Coming back to compete in the Dakshin Dare Rally after a four-year hiatus, team Mahindra Adventure left no stone unturned to dominate the four-wheeler category at the 10th edition of this cross-country rally event.
Mahindra Adventure’s return to cross-country rallying culminated in the victory for India’s most successful rally driver Gaurav Gill and co-driver Musa Sherif. The duo managed to stay atop the leaderboard unchallenged throughout the duration of the event, which speaks volumes about both drivers and their Super XUV, which has been competing with a front-wheel-drive configuration since 2015. Gill last took part in the Dakshin Dare six years ago, which was the year when Mahindra Adventure first fielded the XUV500 in cross-country rallying. He was triumphant then and has duly won this time too in a dominant fashion, completing the 15 special stages in an overall time nearly 15 minutes faster than his own teammate, Philippos Matthai (co-driver PVS Moorthy), who finished in second place overall.
Another nine minutes behind Matthai was the highest placed Maruti Suzuki Motorsport team’s entry of Samrat Yadav and co-driver Karan Aukta in a rally-prepped S-Cross. Veteran rally driver Sandeep Sharma and co-driver Anmol Rampal, behind the wheel of a Vitara Brezza, were fourth overall, while the Dakshin Dare defending champion Suresh Rana, in his Grand Vitara, managed a fifth-place finish. Team Maruti Suzuki’s attack for the final spot on the podium was bolstered by Samrat Yadav, who in the fourth leg, took full advantage of the tarmac start and put in some quick stage times which, at the end of the day, allowed him to clinch the final spot in the top three with a cumulative time of 06:02:25. However, Yadav’s attack had picked up the pace in leg three itself, as he was able to better Gill’s individual stage time twice in a row during the last two stages.
Whilst securing the top-two spots, Mahindra Adventure was in with a real shout of claiming a perfect 1-2-3 overall finish. However, the fight between Sandeep Sharma and Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) for the third spot during the fourth leg ended in a disaster for Ghosh, as he was ruled out with a DNF, due to a damaged fuel coupler just three kilometres before the end of the third and final stage of the day.
While the four-wheeler category had its fate sealed early in the competition, it was the bike category which witnessed some out of the blue, last-minute changes of fortune. Vishwas S.D. claimed the overall title by making the most of overnight leader and firm favourite Yuva Kumar’s misfortune in the last Special Stage, SS12, of the rally. Kumar, who was leading all the way from the start, saw his bike face technical issues with just 15 kilometres to go, and by the time he could repair the damage, he had lost 15 minutes and the crown. Consequently, Kumar had to settle for third place overall. However, Vishwas’s win brought some cheer to the Angata Racing squad after the tragic events of the 2018 India Baja, where their team principal and rally rider Asbak Mon passed away after getting lost during pre-event practice in the desert. The second place was bagged by rider Vinay Prasad, who, in another major upset, took the spot from Aakash Aithal due to Aithal’s major crash and subsequent DNF in the final stage of the rally.
Gill and Sherif crossed a significant milestone while claiming their second victory in the Dakshin Dare. This was their 50th rally together, including Indian National Rally Championship and cross-country rally events, and their 31st win. Incredibly, they made the podium each of the 35 times they completed the rally, missing out the remaining 15 times only due to DNFs. While this year’s win came to Mahindra without much heat from the competition, no one can say for sure if this dominance is here to stay, as, in motorsports, the race machines will continue to be the variables in an otherwise balanced equation of individual talent and luck.