How the Mahindra XUV500 went rallying, and made a name for itself too!
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How the Mahindra XUV500 went rallying, and made a name for itself too!

Sudipto Chaudhury

How the Mahindra XUV500 went rallying, and made a name for itself too!

Alright, I think i can let out the secret now. Do you know how the Mahindra XUV500 went rallying? About nine years ago, just after the Adventure division was formed at Mahindra, we were doing basic rallying – read Time, Speed, Distance rallying. Honestly, we were not confident of getting into any of the extreme stuff, let alone the Indian National Rally Championship. After all, our cars drank the wrong liquid…diesel, and they weren’t exactly featherweights. It was Lohitt Urs, who was managing our TSD operations at that point of time who urged me into taking the ‘extreme’ plunge. He knew what he was talking about since he was a capable driver. He also had a whole lot of experience, rallying diesels in Thailand.

So how did rallying start for the Mahindras?

The XUV500 was new and it was not easy to request the management for two brand new cars to get into motorsports – a totally uncharted territory for Mahindra. So, we requested the brand team for two cars from their press fleet. And we sent one each to two different rally car builders. Logic? There was no logic! We just didn’t know how to go about things at that point in time. The cars were stripped bare, strengthened, roll cages added and suspension setup ordered. In a month or so, two Super XUVs took the start at the Desert Storm.

Of course, there were teething troubles. But we still managed to finish a commendable third overall when Lohitt crossed the line. I will never forget his charge from a lowly 16th position on day one to the podium on the last day. Trust me, at times, great stories in motorsport unfold far away from the limelight. That win gave us the necessary confidence and the rest, as they say… is history.

The success for the XUV500

The Super XUVs have been dominating the Indian rally scene ever since – whether it be at rally raid events or at the Indian National Rally Championship. Sure, Team Mahindra Adventure has been lucky to have some of the finest drivers and navigators in the business. Gaurav Gill, Amittrajit Ghosh, Musa Sherif and Ashwin Naik are all accomplished and well known in their fields, but then again, it is also important to give them the right equipment on a consistent basis, isn’t it?

The Super XUV has evolved over the years into a reliable rally car that can take on the best and win. We have had near misses and failures, but we did learn from all of that. So, after winning the INSUVRC and INRC back to back, winning Desert Storm (with Sunny Sidhu – man, what an epic drive that was!), Dakshin Dare and so on, we can proudly say that the rally team has made the ‘Sport’ in SUV count. If a fraction of young buyers bought the XUV for its dominant sportiness in the hands of Gaurav Gill, we have achieved what we set out to do.

I remember a senior FMSCI member asking me what I am doing with a ‘diesel bus’ when we started our INRC campaign. I didn’t have to answer him. The wooden podium meant for much lighter cars cracked as the Super XUV drove in victorious.

So what’s next for the Mahindra Adventure team?

So why am I rambling on about the Super XUV so much? Well, as the editor of this magazine has been speculating, we are just about to retire the all-conquering Super XUV500 from the INRC in order to give way to an all-new car. And it’s going to be much lighter, hence nimbler, if not as powerful. Ladies and gentlemen let us welcome the Super XUV300! You heard it right, that is what we’ve christened the little screamer. And Sirish, watch out, there is a nice little twist to the story too!

It may have the silhouette of a mini SUV. But when you sit behind the wheel of one, you feel something very right. It smells like a rally car, trust me. I am sure there will be a learning curve. But, we are ready to go through that if, eventually, the Super XUV300 sets the roads on fire.

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