Marine engineer turned professional cross-country motorcycle rallyist Ashish Raorane is in the top league of his sports worldwide. In recent times he has been part of Raid de Himalaya (2015), Desert Storm rallies (2016 and 2017), PanAfrica Morocco (2018) and is currently ranked 12th in the world championship of the Baja Rallies. He is now gearing up for the Africa Eco Race 2020, and his long-time dream of participating in the world’s toughest off-road motorsport event, Dakar Rally 2021.

In July this year, Luminox roped him in as their brand ambassador. Besides the cutting-edge luminescence and readability of its line of high-performance sports watches, the Swiss watchmaker is known for its support of motorcycle racing and other adventure sports around the world. It hopes to help fulfill Ashish’s dream of participating at the 2021 Dakar Rally. Says Ashish, “I fell in love with Luminox watches and later learned that one of the first things that the brand ever did was to make its watches available for special operations groups including the US Navy SEALs, and I am happy to have them on board towards my goal of the Dakar Rally 2021.”

Ashish spoke to MW about his beginnings, his dreams, and his aspirations.

Tell us how you got into the sport?

An unplanned outing with a close friend to an off-road event was where it all started. This was followed by a single-day rally on the Indian National Championship calendar. The Raid De Himalaya and the Desert Storm rally in the Thar desert were the two cross-country rallies that put a lot of things into perspective for me, including fitness and endurance levels needed for this sport. Today I am proud to represent India for the sport and I’m glad and lucky to have a brand like Luminox that is supporting me to take my passion and journey forward. To have such a brand backing not only soothes you financially but goes on to show the trust they have in my capabilities, which further boosts my confidence in what I believe.

What are some of the challenges and how do these impact at every stage of your career?

Training for cross-country rallies is one of the biggest challenges in India. Training tracks and facilities are few and far in-between and navigation training is non-existent. Training in Europe poses financial challenges and it’s what I’m currently struggling with, as I would certainly like to spend as much time training on the bike as possible.

 Are you a watch guy?

I haven’t traditionally been a watch guy – I don’t put too much weight on the trappings of wealth or fashion, but I do appreciate the function and understand it’s value. While I could make-do with a chunky, rubberised sports watch, I enjoy the harmonious blend of craftsmanship and functionality that I get with Luminox watches. I can bang them around in the course of my work and training, and they just keep going. The best part is, they equally compliment my look when I’m off track, too. It’s a good match that I didn’t think I would appreciate as much as I do.

There’s clearly a theatrical aspect to being a motorsport athlete — the wild colours and branding are clearly geared to attracting spectator attention. Off the bike, what’s your personal style like?

Frankly, with so much of my life being physically demanding, I tend to dress for comfort in my downtime. Of course, I can’t go everywhere in cargo shorts and t-shirts (much as I’d like to), so I try to find a happy medium between comfort, a sporty vibe, and class. I really like Luminox watches because they’re just a great fit for me, and I don’t just say that as an athlete that represents them on the world stage. They’re genuinely solid, sporty, yet elegant watches that work for me as hard as I do.

How did your association with Luminox happen?

I had been looking out for a right partner to take my motorcycle racing career forward and coincidentally I was approached by Luminox watches which is a brand well-known to me. In actual fact there are no brands in the adventure segment, hence this was a perfect brand to be associated with. Most brands that are used for adventure sports do not have the rugged characteristics of Luminox watches, Associating with Luminox almost feels predicated, with their heritage in diver watches and my profession as a mariner. Having a Swiss watch brand onboard is also helping me garner interest from other reputed brands now and I’m happy to be working with Luminox towards the common Dakar dream.

Are there any development and training programmes that can help the sport grow to the next level in India?

One of my goals is to develop a training facility that will not only provide a training ground but also guidance and logistics for cross-country rallies that will guide new entrants into the sport, in India as well as internationally. This is where Luminox will help me emulate my personal values and goals.