Kolhapur: Unrelenting rains and prospect of landslide on a difficult Shinoli forest and ranges in Kolhapur district bordering Karnataka shaved off at least 70 kilometers from the total rally distance as two stages were cancelled on Day 4 for the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare Cross-country rally that stepped into Maharashtra for the first time on Thursday.
Overnight leader and champion rally driver Suresh Rana stayed in front, but his lead was cut to mere 38 seconds as heavy Grand Vitara logged slower time than Samrat Yadav’s Gypsy.
Overnight rains and continuous downpour in Belgaum and the adjoining areas in North Karnataka had left the whole stretch slushy and dangerously slippery for the uninitiated.
Then there was fear of course caving in as most of it passé through Shinoli jungles through the mountains. The first Stage was completed, but participants reported certain issues on the course that needed to be addressed to immediately.
Bison are common sighting in these jungles and with so heavy rain throughout the last three days it was futile to take the risk. Wild boars were other common animals that rally participants needed to be wary of.
Eventually, only the four wheeler participants completed on Stage and the lined-up bikers were told to carry on with their transport run towards Kolhapur, albeit after a delay of almost two hours.
Once on the North-Karnataka Expressway connecting Belgaum to Kolhapur and rain still pounding the picturesque road flanked by paddy fields and umpteen springs that sprout up in monsoons, the rally riders and drivers headed for the Super Special Stage that was within the Kolhapur city limits.
In such conditions, Grand Vitara certainly went slow, while Samrat’s Gypsy sped the course to log the best time and cut the lead by almost half-a-minute.
Suresh Rana and his co-driver Ashwin Naik led the field with a total time of 7 hours 21 minutes and 13 seconds, but the hero of the day certainly was Samrat Yadav and SN Nizami in their yellow Gypsy (7:21:51).
Natraj almost seals title
The bikers were forced to let go both the stages as they were to start their first stage after cars had completed one round. Left to rev their engines on the expressway and then at the Super Special Stage, Team TVS Racing’s R Natraj continued his dominance after completing the 2-km SSS for an aggregate time of 4:49:25.
Riding TVS Apache 450FX. Natraj, the 2w National rally championship leader was two minutes faster than his teammate Abdul Waheed Tanveer (4:51:58). Privateer Sanjay Kumar was at No 3 position in 4:58:56.
“The cloudy weather turned into a heavy downpour in no time. It is more challenging for two-wheelers particularly since maintaining the balance is a task in slushes and clogged water,” said Natraj.
“The test tracks were equally challenging as the entire stretch was completely slushy but what kept us going was the enthusiasm of the local spectators who were thrilled to experience motorsports in their city premise. We are one leg away and the excitement knows no bound.”
Dakshin Dare Day 4 leaders:
Extreme category: 1. Suresh Rana and Ashwin Naik 7 hours 21 minutes 13 seconds; 2. Samrat Yadav and SN Nizami 7:21:51; 3. Sandeep Sharma and Karan Arya 7:37:27; 4. Gaurav Chiripal and Manoj Vaidya 7:49:52; 5. Gurinder Singh Sidhu and Karan Preet 7:51:43 .
Ultimate Bikes: 1. R Natraj (TVS RTR 450FX) 4:49:25; 2. Abdul Waheed Tanveer (TVS RTR 450FX) 4:51:58; 3. Sanjay Kumar (Honda CRF450) 4:58:56; 4. Rajendra RE (TVS RTR 200) 5:10:00; 5. Srinivasa 5:42:53.