Beware roads! for you are about to experience the friction of a lifetime. The heat, the speed, the energy, can you take it?! Have mercy on us, said the roads. Fortunately, the roads never really got to witness him, simply because he was too fast for them, and generous enough to let them live. And so our protagonist decides to go for the dirt tracks. Well, they were fair competitors. Rugged, merciless and full of surprises – Aravind KP battling out with them is a sight you would not miss for the world.
Connecting for the #IamLivingit series, Jasmeet from Team Livingit got in touch with the king of roads, with stories on how he got to where he is today, his love for the road less traveled and his passion for motorsports.
Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourselves for the ride of your life –
Livingit: Tell us the story behind your parents agreeing on giving you your very first motorbike, which was it and where did you learn to ride it?
Aravind KP: Growing up, I had an MTB cycle with which I would race my brother to school. I think that developed the competitive streak in me. My first exposure to motorsports was when I was in senior secondary school. I witnessed a Supercross event close to my school and realized that there were professional teams who participate in racing and never missed a championship after that. My parents identified my passion for riding and gifted me my first motorcycle when I cleared my PU exams with good marks.
Livingit: What got you off the public roads and riding on tracks?
Aravind KP: It was during my college days in Mangalore. I was inseparable from my bike and had a keen interest in racing. I hung out with a mechanic to learn technical aspects of the machine and he once commented that I was too fast and asked me to try dirt track racing.
I attended a few dirt track events and raced as a privateer but due to lack of proper training, I often met with accidents. However, that didn’t deter my spirit and I raced for the Gulf Dirt Track National Championship in 2006. It was there that I was approached by TVS Racing and signed on by them.
Livingit: You began competitively riding at quite a young age – but how did you decide on and get into motocross, it is such an intense sport?
Aravind KP: As mentioned earlier, when I was in senior secondary school, I went to a Super-Cross event and that was my window to the world of motorsports. I started following this sport and used to make sure that I attend as many racing events as possible.
I used to follow Ricky Carmichael aka the ‘GOAT’- an unbeaten champion in Motocross. I have been tracking his career and wanted to replicate his passion for this sport. I loved the adrenaline rush and feel I was probably destined to be a motocross racer.
Livingit: What was the first race you’d ever taken part in and how was your experience?
Aravind KP: I started looking for opportunities to race and started racing as a privateer at the age of 19 without the knowledge of my parents. I began racing in 2005 as a novice and I finished 8th in a local racing event. My parents got to know that I am racing only when I won my first race and it was splashed all over the local newspapers. The experience of my first race cannot be described in words as all my dreams and aspirations seemed to culminate on that day.
Livingit: What other hobbies/passions do you like to involve yourself in – that are more relaxing than motocross? You were a national level swimming champion; do you still practice swimming as a sport?
Aravind KP: I have been an athlete all my life and enjoy swimming, rafting, surfing, trekking, and cycling. This also helps me keep fit. A racer should always either be practicing or be doing physical fitness training. So, swimming helps me maintain my stamina.
On an average, I practice 60 to 80 laps a day on a 2-kilometer track followed by swimming. Also, at times I try my hands at cooking. I look up YouTube for new recipes and also experiment with my mom’s tried and tested recipes. In my free time, I meet a select group of friends who have been with me for a long time now.
Livingit: In 2012, you faced an injury while riding, shattering your hip. How important was it to you to get back into the saddle? How determined were you to recover?
Aravind KP: I fractured my hip socket during a training session for a racing event in Sri Lanka. It was a huge blow for me but turned out to be a boon in the long run as I returned to the track with fresh vigor. The support I received from TVS Racing was paramount in my bid to recover and get back on the track.
I trained harder and learned to ride safer leading to many highs in the next few years. Similarly, when I took part in Raid De Himalaya 2013, I crashed near the finish line which led to the realization that a rider’s performance has to be aligned to the terrain and we need to be focused on finishing the rally.
This insight coupled with better-informed practice sessions throughout the years have helped me improve my skills.
Livingit: How did you train towards participating in the Dakar Rally, what was your routine?
Aravind KP: I was introduced to Enduro training in France and Road Book training in Spain. This helped me navigate through the deserts of Morocco last year. I spent a lot of time on my motorcycle. I worked closely with the TVS-Sherco engineers for building my race machine at the factory in Nimes and they ensured my motorcycle didn’t fail despite the tough terrain. I had a strong foundation provided by TVS Racing over the last 10 years and the international exposure helped as well.
Dakar doesn’t forgive those who cannot see the big picture and to prepare for this behemoth of an event, one has to participate in Indian and International Rally events like the Baja Aragon and the Oilibya Morocco Rally which can give a sense of what the Dakar holds in store.
My team-mates Joan Pedrero and Adrien Metge were my support system and my team manager, David Castue made me push myself beyond my best. The last decade spent racing as part of TVS Racing has been instrumental in preparing me for international competitions and they remain an integral part of project Dakar.
Livingit: How did you mentally prepare for the 9000km race? Were you particularly nervous about any aspect of the rally?
Aravind KP: I was training with my teammates, who had been participating regularly at Dakar and benefitted a lot from their experience.
Being a rookie, I was definitely nervous prior to Dakar but equally excited to represent the team and the country. But my training and the encouragement from the Sherco-TVS Rally Factory Team helped a lot.
Livingit: For anyone to take up motocross professionally it is not an easy journey, especially in India. How did you stay focused and kept at it? Who were those who most supported/motivated you?
Aravind KP: Though Motorsports is catching up rapidly, it will still take the time to match up to the other sports in the country with respect to getting stakeholders support.
I am glad that this scenario is changing with FMSCI taking initiatives to conduct motorsports in fair, orderly and disciplined manner and constructing international tracks (MMSC). Companies like TVS Motor Company are encouraging budding talent and including them in their factory team.
When I started a decade ago, there was not much exposure to this sport and my family had their reservations when they realized that I was willing to take it up as a career.
However over the years, after watching me win a few races as a TVS Racing rider, they are lending me immense support. I could achieve what I have because of their immense support and understanding. My family and friends have always supported me but my team has stood by me in all times and TVS Racing is not only my team but a part of my family.
Livingit: How has been your journey with TVS and how do you think they’ve helped bring the ‘motocross’ dream to reality?
Aravind KP: TVS Racing team spotted me at Gulf Dirt Track National Championship in 2006 and extended an offer to join the team. This turned out to be an opportunity of a lifetime. I learned quickly with TVS Racing and moved to the professional category from the novice category. I have been given access to extensive training at the factory and abroad and opportunities given to me to participate in races in India as well as Sri Lanka.
I have won 17 National and 1 International Championships so far with TVS Racing. In early 2016, they inducted me into Sherco-TVS Rally Factory team and arranged for my training in France and Spain. With the successful completion of OiLibya Rally of Morocco, I had qualified for Dakar 2017.
As I look back at my journey, I feel fortunate to be a part of TVS Racing and am greatly indebted to the team for laying a strong foundation for me as a racer.
Livingit: How is your experience with TVS Sherco? Anything you’d like to share about the bike with us? And how about its performance at Dakar, IndiaBaja & recently at Merzouga Rally?
Aravind KP: I ride for TVS Racing team and the team has chosen me to be part of international rallies that we compete in association with Sherco. In early 2016, I was inducted into the Sherco-TVS Factory Rally team and the team arranged for my training in France and Spain. Through this arrangement, our team gets hands-on experience and deeper understanding of international racing programs and improve the competitiveness of TVS Racing.
The TVS-Sherco engineers and I worked closely to build my race machine at the factory in Nimes and they ensured my motorcycle didn’t fail despite the tough terrain. I rode the 450 cc bike customized for me.
I rode the 450cc bike at the Dakar. The bike has a 449.40cc engine with digital electronic fuel injection and liquid cooling. At India Baja, I rode the RTR 450; this bike had engine and suspension almost similar to the Dakar motorcycle, I preferred to ride this motorcycle rather than riding on the Dakar motorcycle after we carefully analyzed the rally route. I used my Dakar motorcycle at Merzouga Rally and it was a memorable experience.
Though Dakar is the most challenging rally in the world, Merzouga Rally is not easy either. In fact, many times it is known as mini Dakar Rally. This was my first international rally of the new season and I have emerged victorious. My performance at Merzouga Rally has enhanced my confidence and I am ready to take on newer challenges.
Livingit: Multiple injuries to your wrist and then shoulder led you to drop out after a successfully completed stage 1 and 2 of the 39th edition of the Dakar Rally: Such incident must be heartbreaking for any rider, what has been your learning in this experience?
Aravind KP: Injuries are a part of the game. I have been a racer for a decade and a sportsman all my life. One cannot treat injuries as hurdles in achieving your goal. Dakar can spring surprises, even to the most skilled riders. One needs to be prepared for the most unexpected things.
It was unfortunate that I couldn’t complete the Dakar but the experience of riding through world’s most challenging terrain shall forever be etched in my memory. The new racing season has already begun and I am training hard to improve my endurance and trail riding techniques basis my experience at Dakar.
Livingit: You recently scored a respectful 2nd position at India Baja 2017, and 21st at Merzouga Rally? How was your Baja experience and how was the competition? Also, tell us about your experience at Merzouga Rally where you were competing with both International and Indian talent.
Aravind KP: India Baja was high on the action this year as there were international riders to give a tough competition to the national riders. My teammate from Sherco TVS Factory Rally team, Adrien Metge was in India to participate this time. It was a great experience and I was excited to be back on my bike.
It was a challenging rally; the terrain was slightly tricky but interesting. It was a great platform for India racers as they got a chance to participate in an international rally.
Merzouga Rally was a mini-Dakar series. The decade worth of training with the TVS Racing team helped me face any kind of challenge the race threw at me. It was great to ride with the Sherco TVS team and this time my fellow Indian from TVS Racing, AW Tanveer was also a part of it. He did an amazing job finishing the race.
Livingit: You’ve taken part in both Motocross and Supercross events – do you have any preferences when it comes to the type of race in terms of terrain? Where will we find KP Aravind to be spending his time and why?
Aravind KP: I am a motocross racer and this will always excite me. I love the format and fortunate enough to get a chance participate in international challenges with TVS Racing.
For now, I am in a phase where I am trying to learn as much as I can with each rally and trying to get an experience of riding across varied terrains with regular participation in multi-format races across India and abroad.
Livingit: How do you feel about your accomplishments so far & getting recognized and what is next for KP Aravind? What are you aiming for next?
Aravind KP: I had the passion and TVS Racing recognized it. I owe my success and accomplishment to TVS Racing. Without the team’s support, I couldn’t have achieved this.
They have helped me in living my dreams and it feels great to have come so far. The new season is open post-Merzouga and I am looking forward to participating in various rallies both in India and abroad.
Livingit: How do you feel India has grown/progressed in support to such events? There are still a lot of riders who dream of racing but can’t afford the training and logistics involved. Do you see things improving and what do you suggest to aspiring racers?
Aravind KP: Motorsports is far popular these days than what it was when I began my career. A lot of youngsters are taking up riding and entering into the professional arena. But I feel the sport still has a long way before it can come to par with other popular ones.
It needs a lot of support from the manufacturers and due to the efforts of corporates like TVS Motor Company (TVS Racing is a part of the company), the hidden talent is coming to the forefront and putting India on the global map.
On this note, my only suggestion to aspirants is that keep practicing and participating. They must participate in all crucial events to be able to find a place in a team. One such event is TVS One Make Championship, where TVS handpick riders for their team and train them to become the racers.
Livingit: Motorcycling landscape in India is changing and a lot of adventure tourers bikes have been launched here. These bikes are capable of going off-road & this has allowed a lot of people experience off-road riding. What advice would you give to someone interested in experience off-road or dirt-racing?
Aravind KP: I must say that motorsports are getting stronger and getting more encouragement. Doing off-roading on a motorcycle is different from racing and racing forms like motocross, supercross, etc. Anyone who intends to take up racing has to learn it from experts to start with, like joining a riding school, etc.
Over a period of time, one gets to know which form of racing one is good at or wants to pursue and thereafter training and participation in various events begins. If you are lucky enough and get to join a factory team like I did it opens up enormous opportunities to learn and grow.
Livingit: And when it comes to pursuing racing as a career, what would be your top 3 recommendations to aspiring riders.
Aravind KP: Racing is not an easy sport. It takes years of training and perseverance to achieve perfection and even then, there is always a room for improvement. One needs to practice well and be prepared for any kind of circumstances. It is always crucial to keep yourself motivated and keep working towards honing your skills. A smooth race has never made a good racer, therefore, challenge yourself and never give up on your dreams.
Just like racing, life is full of surprises, full of knocks on your closed door.
Whether you choose to open it, (the monster of laziness conquers us all at some point in life), is entirely in your hands. Open the door every once in a while, it’s your conscience knocking, it wants to take you on an adventure, it wants you to be Livingit.