Pune: Coming into 2018 after mismatch success in 2017, Pune Rally driver Sanjay Takale has chalked out a totally different rally season that focuses on driving 4x4 vehicles in varied terrains to get more miles behind the wheel before he makes his World Rally Championship debut tentatively in May.
Driving through Iceland in a non-competitive Nomadic Drive in sub-zero temperatures early this month was part of the plan, but the challenging part begins now on Saturday with Thailand Pre-Rally Championship in the 4-wheel drive Isuzu DMax utility vehicles.
The two-day rally, a precursor to four-round Thaland National Rally Championship 2018 will be run in Pong Nam Rom District in Chanthaburi Province in Thailand bordering Cambodia on the other side.
“Thailand’s terrain is similar of some of the terrains where WRC will be run such as Portugal and Spain. I drove Range Rover Defender in Iceland in the second week of February to get some miles on ice,” said Takale referring to some of the WRC rallies that are run on snow.
“My plan was to drive in the second round of WRC in Sweden, but my car, the Mitsubishi Mirage R5 spec that I brought last year and drove in two APRC rallies—in Malaysia and Hokkaido, Japan—was not rally prepared for.
“It is currently getting prepared for the tougher WRC rallies in Wales, but in the meantime I will be taking part in Thailand rallies to keep myself in tune with the competition,” said Takale.
In 2017 Takale drove two rounds in Thailand with mixed success. In the first rally in March Isuzu’s engine turbo blew up just two kilometres from the finish line when he drove for Team Isuzu Phuket in Lagburi.
Later in November, in the fourth and final round Takale’s Isuzu’s drive shaft broke in the final stages and forced him out of podium place.
But he changed team for Khmer Rally Raid in December and came out in flying colours driving the same Isuzu Dmax prepared by Team Delo and this time around he will continue to drive for Team Delo in the Thailand Rally Championship.
Takale will continue with Thai navigator Thanyapat Meemi, who was with him in 2017 expeditions.
“He has a very good knowledge of the Thai terrain and I am comfortable with his pace notes calling. He has a peculiar style but that is okay,” explained Takale.
“Thailand has natural rally terrain and several top class drivers practice in these conditions whole year. I need to put more miles on such courses to prepare myself for the rigours of WRC,” said Takale.
Tough contest in offing
Besides the 40 cars and 40 bikes that are competing in this Thailand Pre-Rally, Takale will have one more Indian driver to compete against making it all the more mouth-watering contest.
Multi-time Raid de Himalaya winner as co-driver, Ashwini Naik has sent in his entry for the Thailand Pre-Rally with a driver from Arunachal Pradesh.
There are 9 special stages set out for the pre-rally of 62-km altogether, while the total running distance including the transport section will be of 161-km laid out by RS Auto Service, the organisers of the rally.