Pune: Dusty superfast terrain and fiery end to a competition car notwithstanding, Pune’s international rally driver Sanjay Takale successfully completed the 13-stage Rally Tallinn in 23rd position after two days of eventful happenings in Estonia, which is a Candidate venue for the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship round.
The Rally Tallinn conducted through the flying dust opened new vistas for Takale to learn the unexpected in unfamiliar conditions as the Pune’s lone international rally driver completed his second European rally with penalties of 1 hour 06 minutes and 50.5 seconds.
He last drove in Europe in 2016, then in Rally Estonia with his Asian Pacific Rally Championship Team Cusco teammate Mike Young as his co-driver. His European debut was more of a testing ground for getting to know the challenging terrains in Europe, but Rally Tallinn experience was more focused on getting himself prepared for his impending WRC debut.
“We had a super finish to the rally full of dust and run at a very high speed. We had to change our pace notes and writing pattern to get used to the conditions and regulations, which were tweaked slightly than the international norm,” explained Takale.
World over cars are flagged off with an interval of two minutes to allow the following car to have clear visibility of the route, but in Tallinn the interval was kept at just one minute. “By the time you go into the stage the dust raised by the car gone ahead would not settle and one is almost blinded. I had to wait at many places for the dust to settle to get some visibility,” explained Takale.
“Local drivers and regulars on these terrains have the course at the back of their mind. They were driving through the dust and zero visibility and making huge time on me. Nevertheless, it was great learning for me,” said Takale, the 2013 Asia-Pacific Rally champion who had Latvian Edgars Svencis as navigator.
Driving a left-hand drive Ford Fiesta further added to the challenge as Takale had little time to get used to the rented 1.6 without turbo car. In normal conditions Takale would use 1-10 numbers in calculation of speed, but on a suggestion from his coach and mentor Graham Middleton, he made it more compact on the second day of the rally.
Changing the calculations to 1-6 helped somewhat as Takale took it up as a challenge even though he had to wait at many places for the dust to settle down as summers usually get too dry.
Spate of crashes
As many as 66 competitors started the rally, but over the two days of grueling run, 23 either crashed or withdrew following mechanical failures to their cars—one was a Ford Fiesta Proto in SS! And five cars crashed in SS4. Crashes were suffered by two BMWs, Gaz’s, Honda Civic, Suzuki Baleno and suspension failures to a Mitsubishi Lancer further compounded the running of the rally.
Fiery end to Honda Civic
Woman competitor Chrislin Sepp had to endure a scary fire when her Honda Civic blew up in flames in the middle of the fifth stage.
As her car went into flames, Takale was the first person to reach the spot and called for emergency service.
“She had just started in front of me and it was coincidence that I reached there first before the fire brigade arrived at the spot and the stage was stopped. We had one fire extinguisher which Edgars used to douse the flames. Thankfully, Chrislin and her co-driver Karmo Salong escaped from the car unscathed.
The fire was so bad, that the ground under the car burnt and the fire spread into the forest nearby.