A cheery smile is what I got when rider number 49 rolled past me towards the podium this morning. Not a man given to expressive outbursts, I still couldn’t stop myself from cheering C S Santosh as he rode past on that brilliant sounding Hero motorcycle. I felt proud to witness an Indian rider lining up at the podium as a factory rider for an Indian team.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, the Dakar Rally isn’t my first motorsport event. But I have never been to one where I had the opportunity to cheer an Indian rider or driver competing for an Indian team. Now that I have, I can tell you it’s a moment of immense pride. Earlier today in a quick informal chat with Hero Motocorp’s Chief Technical Officer Markus Braunsperger, he said (with some emotion), “Go back and tell people what we’re trying to do here.”
Standing there, cheering for Santosh and Hero Motorsports, I needed no convincing. I had to go back and tell people what they’re trying to do here. They’re trying to put us Indians into a space where we are nobodies. They are trying to show the world that what they can, we can too. They are trying to make us feel proud about ourselves. So what if we bungled up the Formula 1 attempt after a couple of years or so? So what if the promise of a World Superbike round in India proved to be a false one? We have a team and a rider in the world’s most challenging motorsport event. And that, surely is cause for pride.