‘King of racers’ aims to conquer Mughal rally

June 23rd, 2011 - 12:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, June 23 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh’s Suresh Rana, or the ‘king of racers’ as he is popularly called, is aiming to conquer a motor rally that traverses through the historic Mughal Road - once a favourite route of emperors Akbar and Jehangir - in Jammu and Kashmir.

The second edition of the Mughal road car rally, on the ancient 84-km Shopian-Bafliaz stretch of the Mughal Road, will start from Srinagar June 26. The rally, being organised by Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport Association (HMA) in collaboration with the Jammu and Kashmir government, will conclude in Srinagar after traversing 750 km in two days.

“This time I am aiming to capture the grand Mughal Road,” Rana, who is the six-time winner of the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya in the X-treme four-wheeler category, told IANS.

“I am focusing on strengthening my concentration while traversing through off-road routes that are more prone to rockfalls and landslips,” the Manali-based racer added.

Last time, Rana was out of the rally in its second leg as his vehicle broke down.

“I was on a comfortable position in the first leg. In the second leg, when I was on the way to Peer ki Gali (a pass located at an altitude of over 10,000 feet), the vehicle broke down,” the rallyist said.

“This time I have modified the vehicle to stand the rigours,” he added.

His tryst with adventure has earned him fame. Rana won the 12th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, one of the world’s toughest motor rallies organised by the HMA, in the X-treme car category for the sixth time in October 2010.

He has captured the Raid for five consecutive times.

“You see there is a lot of difference between the two motor rallies. The Mughal is comparatively less tough and challenging than the Raid. It (Mughal) actually helps you to prepare for the forthcoming mega event — ‘Raid’,” Rana said.

Rana, who won the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2009 in the Xtreme category for the first time, said motor sports was always in his blood.

He runs a motor garage near Manali that helps him better understand the sturdiness of the vehicles. Maruti Gypsy is his favourite machine.

Manjeev Bhalla, vice-president of the HMA, said the Mughal rally will travel through Shopian, Dubjan, Peer Ki Gali, Bufliaz, Rajouri and Jammu. It will return to Srinagar through Bani Baderwah, Kishtwar, Simthan Pass, Daksum, Kokar Nag and Anantnag.

There are 50 participants, 18 in the Xtreme category and 32 in the Enduro category, which has a TSD (time-speed-distance) format.

Bhalla said 170 km of the total rally route would pass through various competitive stages.

“This time a new route from Basholi to Bani in Kathua district was added. But incessant rainfall leading to landslides has forced to abandon the route,” Bhalla told IANS.

Ace driver and last year’s winner in the Xtreme category, Sunny Sidhu of Chandigarh, will again try his luck in the rally.

In the Enduro category, Umesh Raheja of Delhi was the champion last year.

The rally route linking Kashmir with Poonch and Rajouri districts of the Jammu division has several rest houses, huts and many other historical monuments constructed by Mughal emperors.

It’s believed that Akbar had marched his troops from Bafliaz in Poonch district to Shopian in Pulwama district when he conquered Kashmir in 1586. Jahangir died on this stretch while on his way back from Lahore.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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