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India’s Sanjay Takale created history as he became the first Indian driver to finish a round in the WRC 3 category of FIA World Rally Championship. Sanjay and his British co-driver Darren Garrod took the 14th spot after 23 special stages covering a distance of nearly 320km in the four-day Neste Rally Finland. The rally is rated among the fastest in the WRC calendar and it was Sanjay’s international debut. Sanjay was driving the Ford Fiesta prepped by Baltic Motorsports Promotion.
The first leg of the rally covered 128.68km and had 11 special stages. The rough terrain took a toll on the car as it suffered a puncture in SS 9 and damage to the car which resulted in Sanjay and Darren losing precious time. But the conditions were apt for fast driving where Sanjay and Darren made up for lost time and finished the first leg in 14th place.
The second leg saw the driver duo climb up one rung up the ladder to 13th place. The second leg comprised eight special stages with 142.86km to cover. This stage had some high speed sections, blind crests and tight turns. Despite suffering a crash and incurring a heavy time penalty for late reporting, the driver duo didn’t give up.
At the end of leg 2, Sanjay Takale said, “We started the day well, but I received heavy time penalty in one of the Stages following a major crash. I was about to start the Stage when I was stopped by the Marshall even as ambulances were rushing in. I and a few other cars behind me had to wait for nearly an hour and we then proceeded to the next Stage. I was handed a time penalty for late reporting, though it was no fault of mine!”
The terrain was very unforgiving and even a minute error would have resulted in a bad outcome, recalled Sanjay. The last day had four special stages which covered a distance of 45.72km. Despite starting the day in 13th position, the driver duo dropped one place down to finish in 14th position overall.
After finishing the rally in 14th place, Sanjay Takale said, “It was an amazing experience overall and a steep learning curve for me overall. Probably, I could have fared better had I not lost time due to a puncture and twice having to repair the damaged lower arms of my car. However, that is part and parcel of rallying and I am not complaining. Going forward, I might do more WRC events. At the same time, I have to work on my fitness to do better in WRC rallies which are long and punishing. In the Neste Finland Rally, for instance, we covered a total distance of 1,400km over four days, not counting the two days of reconnaissance runs. Right now, I want to savour these moments after completing a WRC event, though I have plenty to think about!”