Pune: A welcome surprise awaited Pune rally driver Sanjay Takale ahead of Thursday’s shakedown of the FIA World Rally Championship’s Rally Finland when two New Zealanders approached him with a signed T-shirt by his well-wishers from the Asia-Pacific region.
After winning the 2013 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Production Cup title, Takale has not just won podium finishes, but scores of fans and friends alike.
Two days of recce through the gruelling course in Jyvaskyla where unlike in APRC one drives a different car to get the feel of the course, in WRC competition car is taken through the course.
And, as he readied for the all-important shakedown, two rally fans from New Zealand met him and presented Takale what he called “priceless T-shirt” with message from Asia-Pacific region. The surprise was planned by Michael Young--his former teammate at Cusco Racing during APRC days.
“It was from Team Cusco Japan with Mike, Sugiyama, Malcolm, Jeff Crowley and many friends signing good wishes for me. I am very touched with this kind of gesture,” Takale told Sakal Times from Jyvaskyla.
“Shakedown went well. We were faster and in control and I hope to finish this rally in a good shape,” said Takale as he prepared for the drive of his life.
Takale’s immediate target in Rally Finland is to complete the course that comprises of 23 Special Stages spread over 317.26 Kms. The competitors will cover a total distance of 1,427.49 Kms.
Rally Finland is considered the fastest event in the WRC with average speeds upwards of 126Kmph, besides iconic jumps of Ruuhimäki Special Stage on Sunday.
‘Extremely happy that my dream of rallying in Finland came true’
More than a decade since he shifted from two-wheelers to cars, Sanjay Takale has come a long way, and as he arrived at the Mecca of world rallying—the Finnish city of Jyvaskyla near Helsinki—the Pune-based rally driver spoke to Sakal Times about the two days of recce and Thursday’s shakedown in his Baltic Motorsports-prepared Ford Fiesta R2.
The Finland WRC rally is considered as the most technical. Did you get ‘butterflies’ before the recce?
I was prepared for the worst, but I knew I could go through the course since I have done similar courses in this region to prepare for this rally since last one year of so. Butterflies are always there when you do something big, but yes I was cautious since it was my first time.
How different is the course in Finland than in say Latvia and Estonia where you rallied in May to prepare for this WRC round?
Jyvaskyla is an amazing Finnish outback with fine gravel roads lined by thick forests and huge stomach-churning jumps that are peculiar to this region.
What really was different in Finland than in other rallies that you have driven in Asia-Pacific region?
The fans here are amazing. They line-up to see action even during recce, which is not the case in Asia or Pacific. In Finland, rallying is not just a passion, but its like religion. The whole town of Jyvaskyla is literally closed down so that rallyists get free route through the course.
What is your aim now for next three days?
I just want to finish the rally without any incidents. If you finish the rally more than half the battle is won.