Sanjay Takale wins runners-up trophy in TWC Cross-country rally in Thailand

Sanjay Takale

Pune: Driving an underprepared Isuzu SUV for team Delo Sports, Pune’s international rally driver, Sanjay Takale waded through a tortuous course that almost broke his back when his vehicle hit a deep spot in the dried-up Pakong riverbed during the 26-km first stage itself on the second and final day and yet scampered through to take the runners-up trophy in the first round of the TWC Cross-Country rally championship in Chachoengsao province in Bangkok on Sunday.

When Takale received an invite from the Thailand-based Delo sports to drive for them in the four-round championship, he jumped on the chance as Covid pandemic had already taken away more than two years of real-time practice and he wanted to revive his career.

But least he expected that he would be given an underprepared car.

Given that it was a cross-country rally wherein only test drive was allowed. There was no recce or pace-notes. The rally was run on Dakar rally format. The competitors had to rely on road book with minimal signs and directions.

“This rally  was different from  the famous Thailand 4×4 rally in which recce is allowed. This is like a Dakar format. No recce. Only road book,’ Takale pointed out.

The rally was spread over 102 kilometres  over three stages to be run in two days—Saturday  and Sunday.

 On Day One Takale began steadily having tested the vehicle on Wednesday and realising that the SUV was not up to the required mark.  But After covering just one-kilometre terra trip of his vehicle gave away. That meant he had to slow down and guess the distance from signs. Takale still kept on driving even though he lost  lot of time as the roads were very difficult to drive. And more importantly T3  class meant less power original engine and very old model.

“The old Isuzu model meant it was more difficult to use and negotiate the terrain,” he said.

At the end of the first day, Takale finished 3rd in his class and14th overall.

On the second and final day on Sunday in the 26-km stage, Takale suffered a big impact and his back was terribly hurt when he hit a dip in dry riverbed at a considerable speed.

“My co-driver told me about the approaching dip in the call through intercom. And though  I kept average speed, But when we reached the spot I realised it was a dried riverbed and we had a huge impact as the spot was very deep.

“The impact hurt both of us and I think I broke my back there was much pain ,but Still we continued only to realize later that  the we had lost 4×4 wheel drive  control as something had broken in the gear box. Now we only had rear wheel drive we still drove on and finished the 34-km stage,” is how Takale narrated his tribulations.

The last was the longest stage –a 52-km course passing through muddy, slippery escapes and deep water crossings.

“We still drove with only rear wheel functional  and finished the rally,” said Takale.   

“On straight and winding roads I used my WRC experience to slide and drive this SUV with rear wheel drive .it took some skill to drive,” explained Takale as to how he managed with only rear wheel.

“I drove after a gap of two and a half years and I think I had almost forgotten to drive these cars. But with the runners-up finish and a rally under the belt I know it will take long to come back to the stage where I was in 2019,” he said.

Standings  after Round 1: class T3

  • Anucha and Nomphsin
  • Sanjay Takale and  Thanyapaat Meenil
  • Wichawat and Sonlahanat.

A journalist with more than eight years of experience in print and online media. Covered I-League, Indian Super League, Pro Kabaddi League, Motorsports, local sports, features, and Pune news. Also passionate about Travel, Auto, Food, and Aviation.