Sunday, February 28, 2010

Desert Storm Trip Log - Day 2

Carrying on from where i left off from Day 1. After flagging off, there was this period of confusion for me, of what exactly to do. Should i look at the Speed chart or the tulips, or both? Full marks to MV for bearing with me and his patience. Soon we settled into a pattern, and our co-ordination and communication went on improving as the days went by.

One of the bikes being flagged off:

Little did i know that it was the beginning of the longest day, and that it was going to turn out to be the toughest of the entire experience. All was well till we approached a tulip called Leopard Country. There due to an growing error with our GPS odometer, we took a wrong turn into a forest. A couple of kilometers in the forest, we realised that the tulips (landmarks to follow) were no longer matching, and took a U turn out of the forest. On coming back to the main road, we met up with a Santro who told us that the road ahead was blocked and the A Star guys from Team RPM, Maruti Suzuki were having a different kind of adventure. Turns out that the locals had heard a lot of cars passing by, and mistook them to be dacoits. So they just fell a tree, and blocked the entire road. A gang of 40-50 odd villagers, armed with axes, knives and swords surrounded the competitors, and demanded an explanation. Its only after a lot of pleading and cajoling that they were allowed to go.

In the meanwhile, we were struggling to find our way out of the forest. By that time, 4-5 other cars had joined the party with everyone pointing in different directions. It was @0200hrs, and comfortably cold. The poor Punto took quite a beating here. This is where we lost the first of our mud flaps, and the entire cladding of the rear left wheel arch. But hats off to the engine guard, and the tank guard, none of the stones caused any damage. The Punto is not just a looker, its tough too.

This is also where, we heard 'supposedly' big cat noises, saw jackals, deer. Was an experience.
Here's the sights of the forest. This is where the road ended.

Since we had nothing else to do, we managed do do a little bit of photography... :)

Eventually, we decided to turn back and restart the entire track. And guess what? We had missed the actual turn by 15-20 meters. :-[ So much for navigation!
Rest of the journey was a blur, since MV decided to make up for the lost time. I distinctly remember a patch of twisties with around 9-10 hair pin bends within meters of each other. The way we tackled that particular patch would have made other cars wet their (umm..) radiators, but the way Punto took it was really amazing. That car is a handler. I remember holding (hanging) on to the handle with both hands, all the while wishing that even i had a steering wheel to hold on to.
We also made our first friends of the trip while waiting for a free zone to get over. We, along with Manish and Vishal, who were driving in a Ford Fiesta, would then onwards form convoy of sorts when the rally got over, and we were kind of coasting back to the hotel every day.

It was red bull that kept us awake and alert that night. But i am quite sure, that even without red bull, there was hardly ever time to even think of sleeping. there was so much to do! Calculations, re calculations, navigation etc.

Soon, it was day break, and this is where i saw one of the most beautiful sights of the entire trip. We had entered in a typical Rajasthani village, with small houses, narrow roads, sand everywhere. And Peacocks. I have seen peacocks only in zoos. And here, there were peacocks on the road, on rooftops, on gates, and even on garbage dumps. That is also when i found that peacocks are not that fast too. There were many times when we had to slow down to let one of the majestic national bird cross the road at their own pace. Damn! Why did the peacock cross the road?
But this was one of the highlights of the trip, and this memory is something i will never forget.

Eventually, after a gruelling night, we managed to reach Teja Garden, totally tired, drained and happy to have completed the first leg. We had a couple of hours to spare here. Once we had breakfast, and more than 3-4 cups of tea, we tried to have some shut-eye. Before we knew it, it was time to go again. This particular leg was going to be quite short - @100 kms, and we were looking forward to reach Gajner Palace near Bikaner.

To Be Contd....

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Desert Storm Trip Log - Day 1

The D Day started off early morning, since we had to reach the Golf Club for the driver's briefing. So, after a scrumptious breakfast at The Mosiac hotel, off went in search of the Golf Club. The location itself was not hard to find, since all we had to do is follow the lovely sound of petrol engines revved up to the max. It was total aural pleasure to hear the motor at full throttle. (takes a break, closes his eyes, and imagines the sound, ah!)

After the mandatory briefing, which set our expectations, and gave us an idea of what not to expect, we got the Road Books for the next 5 days. Leg 1 and Leg 1a were going to be the most challenging, since it was an all night drive, and since it was a first time for many people, including us, we yet had to settle down as a team. Personally, i had never read tulips before, and it was going to be a huge learning curve for me.

From there, we rushed back to the hotel, checked out, and were back at The Great India Place, which was the location of the ceremonial flag-off. The entire place had a festive air, with cheer girls, media people, one lost DJ, and lots of people milling about. Since I was a new comer to the rally crowd, on MV's suggestion, I could easily mill about the other cars, and have a close look at the equipment being used by others...
The organizers too were having a hard time managing all the people, and setting up the start order. Ultimately, it was a First In First Out starting order, and finally we were off.

Since we had a lot of time to cover, before reaching Shakunt Resort, we took our time and went at our own pace. Filled up the Punto's tank on the way. The Punto's such a head turner. Specially in the small towns, and villages, its got a universal appeal.

On reaching the resort, we retired to our room to prepare for the long night ahead. Changed into rally gear, dusted the helmets, filled the water bottles, and got ready. Soon it was time for the flag off....

And that brings us to the end of Day1...

  • During driver briefing, one of the competitors got hit in most delicate place with a golf ball, which lead to a lot of ball hits ball jokes.
  • Saw one of driver of an xplore category climb out of his car with a beer can in his hand
  • One hatch back was parked on the side of the highway, for no reason at all. This might have seemed strange at that time, but little did we realize that it was an indicator of things to come.
  • Got quite intimidated by the level of equipment in our competitor's cars.

At the driver's briefing...

MV and me posing at the gates...

The lineup. Last year's winner and runner up

The red Italian beauty the Grande Punto!

The beauty and the beasts?

Parc Ferme for Leg 1

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Desert Storm - Final Results

Am finally back home. We drove down from Udaipur yesterday. Started
@1800hrs and reached home @0515hrs today morning.

Had a whale of a time. Lovely experience..

And, oh, btw, we came in 4th position :D :) :)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Desert Storm - Scrutiny Day 2

Since we had already finished our scrutiny yesterday, we had ample time to pamper the Punto today. So off we went (in circles) to search for a fiat workshop in Noida. After many turns and u turns, finally managed to find it.

The works manager there was kind enough to help us jump the queue for a thorough checkup of the vehicle.

So, we spent a lot of time with the mechanics, answered a lot of questions, asked a few more, while the Punto was being attended to. Here are a few pics...

Car on top ;-)

Some TLC, before the STORM...

A big HELLA to everyone...

MV chips in with the TLC.

And the result: A sparkling ferrari red Punto. Ready to take the storm on...

Our competitors. Check out the level of preparation. Makes me feel a wee bit apprehensive....

This is TerraTrip. A rally computer, which is a blessing in disguise for navigators...

Another look...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Desert Storm - Scrutiny- Part 2

Part 2

Desert Storm - Scrutiny

My Competitor ID card...

Lovely view while waiting for takeoff...

The competitors...

Our scrutiny in progress...

The day started off very early at 0300 hrs. How? This is not because
of lack of sleep. It was due to job failures in office setting the
cell phone off.

Tried to sleep, and thankfully, i did manage to get decent sleep this
time around. As is the norm, woke up a few minutes before the alarm
got off, and was well on my way to the airport before my planned time.

Manoj (henceforth called MV) drove in on time and we were on our way
to saddi Dilli. All of the trip was uneventful and managed to reach
Delhi on time. Walked out of the airport directly to the red beauty.
The Punto still manages to take my breath away every time i see her.

Checked into the Mosiac hotel at Sector 18, Noida. Its very close to
the scrutiny point, and ceremonial flag off point - which is The Great
India Place - a huge mall.

Once we checked in and settled down, we went for the scrutiny check,
which is mandatory before we are eligible to race. This was a taxing
experience since we had to go all over Noida searching for the
recovery kit, which is, a spade, a rope, a few stickers, and emergency
rations. Finally, we did manage to get the scrutiny done only to get
stuck while installing the GPS logger. The organisers have promised to
show real time locations of the car on their website.
So, as of right now, we are all set for the rally..

The PUNTO is such a head turner. Everyone from kids to oldies have a
second look at the beauty. Just standing at a distance from the car,
and overhearing conversations about the car, makes my day. "Kitni
pyaari car hai" is the most commonly used statement, across all ages.
Participants from the Xtreme category come over, and have a look see,
and walk away with a wistful look on their faces. (And this is where I
try unsuccessfully to hide my grin :)

Its a real carnival atmosphere, with people showing off their
beauties, and blipping the throttles for the audience. And for the
first time, i am on the other side of the table. All my life, i have
been a part of the audience. An anonymous face, with an awed
experience on my face. However, this time, I am a part of this. Kids
come up and asked questions. Tie wearing slaves have come up and
started a conversation... Its so different and nice.
Im loving it!!!

Following are a few pics from today's experience.

Reached delhi...nice hotel and nice flight...
Tracked the entire flight on gps. Will upload track later...

-Sent from my mobile device

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Check - India's best online auto mag, is covering our attempt at the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm.

You can check the details here:

And on a side note, have a look at the member of the month..


Desert Storm - update

There are myriad feelings going through me right now. On one hand, as is the norm, sleep is totally evading me. On the other hand, the butterflies have made a grand appearance. I have not felt like this since a long long time.

This being my first competitive rally, am quite apprehensive of what to expect. Theoretically, im all good. But when it comes to putting it all together, I just hope that it doesn't unravel at its seams.

So, in a few hours time, the experience will start off. I hope I have all good news at the end of this adventure!


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Desert Storm - the ride...

Things are falling in place...the countdown has started.
Its T-2 and counting, folks...

-Sent from my mobile device

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Got FireFox'ed

Krish got his first pair of wheels. A nice sparkling red Firefox Demon. The bike is personally chosen by him after test riding Raleigh's, BSA's and other local brands.

He's quite chuffed about this new addition, and needed some persuasion to get off the bike to sleep today.

PS: Dad, in case you are reading this,  I want one too....  :)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A dream come true...

How often does a dream come true? Well, I can see one of my wildest dreams coming true. Hold your horses, I'm not off for a weekend with Ms Kaif. Its something even better.

I am participating in a car rally. And not just any one day car rally, it's the prestigious Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally, from 12th Feb to 20th Feb 2010. I will be navigating a Fiat Punto, being driven by Manoj Vaidya. There will be participants from professional teams, the Indian
Army and the Media among other privateers like us...

It sure is going to be a very sharp learning curve for me, as well as a very different experience. I had never imagined participating in a real rally before. The fun has already started, with the planning and preparation for this. There is a lot of paperwork involved, like getting rally licenses from the FMSCI, certificates from the doctor, indemnity bonds from the lawyer, insurance from the get the drift.

Paperwork is one thing. The actual challenge will be when driving over sand, water, beaches, dry lake beds, near the POK border, next to an extinct volcano somewhere in Rajasthan. Some of these things are on moonless nights just to make things interesting.

Well, we did some amount of beach driving & changing the tyre practice among other things, but that story I will leave for another day. ;-)
Just hoping that we don't face something like that in the real deal, where a tyre is supposed to be changed in 3 mins.

I still am to get used to the peculiar world of Tulips and Time Controls and CAST's and Road Books and Speed Sheets. But slowly and surely, am getting there. Most of my work is mathematical. It is my responsibility to ensure that we are at right place at the right time. So the most important tool for me is...a calculator. And pencils, markers, erasers
and sharpeners. :-)

I am not going there just to participate. I am going there, and will give it my best shot for a podium. So, wish me well, and hope that I come back with a rally classification.

From what I understand, the organizers are going to update the positions of each car real time. In case you are interested in following our progress, visit the link below:

Itinerary is as below:

12 & 13 February 2010
From: 1000 hrs At the Scrutiny, DLF Place, Saket, New Delhi
14 February 2010
From: 0800 hrs At the Ceremonial Start, DLF Place, Saket, New
Delhi <Rally Starts>
15 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Laxmi Niwas, Bikaner
16 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Fort Rajwada, Jaisalmer
17 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Camp, Bhuj
18 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Camp, Bhuj
19 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Radisson Plaza, Udaipur <Rally ends>
20 February 2010
Rest day
21 February 2010
Drive back from Udaipur to BBY

More details here:

Keep watching for more pictoral updates soon...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Life @141

Unlike what I expected, life does not become a blur at insane speeds like 141 kmph on a bike.

Instead it slows have enough time to think, plan and execute. You develop tunnel vision. The road in front becomes the focal point. You crouch, with the XL tummy resting on the tank, head at an upward tilt. The roar of the wind inside the helmet dies down. The visor touches the nose. Your entire body acts as a big sensor for any wobble or tremor. Eyes frantically scan the road for bumps or undulations like your life depends on it, because it does.

Then the open straight ends, you come out of the full crouch and face the wind blast, which knocks off a full 20kmph, makes the helmet buffet. You slow down for others to catch up before pumping your hand and making a biker salute. 100kmph feels like 30 now. You smile and thank your favourite God for the experience.

While, in a car, you yawn.