Pune: Defending champions Ajgar Ali and Mohammed Mustafa maintained their narrow lead in India’s only Tri-Nation TSD rally-the JK Tyre Himalayan Drive 6-as it entered its final stages in Darjeeling on Tuesday.
The Ajgar-Mustafa duo were ahead of Subir Roy and Nirav Mehta by three penalty points, after putting up a brilliant show on the fourth day to collect only 50 penalty points for a cumulative total of 149. Subir and Nirav have 152 penalty points and can still topple the TSD veterans on the final day.
A total of 23 teams, comprising of a driver and a navigator, from all over the country and Nepal are participating in the rally that was flagged off from Siliguri on February 23 (Friday).
It has so far travelled 1,615 kilometers through Nepal, Bhutan and the Dooars area of North Bengal arriving in in the enchanting hill station of Darjeeling.
In the first leg, which saw the teams reach Nepal, Ali and Musthafa picked up 54 penalty points while Subir and Nirav were within striking distance with 62 penalty points.
In the next leg, when the competitors drove through riverbeds and dirt tracks around the world-famous Chitwan National Park, Subir and Nirav performed better with 24 penalty points while the Ali-Musthafa team got 31.
In the third leg, when they all drove 609 kilometers back to India, the Ali-Musthafa team performed slightly better than the Subir-Nirav team with their respective scores being 14 and 18 penalty points.
The two top teams are far ahead of this third-placed Captain Vijaykumar Sharma and Chandan Sen, who picked up a total of 357 penalty points. Anand Mehta and Sabatullah Khan, with a cumulative score of 757 penalty points, and Nikunj Toshniwal and Prasenjit Roy with 1196 penalty points, are behind the leaders.
In the Open category, Gagan Sethi and Dhiraj Arrora are in the lead with 1396 penalty points. They were followed by Pranjal More and Milindo Paul at a distant second by 5985 penalty point. In the third position were Govind Dalmia and Anand Agarwala with 7228 penalty points.
In this category, too, the Sethi-Arrora team have maintained their lead right from the first leg, when they picked up 545 penalty points, more than 1,000 penalty points over their closest competitor.
On the final leg of the rally, the competitors who were flagged off from the Tashi Namgay Grand Hotel above Phuentsholing in Bhutan, crossed back into India at Jaigaon and drove past the Jaldapara National Park, which is home to the Royal Bengal Tigers, one-horned rhinos, bisons and elephants.
The competitors then hit the hills and passed through Samsing, Gorubathan, Lava and the charming hill station of Kalimpong where they had lunch and then continued through the steep, tea bush-covered hills of Peshoke to reach Darjeeling in the evening through Jorebungalow.
They covered nearly 250 kilometers, of which the competitive section covered 180 kilometers. The prize distribution ceremony will be held in Darjeeling on Wednesday.