Local boys behind the wheels

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Umer Beigh
For Tawfeeq Ali Mughal (32) it is a dream come true. Being the first car Rally driver of the Jammu and Kashmir State, participation in upcoming Mughal Rally is a big occasion for him.

This year, though, he won’t be representing his own team Azlan but India’s one of the formidable Car Rally teams, TATA. According to him, this is a real first big achievement for him.. “See, such a renowned company is hiring an individual from a nondescript village with a one year high standard contract! isn’t it a good thing,” he exclaims.

This is for the first time that team Tata has hired any Rallyist from Kashmir. According to Toufeeq, TATA has to  actually hire three drivers from here and he is the first one to be selected. TATA is providing him five star accommodations, travel expenses, fuels and Rupees One Lakh for each Rally.   For preparations for the Mughal Rally, he has already gone for a “fastest four by four” trail recently held in Jaipur where he came up as winner for team TATA. There are almost 32 rallies in India at present. “The decision of our participation in a particular event lies with the team owners.” he says.

Hailing from Baderwah of district Doda, he is contented with his efforts so far and happy about , being in a side that boasts of a list of best car Rally drivers from the entire India. Participating in rallies like Mughal Road Rally, Raid-de Himalayas and SAJOVA has raised his stature and gained him lot of media attention. Toufeeq feels that he has inspired a lot of local boys to take up the sport which he says is his ultimate objective.

His debut came in year 2008 when he was in Chandigarh. “It was a small two days TSD (Time Speed and Distance) Rally and people were in shock to know a Kashmiri participating in an event like this. Many of them came over me and repeatedly asked whether I was really from Kashmir,” he recollects  laughingly.

After that he competed in the Mughal Rally and tried his hand in the Extreme category. After enduring struggling times he this year landed with a coveted contract with the TATAs. Toufeeq drives a 1996 engine model Maruti Gypsy right from his earlier days.Finacial constraints don’t allow him to shift to better models. He has, however, done some of the fastest lapses in his four year career. Recently, in SAJOVA Rally his gypsy fell 40ft downhill at a 140Km speed.

Toufeeq has won many trophies for himself and for his own team Azlan. Azlan has been recently bought  by a local company namely and rechristened as Baba Rishi Lions. This year, Team Baba Rishi Lions, with two local drivers will be on track in the Mughal Rally.

Toufeeq has done his basic education from Bhaderwah and a Hotel Management course in year1998.After completing MBA in Dubai he joined ARAMCO as Marketing Manager there.

He returned to Kashmir in 2004 where he worked in the then Grand Palace hotel for few months. He was laid off soon due to dry market conditions prevailing at that time. Frustrated, he started on his own tour and travel business that went off quite well.

Toufeeq believes that Kashmiris are as good if not better than drivers from elsewhere and Rallying is good opportunity for passionate youth to showcase their talent and earn laurels for themselves and the state.

 

Syed Ifaq

Syed Ifaq aged 20 is the youngest Car Rally Driver representing the State of Jammu and Kashmir. He started participating in rallies two years before when he was just 18. Since then he has participated in some of the best rallies of the India. “I was quite young  when I first participated in Raid-De-Himalayas, considered as India’s toughest Rally. And I finished 8th in my debut.” he says proudly. The same year he came 5th in another Rally  and became the first person of his age to do so.

Ifaq still cherishes the feeling of winning two trophies in his debut year. He is all praise for his cousin Toufeeq Mughal (see box) who inspired Ifaq to take up the sport.  “He guided me well to burnish my talent in the right direction or I would have ended up dying on one of our roads doing stunts.” he says. Ifaq was an avid biker before he took to the world of adventure sports. “What I am today is all because of Tawqeer’s help.  And I amsure more and more local boys will be attracted to this sport in coming years.” he says.   Ifaq is from Banihal of Jammu province and has recently graduated from college.

Motor Rallying has fascinated him immensely as he cherishes the wonderful experiences he had in dangerous and dicey Himalayan dirt roads while participating in rallies like Raid-De-Himalayas, Sub- Himalayan SJOBA, Desert Storm Rally and Mughal Rally. In year 2011 when he took part in Sub- Himalayan SJOBA Rally he finished 4th in his category.  He participated in Mughal Rally in the same year. Starting from 16th number he couldn’t reach the finish line as the engine of his Gypsy failed.

Ifaq’s dream is to win World Rally Championship. “With good experience at my back, I now want to compete and explore my potential in World Asian pacific Championship Rally. That is my next goal.” he says.  This year he is very much optimistic about his third participation in the upcoming Mughal Rally in which he will be representing Baba rishi Lions , a local team from J&K.

Jatinder Pal Singh

Jatinder Pal Singh aka Tony, 32, is another local National Co-Driver from Jammu and Kashmir. The Co-Driver’s role is to accompany and assist the driver in the navigation, track, speed and position in the race.  In the Mughal Rally he will Co-drive with Syed Ifaq representing the Local team, Baba Rishi Lions. Jatinder is participating for the first time in the rally and his selection was based on his experiences with the machines and engines.

He specializes in Rally Car modifications and has modified cars for World Rally Championship—an Italian car rally event. “My passion is in machinery and engines, it is only because of this I opt for such adventurous sports,” he says. Originally from Jammu, Jatinder did his Engineering from London in 2001. He shifted back to his home town in 2005. “From the past four years I am working in the same line of car modification and engine modification, ECU remapping etc,” he says.

Jatinder says that he can repair any engine within a very short span of time. “It’s actually my passion that attracted me to this sport where I can utilize both my passion and expertise.” he says.

About Author

A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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