Suresh Rana retains Dakshin Dare title

Driving his Grand Vitara, in the company of Ashwin Naik, Rana clocked 10:11.26 to defeat his younger rival Samrat Yadav by more than three minutes.

The Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare champion Suresh Rana (left) with his co-driver Ashwin Naik.   -  Special Arrangement

Suresh Rana was worried that his lead was just 38 seconds going to the last leg, but experience was on his side. He also has considerable skills as a cross-country driver. It was thus no surprise that the 42-year-old from Manali retained his title at the ninth Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare here on Friday. The rally was flagged off in Bengaluru on Monday.

Driving his Grand Vitara, in the company of Ashwin Naik, Rana clocked 10:11.26 to defeat his younger rival Samrat Yadav by more than three minutes.

“I am quite pleased with that margin in the end, considering the fact that I was behind after the first two legs, during which I had suffered three punctures,” he told Sportstar. “I was determined to increase my lead in the first stage of the final leg. And when I went ahead of Samrat by some four minutes, I felt better.”

For the final stage, Rana had to tackle the narrow and winding road that began from the scenic Pasuri village. “The road was slippery too, because of the heavy rain,” said the man who has won Raid de Himalaya 10 times and Desert Storm on six occasions. “I am also glad that Ashwin, with whom I have a partnership that goes back 10 years, has finally become a part of a victory at Dakshin Drive.”

The runner-up Samrat, who rode a Maruti Gypsy alongside S. N. Nizami, would surely be feeling disappointed that he could not dethrone Rana despite coming so close. But he could take heart from this performance in his comeback trial after the terrible accident he had at Raid de Himalaya in 2015. Former champion Sandeep Sharma, also driving a Gypsy alongside Karan Arya, came third.

T. Natraj won the title in the Ultimate Bike Category, riding his TVS Apache. Abdul Wahid finished second, while Sanjay Kumar took the third place.

The standings

Ultimate Cars: 1. Suresh Rana 10:11.26; 2. Samrat Yadav 10:14.52; 3. Sandeep Sharma 10:24.17.

Ultimate Bikes: 1. T. Natraj 6:12.38; 2. Abdul Wahid 6:15.37; 3. Sanjay Kumar 6:26.53.

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