He continues to dream

Sanjay Takale (left) with co-driver Musa Sherif.-THULASI KAKKAT Sanjay Takale (left) with co-driver Musa Sherif.

Sanjay Takale is all set to make his debut in the four-wheel drive class of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, which begins with New Zealand’s Rally of Whangerai on May 18. By Stan Rayan.

When Sanjay Takale got off his bike in 2001 after 14 years and many podiums in rallying, dirt racing and motocross, he thought he would never get back to the sport again.

“I was married, happy with life, financially secure, everything appeared to be going well,” said the builder from Pune. “But there were days when I felt something was missing in my life. I knew it was motorsport.”

Sanjay returned to the circuit after six years but this time it was in a car.

“I finished second in my first ever four-wheel rally, the Desert Storm, in 2007,” he said.

He was happy with the success but was hungry for more. So, Takale flew to Malaysia and tried his hand at the National Championship series there.

“Basically, I went there to upgrade my knowledge… it’s a good place to learn,” he said. He was a quick learner and regularly finished on the podium there.

Sanjay has come a long way. The 45-year-old is now getting ready for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s four-wheel drive class, which begins with New Zealand’s Rally of Whangerai on May 18.

Sanjay will be making his debut in the four-wheel drive event and he will be competing against stars like Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) and Finland’s Esapekka Lappi for the overall honours.

Sanjay had his first taste of the APRC last year. He and his co-driver, Musa Sherif of Kerala, were competing in the two-wheel drive class and the field included former Production Cars World Rally champion Karamjit Singh of Malaysia. The Indian duo drove well and even led the championship table after two rounds before finishing fourth.

“Last year’s APRC was a big learning curve but this year, it’s a different thing altogether since it’s in the four-wheel drive class,” said Sanjay, the owner of Nandini Developers in Pune. “This year, my goal will be to bring the car to the finish, especially at Whangerei where I’ll be driving for the first time.”

Driving with Musa, the most experienced navigator in the country with over 200 rallies under his belt, had offered the Pune driver a lot of lessons last year.

“I’ve learned a lot of things from Musa, basically how to approach a rally and about winning strategies. He’s not very talkative but he’s strong in strategy. There’s a lot of strategy involved in a rally. That’s why we call him the ‘Cunning Tiger’ on the circuit,” said Sanjay.

However, Musa will not be by Sanjay’s side shouting out the pace notes at the APRC this time.

“Sanjay’s Malaysian navigator (Sean Gregory) has got sponsorship from Malaysia, so I’m not doing the APRC this year,” explained Musa who hails from Kasaragod.

Sanjay, who will be driving a Subaru Impreza this time, is in awe of Gaurav Gill, India’s finest rally driver, who has won a few APRC events in the last few years.

“Gaurav Gill is just great, very fast, a class apart…on his day, he can beat anybody,” he said.

As he started tasting success in car rallies, Sanjay began to think big. Last year, he even spoke about a dream to drive in the World Championship one day. But with the APRC just days away, he was modest.

“I’m just taking it one step at a time. I’ll see how this year goes, if it goes well, I’ll think of the next level,” he said. “If it doesn’t, I might even stop.”

A wily football midfielder at school, he was also good in long-distance running as a youngster.

“I was in military school, we got a chance to try out everything,” he said. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot…but now, am very happy. I think, I’m better with cars than on bikes.

“And I’ve not stopped dreaming,” he added.