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The 2018 Mahindra Adventure rally season had its share of ups and downs. To begin with we took the decision to run the INRC campaign and enter two rally-raid format events. We started with a bang, winning the first two rounds of INRC convincingly. A superb return to the rally-raid format saw Gaurav Gill and Musa Sherif emerge with all the silverware from Dakshin Dare. Then we had a tough Raid-de-Himalaya and as expected our Super XUVs struggled despite Amittrajit Ghosh and Philipos Matthai (yes, he is the team manager for our rally team but was a natural choice for the event since he was familiar with the XUV and had raid experience) putting on a commendable show.
Worry lines started appearing on my forehead when Gaurav and Musa coasted to a halt barely one kilometre from the finish at the Arunachal round of the INRC with component failure. Amit, who brought the car home in all three rallies took the lead in the championship but danger in the form of Karna Kadur lurked in the shadow. Karna, driving a VW Polo drove admirably to the top step of the podium at the penultimate round of the championship with another mechanical failure forcing Gaurav to retire. Amit managed to bring his Super XUV to finish and set the stage for a grand finale at the 5th round of the championship at Kochi. The scenario was simple – who ever crosses the line first would win the championship.
‘You put the best driver in the country in a car prepared by the finest and you get the wins’
As a team principal, nothing worries me more than two of my own drivers trying to take each other on with the national championship at stake. We decided not to issue any team orders though and decided to let the better driver win. But we took what in retrospect could be an important decision – not to do a proper test before the event. The assumption was that the cars were getting fatigued during extensive pre-event testing. The call proved right and both the XUVs rolled over the finish line without any drive shaft/lower arm issues.
The champion that he is, Gaurav took a comfortable lead from the first special stage onwards and eased off the pace to preserve the car. He knew the importance of the 25 points he would earn to finish first and he did exactly that, and Mahindra Adventure won both the Team as well as Driver’s championship for 2018.
Allow me a minor dose of chest thumping at this point. The Mahindra Adventure entered Super XUVs have won a staggering 20 out of 28 rallies entered till now. If that is not domination what is? (The duo of Gaurav and Musa have won six national championships to date. They have participated in 53 rallies together and finished 37 of them. And hold your breath, they have finished first a whopping 32 times.)
So, what is the recipe for success in motorsport? Simple, you put the best driver and navigator in the country in cars prepared by the finest and you get the wins. Full credit to Leelakrishnan of Arka Motorsports for having faith in the XUVs through these years. And when your second entry has names such as Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik, the competition has reason to worry.
By the way, our very own Ed, Sirish Chandran showed what journos are capable of by scorching the tarmac at Kuttikkanam and Mundakayam in a cameo appearance worth remembering at the Popular Rally. He was literally dancing with the Polo R2 in his comeback INRC event and was even quicker than the winner in a couple of stages. I know Sirish well enough to tell you that he is in his element in a rally car and something tells me that we haven’t seen enough of his antics in the R2. That means only one thing…more headaches for me!