After inspection, all the vehicles line-up in parc ferme for the night.
The Mahindra Monsoon Challenge is a time-speed-distance (TSD) rally, which falls under the ambit of Mahindra Adventure, an initiative by Mahindra & Mahindra to get people out of the cities and onto the roads and highways to explore India.
This inaugural event saw 39 participants from all over the country, including from places as far flung as Agra, Bangalore, Coimbatore and Calcutta. Further, there were substantial entries from ‘local’ teams, including Nashik, Pune and Mumbai.
The route was over 1,500 kilometres, beginning from Nashik, the original home of M&M, and traversing much of Maharashtra, via Aurangabad and Kolhapur, before the end point in Panjim, Goa.
Early-morning starts and long days at the wheel - FUN!
Day 1, Jul 22
The first day was a run from Nashik to Aurangabad, fairly straightforward, or so we thought! The organisers, Western India Sports Asociation (WISA), sent the participants on an arduous run, criss-crossing numerous back-roads and villages, covering a total of nearly 500 kilometres before the end point at the run-down fort just outside Aurangabad. Along the main highway, the distance between the 2 cities is barely 200 km!
Water crossings like these were plenty.
The route also circled a once-dry reservoir, filled to the brim by the might of the monsoon.
Day 2, Jul 23
The second day would be the toughest of the rally. The organisers had already warned the participants to be prepared for really tough stages on Day 2 at the pre-event driver’s briefing. WISA more than lived up to its promise!
A 5 a.m. start for the first car saw the teams leaving from the hotel in Aurangabad at one-minute intervals. The first stop was scheduled at the cutely-named Smilestone drive-in, just past Ahmednagar. The smooth highway and straightforward route saw all teams reach Smilestone with a smile on their faces. Little did they know…
The Bolero Stingers sure looked the part.
A hearty breakfast later, all the team were on the road once again. And that’s when the going got tough, with the route branching off the main highway and going through some truly confusing village roads. To make things tougher for the navigators, there were hidden time controls as well! Around mid-day, the route rejoined NH4, having by-passed Pune city altogether. The climb up the Panchgani ghat was set at a tedious 22 km/h. Remember, on a TSD rally, arriving early costs you much more than arriving late, in this case 10 times! So, a minute late would earn a minute’s penalty, but a minute early would earn 10!
Hidden TC's (Time Controls) added to the challenge.
After lunch at Mahabaleshwar, the fog grew thick at the rally restart. With lights barely penetrating the gloom, the road book advised a series of multiple turns in quick succession, truly muddling most participants and sending them totally off-course. autojunction made it through without missing a single way point however!
The second day’s event ended in the dirty little town of Islampur, from where there was a quick 45-kilometre blast to the hotel in Kolhapur. Just as we got to Kolhapur, the heaven’s opened. The rain fell in sheets, as the competitors arranged their vehicles in parc ferme atop an unused flyover and scurried for cover. 600+ kilometres in all, and 15 hours on the road meant that all anyone wanted was a meal, a hot bath and a bed.
Day 3, 24 jul
The Verito was the perfect foil for the job. Here, Team aj is en route to victory!
The third day was hopefully going to be easy, and indeed, that’s what it turned out to be. The first 185 kilometres were a technically demanding course with numerous hidden time controls, but the terrain was easier on the car and the body than the previous day. After the reconnoitre at lunch, the organisers happily sent everybody on a free run to Goa!
The finish point was the wonderful Taj Vivanta in Panjim, Goa. Sure enough, just a few kilometres short, the heavens opened in a typical deluge, helping to was some of the grime of our mud-spattered but trusty Mahindra Verito.
Later that evening, the official results were declared, and it transpired that Team autojunction had won the Media Class, beating teams from Overdrive, Autocar India, Top Gear, Business Standard Motoring, carwale.com, CNBC, Zee Business and gaadi.com
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