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15th April, 2014

Getting High On Low

 
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Under the scorching sun we all stood grinding our teeth, all eyes were on the last contender of the Off-Roading Trophy 2013-14. This final obstacle was nail biting, the eight finalists had to drive up a 45 degree incline. The twist was a short run-up through slush. Only three finalists before this off-roader had somewhat managed to at least reach a certain distance on the uphill climb. He looked calm as he prepared the vehicle for the run-up, drove forward and in a jiffy the front two tyres were in the air, just like that he cleared the obstacle. Stunned, the crowd cheered. It doesn’t end there. Each off-roader was given two attempts, this gentleman geared up for the second time. Bystanders waited with cameras and mobile phones…will he, will he not?  Yet again he gathered momentum driving through the slush. This time he not only cleared the 45 degree incline drive, he drove beyond the point that he had reached in his previous attempt. Sibi Paul from Sakleshpur left us speechless, taking home a Thar.

Well, that’s the kind of nerve the 30 plus off-roaders, winners of Mahindra Adventure Great Escapes, have. Precisely why the two days at battle ground-Igatpuri (house of Mahindra’s Off-Road Academy), were only for the brave hearts. India’s richest off-road challenge was judged by Adventure Initiatives’ chief Bijoy Kumar Y, Manish  Sarser, head-Mahindra Adventure Off-Road Training Academy, Vinod Nookala, senior brand manager –Thar & Initiatives, and Naresh Bhosle, senior associate – Mahindra Adventure.  Participants were judged on four parameters - approach technique, drive through technique, use of external help and vehicle preservation.

Off-roaders were faced with four obstacles, on the first day, that included dodging a ditch, towing a trailer, driving through a zig-zag slush pit on a forward hill, and driving through a pond. The semi-finals saw some great display of skill, resulting in 16 off-roaders battling for the podium. Semi-finalists who didn’t make it to the final obstacles on the second day, played the role of spotters. They were judged on two-way communication, effective instructions on correct approach line, adherence to safety norms (such as not walking in front of the vehicle, staying out of the bunting area) and taking the vehicle through a safe line.

On the final day the air was abuzz with an adrenaline rush. Off-roaders took on three challenging obstacles. The first obstacle ‘Bone yard’ resembled a spine.  Imagine driving on a spine – the drive was a bumpy roundabout with off-roaders rattling their bones, during the drive through.  

‘Beating the bush’ was the second obstacle. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but not when you’ve to beat the bush by steering the wheels over a zig-zag track on a steep incline and then drive out through 30 degrees descent. The third obstacle saw finalists drive down a 40 degree incline into a slush spa. The only way out was to swim through the slush pit, of course in a Thar.

Then came the googly… top eight off-roaders were given a hurdle to clinch the Thar. It was time to go full throttle.  In addition to the eight off-roaders, was a ninth finalist -Bunny Punia, journalist from Gaadi.com. He was given a chance to participate with the leading off-roaders as he’d won the Great Off- Road Media Challenge 2013. Each of these powered off-roaders drove into a slush pit in reverse and took a short run-up to the 40 degree incline. Given the slippery surface, this wasn’t a trouble-free task, but when you’re gunning for the Thar, it’s not meant to be easy.  Those with finesse and technique made the cut, while fundamental driving skills were put to test. Even the most basic factor such as grinding gears during shifts was taken into account.

The Off-Roading Trophy 2013-14 witnessed the cream of off-roaders, each a hero in his own respect. They live to conquer another terrain and stay off the road to enter war zone Igatpuri in 2015. The Thar remains constant, the thrill amplifies.

 
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