Dakshin Dare: Stage set for close finish

The heavy rain and fog at Kuderamani on Friday disrupted the fourth leg, in which two of the three stages had to be cancelled. At the end of the fourth leg, defending champion Suresh Rana maintained his lead.

T. Natraj is leading in the Ultimate Bike category   -  Special Arrangement

A drive from Belagavi to Kolhapur ought to be one of the most pleasing experiences of the monsoon.

The endless, stunningly green fields, dotted with trees on either side of the road could be so soothing to the eye. Even the rallyists, for all their focus on the competition, may not have missed nature at its prettiest, as the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Drive crossed the borders of Maharashtra for the first time in its nine-year-old history.

The heavy rain and fog at Kuderamani on Friday, however, disrupted the fourth leg, in which two of the three stages had to be cancelled. At the end of the fourth leg, defending champion Suresh Rana maintained his lead.

“The conditions were extremely difficult,” Rana said. “On such slushy surfaces handling a Grand Vitara is not easy at all.”He, in the company of Ashwin Naik, has clocked 7:21.13 to top the table in the Ultimate Car category.

Samrat Yadav, along with co-driver S.N. Nizami, is still in the second slot and he has managed to cut the lead down to just 38 seconds, with a time of 7:21.51 on his Maruty Gypsy. Sandeep Sharma, also driving a Gypsy alongside Karan Arya, is in the third spot, having timed 7:37.27. It could be a pretty tight finish between Rana and Yadav in the final leg at Pune on Friday. “I don’t think I have held such a slender lead going to the last leg in any race,” Rana said.

“Driving in the competition stage was extremely challenging, but I enjoyed the drive to Kolhapur, because of the great scenery and the lovely road."

Meanwhile, in the Ultimate Bike category, T. Natraj maintained his lead, clocking 4:49.25, ahead of Abdul Wahid (4:51.58) and Sanjay Kumar (4:58.56). “The wet conditions made it even more challenging for two-wheelers, as maintaining the balance is a task,” the leader said.

“But it was great to see the enthusiasm of the local spectators as we drove in the city.”

  Dugout videos