Fresh off his 2024 Dakar Rally 2 win, Harith Noah discusses what clicked into place this year, not knowing his position till the very end and more.
Harith Noah made history by winning Dakar 2024 in the Rally 2 class, becoming the first Indian to taste victory at the event. Racing for the Sherco factory team, the TVS-backed rider was the only manufacturer entrant in the class. But even more impressive was his 11th place finish in the overall standings, just six minutes outside the top 10.
We caught up with him to discuss his Dakar 2024 experience.
Harith Noah: “This was the hardest Dakar”
The Dakar Rally has always been regarded as one of the toughest motorsport events in the world. This year’s edition amped up the challenge even further with the introduction of the 48H Chrono stage. Participants had to cover over 500km of sand dunes across two days, with no outside assistance from their teams. All they had access to were simple tents and military ration.
“I would say it was the hardest Dakar, at least for me,” says Noah. “[It] was super physically demanding. Almost every day there was some kind of difficult navigation and I felt like every day the stages took longer to finish.”
Noah also reveals that he came close to quitting on the first stage – “I had a very bad headache, cramps everywhere. I think I was dehydrated on Stage 1. I did think of stopping, but I didn’t.”
“The 48 Hours stage, I had to slow down to save fuel and at night it was really cold. I didn’t have dry clothes and the next day in the morning we started really early in wet clothes. So I was sick the whole second week.”
Harith Noah: “I told everyone don’t tell me my position”
Noah picked up the pace and started gaining momentum in the second week. The 48H Chrono Stage 6 saw him leapfrog from P18 to P13 overall and he kept building on that. In fact, the Indian set the fastest Rally 2 time in two stages – Stage 8 and Stage 10.
“Obviously you don’t ride the bike throughout the year,” he says. “I was just taking time to get comfortable and something clicked the next week and I felt really good. I felt like I could put the bike wherever I wanted to and felt really confident even when I was getting through traffic in the dust and stuff. This year we got the suspension really dialed in and it was working really well.”
Noah singles out Stage 10 as a highlight. “The whole Dakar, what I keep thinking about is Stage 10 and how that went,” he says. “Apparently till the last 30km I was leading the stage. So that’s fantastic, I can’t believe. For sure that means that I’ve got it in me and it gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of belief to keep working and keep trying to get better.”
Interestingly, Noah probably found out about his Rally2 victory a while after a lot of us did. His personal mantra has always been to focus on the present and take it kilometer by kilometer. “The first thing I told anyone who met me was don’t tell me my position,” he quips.
“I really had multiple thoughts the night before the last stage if I should know or not. I knew I was in the top three or top two, but if I was behind by a minute or so then obviously I would have the stress of pushing; that I have to do really good to be the first guy to win, which is not a great feeling,” he adds.
“And then the second option would be if I’m already ahead, which was the case. But if I knew that before the stage, that means I would be a bit more relieved. Then I would be taking it easy, which is when you crash most of the times. Most of the people who crash while riding, it is when they’re just riding around; sometimes it happens when you’re pushing. So either way, I decided not to know and just give it my best.”
First Indian to win at Dakar
Noah acknowledges that in the back of his mind, there was pressure to improve on his previous best Dakar result of 20th place (scored back in 2021). But given the year he’s had – where he had to recover from a fractured spine and later a wrist injury – he was also well aware of the fact that simply completing the Dakar Rally would be feat worth celebrating. “Just to have finished is the most important thing,” he acknowledges.
But something clicked into place this time around. When asked what factors made a difference this year, Noah shared, “I think it’s just the confidence. And I focused on riding in the present a little more than in the years before. And obviously I didn’t fall over or crash too bad, so that was really good.”
He also credits fellow Dakar competitor Mason Klein for playing a role in his incredible Dakar 2024 run. “I’ve been training with Mason [in USA] for the last two years and we get along really well. He has this humungous confidence and positive energy, which is incredible,” he adds.
As for future plans, Noah says he’s going to focus on his training, but he also wants to take the time off to recuperate. “At the moment I’m trying to not think too much about racing and rallying. It’s been two weeks of non-stop [riding] and I’m just taking some time off everything.”