SRINAGAR, June 24: The third Jammu and Kashmir Bank Mughal Rally is just about a week away, and the game is hotting up.
Team Mahindra, Team Maruti and Team Tata are zooming into Srinagar with their handpicked teams of the best rallyists across the country for what is emerging as one of the biggest and most hotly contested events on the Indian motorsport calendar.
THE road travelled by the icons of Mughal history is all set to become the backdrop for the clash of the titans on India’s motorsport circuit.
The event is happening on the track used by the legendary Akbar and later Mughal emperors through the sylvan Pir Panjal range of the Western Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir, to travel from Lahore to Srinagar, and onwards to Jammu and Delhi.
The 3rd J&K Bank Mughal Rally is now a battleground for champion rallysists of the country in the tough, exacting Xtreme 4X4 category – an all-out speed show, locked in battle for the top spot. The race for victory will unfold over June 30 and July 1.
The most formidable grouping, it seems, is Team Mahindra. Mahindra has gone all out to ensure it is numero uno at the podium finish for The Mughal Rally. The bet begins with Gaurav Gill, the Delhi-based champion rallyist and winner of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) Asia Pacific Rally Championship Indonesia (APRC) 2008, the
Indian National Rally Championship and the National Road Racing Championship. In 2010, Gill finished second in APRC.
Team Mahindra has gone international in its efforts to bag the coveted rally crown bringing in Karamjit Singh, a Malaysian of Indian origin. Karamjit, christened ‘The Flying Sikh’ in his home country, is 11-time Malaysian National Champion rally driver, winner of the FIA APRC 2004, World Champion of the 2002 FIA Production World Rally Championship and APRC, and a host of other titles.
Also on Team Mahindra is Bangalore-based Lohitt Urs, winner of the Rally Star Cup, INRC 1400 Championship and the INRC 1600N+ Championship. Then there is Chandigarh’s champion marathon rallyist Sunny Sidhu, who has been numero uno in the Gypsy category at the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) over a number of years. Sidhu is six-time winner of the Desert Storm, and has once won the Raid De Himalaya. Sidhu lifted the crown at the first edition of the Mughal Rally in 2010.
Team Tata blazes into The Mughal Rally with Sanjay Takale of Pune, Toufeeq Mughal of Srinagar and Arindam Ghosh of Kolkata. In 2011, Takale was first in T-2 category in the Asia Cross Country Rally 2011 and also first in the Malasian Rally Championship in Class P-9, and first in two-wheel drive A-6 in APRC 2012 (New Zealand and Australia).
Taufeeq Ali Mughal was fourth overall in The Mughal Rally 2011, and seventh oveall in the Raid De Himalaya. Team Tata also boasts of the Grand Old Man of Indian Rallying, Arindam Ghosh. Ghosh, now 56, started his rallying career in 1976. He has recorded podium finishes at most motorsport events across the country in more than 35 years, and has won the first place at the Indo-Bhutan Rally several times.
The country’s largest automobile manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki, is looking at lifting the Mughal Rally crown with its single entry in Xtreme 4X4, Suresh Rana. The Manali man is referred to as ‘King of Hills’ by friends, and with reason. He has been seven-time winner of the Raid De Himalaya, one of the most exacting motorsport events in the world, two-time winner of the Desert Storm, and first in his category in INRC, the Dakshin Dare and various other events.
The auto majors are betting high, and who is the Moghul among them all will be revealed on July 1, as the two-day rally storms to a close in Srinagar.