Home / Features / Mahindra Adventure Off-Roading Trophy 2019 – To the Victor Went the Thar

 

We went to Igatpuri in Nashik district to witness the Off-Roading Trophy and even got a chance to drive for a few stages of this event

Story: Joshua Varghese Photography: Mahindra Adventure

Arriving at Nashik for the Mahindra Adventure Off-Roading Trophy 2019, I was expecting to walk into a crowded room filled with tense and nervous participants. Fully-occupied tables were testimony to my first expectation and a healthy number of women participants as well but, oh, boy, I was far off the mark about the “tense and nervous” bit…

The participants sat at their tables, eager in conversation. Only pausing to listen to the odd jovial character and then respond to his wit with hysterical laughter. The energy was infectious and soon I was also eavesdropping (shamelessly) and smiling away. Enjoying myself so much that I was a tad crestfallen when Bijoy Kumar (chief, Mahindra Adventure) took the stage; time to get serious. He promptly requested all of us to stand up, look at the person next to us in the eye and yell, ‘Get lost’. That’s the Mahindra Adventure way of beginning things. Fair enough, considering their motto is “get ready to get lost”. That set the tempo for the rest of the weekend and I was sure that this would be a fun couple of days all the way through.

The finalists in the room were seasoned off-roaders who had aced the Great Escapes in their respective regions and they listened with rapt attention as the rules and regulations were explained. If they performed well, one of them could be driving home a brand-new Mahindra Thar 700 Limited Edition.

The scoring system is simple. Pick up a flag, earn 10 points. Hit a cone, lose 10 points. Pick up a super flag, earn 20 points. Each course has flags and cones placed in strategic locations, under the watchful eyes of a judge. Furthermore, the judge has 10 points to award at his discretion. He judges the participants based on their driving, safety, and vehicle preservation skills. There is also a maximum permitted time for each stage. Finishing within said time will earn points; otherwise a DNF (did not finish). I was told that I’d also be competing in the media class, so I picked up on the essentials as well: grab the flags, avoid the cones.

After being paired into driver-spotter teams, the participants were off to face the first challenge in the Mahindra Thars provided and maintained by Mahindra Adventure. Both contestants would drive in turns and spot for each other.

The first course was easy; relatively, of course. So, we were also allowed to drive on it and yours truly managed to finish it with a perfect score. The second stage was where the challenge began. After manoeuvring the Thar along a narrow path with deep ruts, I found myself at the base of a hill which had three flags up for grabs along its slope. The challenge? The base of the hill was a slush pit with limited traction. After watching the drivers who tried before me, I also tried to power my way up the hill but got as close as brushing my hand against the first flag before running out of time. Afterwards the specialists told me the easiest way would have been to run over the cone (it stood on firmer ground) and make it to the top, then come down in reverse to collect the rest of the flags. That made me realize that there’s more to off-roading than just smooth right-foot input. Understanding the lay of the land and selecting an appropriate line are also vital skills to become a good off-road driver.

The challenges that followed only seemed to progress in terms of difficulty. I witnessed Thars entering ditches filled with water at scarily steep angles, wading through them like ducks in a pond, and then emerging from the water like it was nothing. Drivers performed balancing acts with a wheel in the air to reach a difficult flag while the unlucky ones wedged their car deep in the mud while trying. There were a few errors here and there but the Thars took all the beating valiantly and loyally returned to the start line, living up to its rugged off-roader credentials and earning our respect along the way.

The following day we were back at the Igatpuri facility to take on the final day’s challenges. We drove one of the previous day’s courses and I managed to finish it with a perfect score as well, largely due to the fact that the track had lost its initial challenge after all the participants had driven on it. Meanwhile, the finalists had progressed through to the toughest couple of challenges.

At the end of the event, it was Bopaiah Kongettira from Kodagu who won the “Off-Roader of the Year” title. My fate was not as great because I missed out on first place in the media class by a couple of points.

On the way back to Pune, I had a few other things to think about. While the drivers’ skill was commendable, the real highlight was the camaraderie they shared. Each participant was seen egging on their rival and even offering advice if they had just driven before them.

Mahindra Adventure have done a splendid job not only in conducting and promoting such an event but also by nurturing a very healthy competitive environment.

Do you think you have what it takes to take on the rugged terrain and win? Then log on to the Mahindra Adventure website and register for one of the Great Escapes. With a lot of skill and a little luck, you could also be a champion next year.

If you are thinking of participating for the upcoming trophy, then head to the website and sign up for the next great escape. If you are a noob, then sign up for the Off-Roading Academy. You can’t go wrong either way.

Also read: Mahindra Adventure Authentic Bhutan 2018

 

About the author: Joshua Varghese

 

Would gape at fast cars. Still does but now has a chance to drive some of them. Hates driving in traffic but makes up for with a spot of off-roading or the occasional track outing. Insta: @motoknight

 

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