PUNE: The rough roads of Thailand and unreliability of Isuzu DMax utility vehicles continued to put spokes in the season-opening rally for Sanjay Takale, but the Pune rally driver braved the conditions and drove most part of last three stages on just one gear to finish third overall in the Thailand Pre-Rally Championship that ended on Sunday.
The script was almost the same as last year in Thailand in the early part of the season, but Takale made sure his position will be counted and his navigator Thanyaphat Meemi gets enough points for the Thailand co-driver’s championship.
As Takale aims to get more miles behind the wheel on varied terrains before his World Rally Championship debut tentatively in May, this Thailand experience should give him confidence in driving through rough terrains of any kind.
“We had hydraulic clutch pump failure in Stage 6 so I drove the remaining kilometres of the stage in the second gear only and lost more than a minute there,” is how Takale explained the situation he was in.
“Thankfully we managed to get to the service park, which was located at the end of the Stage 6. The problem was fixed in time and we continued on Stage 7,” he added.
Takale and Meemi then went flat out and completed Stage 7 second fastest among the rest of the competitors.
“We began Stage 8 very well but midway through the drive clutch hydraulic pump broke because engine mount had broken and the engine had titled to one side,” said Takale, who two weeks ago completed non-competitive drive through Iceland.
“We were stuck in the third gear now and I drove the remaining part of Stage 8 in just one gear. The ninth and final stage also was accomplished in one gear,” Takale pointed out.
This two-day rally was a precursor to the four-round Thaland National Rally Championship 2018 and run in Pong Nam Rom District in Chanthaburi Province in Thailand bordering Cambodia on the other side.
The course was dusty trail in the outback of Chanthaburi cutting through vast farmlands. There was gravel at some places, but this rugged outback really tested the vehicles.
“In the last two stages we were forced to push start our car as we had no clutch to change the gear, which was stuck in the third,” said Takale, who logged 49 minutes 58 seconds.
In one stage there was huge rectangular dried up pond and the course ran through the circumference that was the embankment, but loose sand at corners were tricky to negotiate.
Though he finished 7th in his class, the rules allowed him to move places as every competitor had to complete minimum three rounds to constitute qualification for the championship.
“I completed three rounds out of four compulsory rounds despite being forced out in the last two rounds due to clutch failure,” he said.
“A competitor could only skip one round, but other drivers who finished ahead on me in timings had done only two rounds and were not eligible for the overall championship standings,” said Takale who moved up the ladder after penalties were taken into consideration.