One runs into all sorts of people in a racing paddock during a big motorsport event. It even draws out people from disciplines different to the event being held, on account of the event's importance. Such was the case at the recently concluded MotoGP round near Barcelona, the Catalan Grand Prix. While roaming the paddock on Sunday, autoX ran into two-time Dakar Rally champion (one win apiece on two wheels and four) Joan "Nani" Roma Cararach, more commonly known to those who follow motorsport as Nani Roma.
The Dakar Rally has, of course, gained far more traction in the consciousness of the Indian media than before on account of the exploits of CS Santosh, who became the first Indian to ever take part in and finish the event in 2015.
Following another attempt this year, Santosh has now secured a factory ride, which gives him the freedom to focus on training and be in the right place to train for another Dakar attempt in 2017.
His exploits have even led to recognition to the point that Roma has heard of the Bengaluru native trying his hand at the toughest motorsport test there is. The Spaniard, who last won the rally on a bike in 2004 and in 2014 in a car, was pleased to hear of Santosh having the means to train in Europe.
"This is very good," Roma said to autoX. "It's the best thing he can do, which is to come to Europe and come to Spain to ride and to train here."
When hearing of Santosh's lack of experience at events that follow a roadbook for navigation rather than GPS units, as used in Indian events, Roma was understanding of the issues the Indian faced at the Dakar and more recently, at the Merzouga Rally.
"Yeah, this is more tough," said Roma with a knowing chuckle. "It is very tough to follow a roadbook and you really need a lot of experience with it, but he needs to continue with his training."
Roma said that Spain is the home of many a retired cross-country rallyists who have a lot of experience in preparing a detailed roadbook that reads out like a scroll on a motorcycle's navigation tower. Working with these ex-rallyists is how many competitors in Spain are able to prepare themselves for bigger rallies that demand putting your trust in someone else's logging of a rally route and then using it to get the maximum out of their machines.
"Trusting the roadbook is hard," said Roma. "But it is from this trust that a rider gains confidence. It is not easy and it is a very important mental aspect of rallying but he (Santosh) needs to continue training as much as he can."