Murdeshwar: It had been over a year since Sanjay Takale tried his hand at the Time, Speed and Distance (TSD) rally, and though the Pune rally driver struggled keeping pace with the Time Controls he managed to stay clear of the challengers to lead the field after Leg 1 of the Mahindra Adventure Monsoon Challenge 2017 rally that reached the temple town this evening.
A towering idol of Lord Shiva greets everyone who make their way into Murdeshwar and after driving for 278.66 kilometres from Mangalore to this town named after one of the avatars of Shiva, there was nothing but satisfaction writ on the faces of every participant.
“I had a tough day manoeuvring through the twisty roads which were mix of concrete and tarmac in patches. We managed to stay ahead of the opposition by using our sheer experience of driving through these terrains in the past,” said Takale on reaching Murdeshwar after almost nine-hour-long drive.
Takale was helped by his navigator Mohammed Mustafa to a great extent as the Erode-based co-driver has done more rallies on this route than most of the competitors put together.
At the end of Leg 1, Takale and Mustafa had picked up 0:49 seconds of penalty, 0:11 seconds clear of the second-placed participants V Santhosh Kumar and T Nagarajan.
The team of Ravindra Kumar and Sagar M were further down; 0:17 seconds off the pace, meaning anything can happen on the second and final day of the rally.
On Sunday, the participants will start early morning from Murdeshwar and will head northwards through the scenic ghats leading to Panaji, Goa where the rally would wind up after having done more than 650 kilometres.
“We committed a lot of unforced errors, which should otherwise have been eliminated. But I am just about happy that I stayed in front going into the final day,” said Takale, who start first on Sunday.
Sanjay Takale and Mohammed Mustafa had finished on the fifth position in the 2016 Mahindra Monsoon Challenge, while in the year 2012 the pair had a silver finish riding a 4 Wheel Drive Thar.
Clouds open up early
The rally began under pouring rain in the coastal town of Mangalore and once the city was left behind the task of managing the given time, speed and distance became imperative.
The Time Controls were unannounced and any participant reaching early or late were penalized with time penalty. Once the mountains appeared, rain began playing hide-and-seek, but in the densely forested area it was fog that slowed down many.
The red clay in this part of the region added more mystique to the rally tale and some of the vehicles lost grip and slipped on the road where clay had accumulated due to landslide.
One nasty accident had almost blocked a chicane on the forested road—a passenger car had rammed into a goods tempo headon—but it was negotiable for the rally participants if one was alert enough to see the dangers from a distance. A manned level-crossing halted the participants after the Kollur temple, and once they hit the National Highway at Byndoor it was tarmac all the way to Bhatkal before the glimpses of Murdeshwar began on appear.
Top 5 leaders after Leg 1:
Open Class: 1. Sanjay Takale and Mohammed Mustafa (00:49 seconds penalty), 2. V Santhosh Kumar and T Nagarajan (1:00), 3. Ravindra Kumar and Sagar M (1:06), 4. Pramod Vig and Prakash M (1:21), 5. B Suresh Kumar and G Natarajan (1:47).
Challenge Class: 1. Vinay BP and Ravi Kumar BM (00.51), 2. N Maheswaran and Murugan N (1:46), 3. Dr Raghvendra Pidamale and Dr Muralidhar Rai (2:37), 4. Wilson Padayatil and Sreejith PA (3:48), 5. Dr Ganesh Jain and Vikram Jain (3:52).
Corporate Class: 1. Baiju Stephen and Kumar M (3:11), 2. Santhosh Kumar and Pradeep Nagaraj (3:25), 3.Umashankar R and Shanmuga SN (12:42).