Indian motorcycle racer Harith Noah took a historic victory in the Rally 2 class of the 2024 Dakar Rally. Asian Motorsport reviews his performance and his grueling twelve-stage journey to glory.

By Prakhar Drolia

Harith Noah entered the 2024 edition of Dakar on the back of a Stage 4 exit in 2023, and a slightly better, but still disappointing, Stage 10 exit in the year before that. He entered this year’s rally as a Sherco, riding a TVS Bike and in the Rally 2 category. Noah knew that his biggest focus had to be the bare minimum of surviving the 12 stages, and getting to grips with  the new beast of the 48H Chrono.

This was an understanding that he himself underlined at the end of the competition, stating that he was “happy that I’ve finished. That was the main goal, to reach the finishing line and we are here.” However, he hadn’t just finished the whole rally – he  also emerged as champion in the Rally 2 Bikes category.

In doing so, Noah became the first Indian to achieve a stage win, and ofcourse finish in the lead in any category in the rally. Besides Japanese stock car racer Akira Miura, Noah became the only other competitor from Asia to finish in the lead in any category in across all of Dakar 2024,  with legends such as Nasser-Al-Attiyah retiring towards the end.

Noah took the overall lead in the penultimate stage, going from trailing the eventual runner-up Romain Dumontier by four-and-a-half minutes to creating a comfortable lead of almost five minutes and 53 seconds going into the final stage. Here, it was clear to see that his consistency and his comfort with the machinery beneath him paid off.

But there were two key stages to Noah’s incredible story at the Dakar 2024: Stage 6. These stages showed his progress as a driver change in him and the new resilience and ability that he possessed!

Stage 6: The 48H Chrono

A new version of the traditional marathon stage, The 48H Chrono was a new challenge for everyone taking part in the Dakar Rally. This stage required multiple aspects of a rider’s participation to all simultaneously work in sync: – the bike, the driver’s navigation, the driver’s ability to work on the bike and huge mental resilience.

This two-day stage caught out many riders and drivers alike, from the new ones to the extremely experienced competitors with a lot of constant dunes to tackle in the 626 km special section. Noah and his TVS SHERCO 450 Rally bike remained resilient through this stage; he finished a mere 16 minutes and one second behind the Rally 2 leader for that stage, and around the half hour mark from the overall leader.

A combination of him putting in an excellent stage performance and many drivers retiring, or falling behind with issues, led Noah to climb up in the overall rankings by five positions to P13, from where he would get to improve a further two positions over the second stretch of Dakar 2024. He also cut his deficit from the Rally 2 class lead by a whopping 19 minutes and 14 seconds.

Stage 10: A pure display of talent

By now, Noah had become a front-running contender for not just the podium, but possibly threatening Dumontier for the Rally 2 victory. In Stage 10, Noah not only finished ahead of all others in his Rally 2 class by four minutes and 17 seconds, he also finished 5th in the overall standings. This was both a personal best and a national record  at the rally, with Noah finishing just 1 minute and 55 seconds from overall stage winner Ricky Brabec.

Noah’s performances came at a crucial time as many front-runners had started losing out in the individual stages with the heat and fatigue of the Saudi Arabian desert’s effect taking its toll.

Emerging victorious

Noah took the Rally 2 lead in Stage 11. He was able to maintain this comfortably to the end to emerge victorious in the Rally 2 class, and 11th overall, under three hours away from Rally champion Ricky Brabec. In doing so, he created history for himself, TVS, and the Indian motorsport scene, which is embracing motorbike racing further and further over the last couple of years.

The victory was, to a large extent, crafted by his performances rides in the second week of Dakar, where, instead of just surviving, he got down to also going fast and getting ahead of the rest. Noah made minimal navigation errors and also received no penalties.

After completing the final stage, Noah expressed his feelings on this campaign and stated, “I learned a lot this year, especially during the second week, I felt really strong and it’s something to build on for next year.

“I think in the second week I just felt better on the bike, the bike was working perfectly. It was the same bike until the finish, still really strong, so I was really comfortable on the bike, it was good. It feels good to win.”

Header photo credit: Dakar Rally DAKAR A.S.O./F.Lefloc’h/DPPI

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