With so much cricket in the past few months and the IPL in full swing, the Dakshin Dare Rally was a welcome break from the routine as it also provided an opportunity to spend time out in the forests with Mother Nature. I came back convinced that the Dare has tremendous potential to evolve into a major motor sporting event provided some professionalism is injected.
The Rally, split into two categories - Ultimate (cars and bikes) and Endurance (TSD format) - coursed through some of the most scenic spots in Kodagu, Waynad and the Nilgiris before finishing in Bangalore after covering 2,000 Kms over five days.
Overall, it was a good event barring a few glitches most of them to do with the tulip that is basically outlines the route the competitors have to take. There were inordinate delays at various points leading to cancellation of several Special Stages (routes exclusively for Rally traffic) for the vehicles in the Ultimate category. There were also some issues that had more to do with the organization, but did not really impact the competitors.
Unlike circuit racing where the vehicles go around a track and complete a pre-determined number of laps, the Dare, like its better-known cousins the Raid de Himalaya and Desert Storm, is a test for man and machine that has to negotiate some really tough terrain while requiring a service back-up to attend to running repairs.
Over the five days that the Dare lasted, there was considerable talk and discussion on the need to combine the country's three major off-road events into a championship to determine the National champion. However, with Maruti Suzuki being the title sponsors of all three rallies (Raid, Storm and Dare), it might preclude participation of other car manufacturers.
For this year's Dare, Team Mahindra Adventure entered their showpiece vehicle, the XUV 500 and achieved a 1-2 finish in the Ultimate and Endurance categories, much to the consternation of Maruti whose vehicles though bagged the third spots.
At the prize distribution function, delayed by nearly two hours, the Mahindra vehicle was not even mentioned and the entire process of giving away the trophies was gone through in a hurry. Frankly, it left a sour taste and was rather unprofessional.
Meanwhile, there is no official word as yet on the Indian National Rally Championship as far as the calendar is concerned. With the championship split into IRC (Indian Rally Championship, open to foreign crew) and the INRC (restricted to Indian vehicles and crews in different classes), the series has been given a new look though it is a moot point whether the authorities have taken a step in the right direction.
The INRC is again divided into three classes 1600cc to 2000cc, up to 1600cc and Junior INRC for which only those below the age of 27 years are eligible for championship points. Sadly, the popular Gypsy class has been done away with.
Though there is no official word as yet on the calendar or the promoters or the title sponsors, the grapevine says that Vodafone will support the series while a Kolkata-based organizer will promote the event.
Whatever, events such as the Dare, Raid and Storm, are fast gaining in popularity. As such, the onus is on the authorities to accord primacy to these three rallies in the motorsport calendar so as to ensure larger participation. As it is, the calendar is quite packed and hence it is important that due weightage is given to events that pull in large participation as also sponsorship.
If anything, the success of Dare only reflects the growing popularity of the sport that last year received a huge boost in the form of Formula One race in Delhi. The benefit of hosting such a global event is still to percolate to the grassroots though there is a wider awareness.
The Dakshin Dare highlighted the growing enthusiasm for motorsport and this is something for the authorities to leverage. The sport, because of the expenses involved, will not enjoy a mass base like in cricket or football or even tennis, but it certainly has a place on the Indian stage.