Fast Track

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The Annual Mughal Motor Rally being held for the third consecutive years is scaling newer heights this year. Literally as well! A Kashmir Life report.

Tourism, this season, has created a new paradigm in Kashmir. Of Teeming  tourists, no vacant places and renewed interest in tourism related sport. And the good news is that the J&K Bank Mughal Rally being organized by the Shimla based Himalayan Motor Sports has matured to the extent that major brands are finally participating in it. This year Maruti, TATA and Mahindra have decided to participate.

“This is not the only newest thing that happened to the yearly event,” says Vijay Parmar, one of the organizers. “For the first time in India’s history, the rally will cover more than 650 kms.” Applications came in such a rush that oraganizers planning to accommodate 70 teams ended up accepting 100 applications and returning fees to 30 others.

In yet another first, motorcycles are also part of the competition as 15 dirt biker champions are among the competitors. The rally, a third consecutive, is jointly sponsored by state’s only listed company J&K Bank and state Tourism Ministry.

The two day rally is scheduled to take off from Srinagar on 30th June  and conclude here the next day after covering more than 600 kms. The last rally was attended by 50 participants including two from J&K.

“For the last two years it was just a small event but now it is growing considerably,” Parmar said. “Basically the people were not convinced about the availability of basic facilities required for the event but when they felt assured in last two events, huge interest was witnessed for this year’s event.”

For the first time three major automobile players of the country – Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and Tata Motors, will be participating. “Teams like Tata, Mahindra and Maruti have also fought it out in the Raid De Himalaya and the Desert Storm earlier, but the stakes were not as high as they are today,” a spokeswoman of the organizers said. “Mahindra Adventure and Tata Motors have gone all out to rope in the top current motorsport champions for this event.”

The Mughal Rally has now three categories – Xtreme, Enduro and the motorcycles. There are 50 4x 4 teams in the Xtreme category. In the Endure category, there will be 35 teams and 15 bikers, introduced for the first time, in the third category.

Xtreme is all about outright speed and would be hotly contested by Tata’s Xenons, Mahindra’s XUV 500 and Thar, and Maruti powerdrive, the Grand Vitara.

Team Mahindra champions include Gaurav Gill, numero uno at Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2011; former APRC winner Karamjit Singh, a Malaysian of Indian origin; Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) winner Lohitt Urs of Mysore, and Chandigarh daredevil Sunny Sidhu. Gill, Singh and Urs would drive XUV 500 and Sidhu would drive the Thar.

Tata team has Sanjay Takale of Pune, Taufeeq Mughal of Srinagar and Arindam Ghosh of Kolkata for the Xtreme category and would be driving Xenons.

Maruti has a mountain driver Suresh Rana of Manali who will drive a Grand Vitara. Rana is seven-time consecutive winner of the Raid De Himalaya and numero uno at the Desert Storm. Unlike Xtreme, the Enduro follows the Time-Speed-Distance format.

The trek for the rally has remained ideal and impressive. Last year, after being flagged off from Srinagar, the rally took the Mughal Road – the track that all the conquerors took for annexing Kashmir throughout the recorded history– crossed the 11500 ft Pir Ki Gali and landed in Bafliaz in Mendhar, Poonch wherefrom it covered another 240 kms to reach Jammu. After the night stopover there, it left for Srinagar, traversed almost half of the Jammu Srinagar highway and then took a detour to Kishtwar. From Kishtwar the rallyists  used the upcoming highway to reach Srinagar through Simthan Top.

“This year, there are certain route changes,” says Parmar. “The Endure category is going to be longest ever in the Indian history of the motor sports.” For the first day, the rallyists will take the traditional route of the event to reach Jammu. The next day, they will leave Jammu for  reach Akhnoor, take a divert to Reasi from there, proceed to Mahore and  Gool and then emerge on the  national highway at Ramban. From there they will go to Batote and then take the Kishtwar-Sinthon Top road to reach Srinagar. This will be more than 650 kms in a single day which is more than double distance covered in the best rallies wherein the average distance covered is not more than 250 kms.

The schedule of Xtreme is still indecisive. Its first day is supposed to be on the Mughal Road up to Bafliaz and a return to Dobjan. For the next day, however, there are two options – crossing the Sinthon Top and return to

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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