Bengaluru: Suresh Rana’s credentials in domestic rallying are unmatched and when you have a navigator of calibre as Ashwin Naik the combination makes a winning pair. The two are among 180 drivers and riders ready to take the tough road over next six days from Bengaluru to Chitradurga then to Belgaum, Kolhapur before ending in Pune.
“It will be a new rally for me. I am ready for the challenge and hope to make it yet again,” said Rana after taking the first Ceremonial Flag-off for the 9th Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare cross-country rally at Orion Mall on Sunday evening. Rana and Naik will be in Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, the same rally spec SUV that has given Rana many victories.
Defending champions Rana and Naik will battle out with Sandeep Sharma and Karan Arya driving Maruti Suzuki Gypsy in the Ultimate cars category. In their Vitara Brezza, Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Sen will toughen the competition for the duo of Karthik Maruthi and Sankar Anand driving the S-Cross in the endurance car category.
Besides taking the picturesque and challenging route, the rally will be a test for the competing vehicles going over varied terrains—from the rainforest region to mountainous locales in Maharashtra as Dakshin Dare attempts its first foray into the Western India.
There are two set of competitors—Extreme and Time, Speed, Distance (TSD) categories—and both taking different routes, meeting once in Belgaum before Pune welcomes them all at Chakan Marriot. “This year the terrain will be tougher than the past. We hadn’t gone to Maharashtra yet so we decided to explore some new terrains,” said Jaisas Menon, Technical Official of the rally.
With Rs 7 lakh prize money at stake, the competitors in various sub-categories have their plans ready to push to the podium. “I am here for the third time. Its been tough getting all organised, but the passion for driving and car brings me to such rallies,” said Anu, champion Suresh Rana’s wife, who is among the 10 women entering in the rally.
Former winner Sandeep Sharma, Gaurav Chitpal are the other key rallyists who will do cross-country over the next six days.
“What is more inspiring is that women are coming forward and taking part. There are four women in the Extreme category, which is kind of an achievement for the organisers,” said Menon. Nonetheless, Anu Rana remains the only competitor with all-women team as Gujarat’s Meenaxi Purohit will don the navigator’s suit next to her. All other women competitors have male co-drivers.
In the TSD category, Jagmit Gill, Subir Roy and Karthik Maruthi will be the top contenders for the title. Unlike in the international rallies and recently used in India BAJA in Jaisalmer, Dakshin Dare will continue to allow all three types of navigation systems—trippy tracks, GPS and road books.
“The rally is not restricted to the adventurous terrains of South India, but will also transition into the terrains of West, bringing in more excitement and challenges,” Anand Prakash, Commercial Business Head - South, Maruti Suzuki India, told media persons after the Flag-off.
“It’s a great feeling to be welcomed each year with such an encouraging response. Moving on from introduction of new test tracks last year, we have introduced another new element by taking the rally beyond its boundaries. It would be a sight to watch the participants battle out in the exciting terrains of the West in addition to the challenges faced in South. This is our way of making the competition fierce and put their skills to test,” Prakash said.