bosses were still kind enough to send me tyres right before the race and taking care of the flight tickets & transportation of my bike on my way back.

I know I’m no C S Santhosh, or Aravind KP or Sanjay Kumar and I’m not even winning races at the moment. But I have the potential!!

How in movies they spot a young talent and give them the amenities to reach where they deserve to reach. How I wish ONE company sees that and does the same. Not only for me, but for all my fellow rallyists!

For me to become like any of them and for them to become like the Marc Coma, we all need support! Not 1000/- rs. that people deposit in some website (Thanks for that even guys, it’s respectful that you guys are considerate enough to even give it a thought!) but support from the industry, support from the corporate, support from Sports ministry, support from international racing teams is what is the need of the hour!

Today, one month before Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, my another dream, I don’t even have money to replace my torn riding gear! I don’t have a bike either, not for training not for the race. I don’t have the entry fee! I don’t have the service backup! I’m still recovering from my Raid debt.

All I have is the spirit, the will, and that shall never die. It doesn’t matter I get support this year or not. It doesn’t matter I get new riding gear or not, And It doesn’t matter I turn 1 year older. I’m here for long. I’ll save every penny I will earn for my racing dream. It isn’t a career for me, (I already have a job 😉 ) This is passion! And passion has no age!

I might not become the youngest Indian woman to reach the start line of Dakar or WRC or International Bajas (I have anyway crossed that age I guess! 😉 ) But reach, I will!

On that note, let’s hope, this article reaches one and all. The likes of Santhosh or KP or Sanjay don’t have to beg borrow any more for representing the country and the sport. And that many more corporates come forward and support this sport.

Before I put my pen down (yeah, I wrote it on paper!), I want to tell you why not any other sport for me – why rallying?!

That element of danger when you’re out in an unforgiving terrain, that machine that isn’t a kid’s play and that adrenaline you get when you cross obstacles in speed – it’s a sport for the ones with steel balls, I reiterate. As a woman, it makes me feel stronger. It makes me believe that I can attempt anything I want in this world. Every time I cross an obstacle on my motorcycle, it makes me believe that gender is nothing – it’s just skin and bones! I’m as good as them and they are as sensitive as me. We are the same! And we are in the same sport! And this thought, changes me as a person completely!

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