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Wheels vroom on dusty turf

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 9: Spectators cheered as cars swirling dust went zooming past at the Utkal University stadium where the first-ever motor rally event of the state was held on Friday afternoon. The Rally of Odisha was organised jointly by Kalinga Motor Sports Club and Bengal Motor Sports Club.

A part of the Speed Indian National Rally Championship of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), Odisha, is host to the sixth leg of the national rally series. Eminent rallyists such as Asia Pacific Rally Championship driver Gaurav Gill of MRF team and many more featured in the event.

“The first five rounds were held at Nashik, Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Chikmagalur. Each round carried points in different segments of driving for the participants. Hence, the Odisha round is crucial in this seven-leg series that will conclude in Calcutta,” said Biswajit Mohanty, a member of the Kalinga Motor Sports Club.

The 22 participants were happy about the conditions for the rally. “Rally sports need dusty roads. The venue here looks perfect,” said Aniruddha from Puna, who is leading the series so far by winning one leg and standing second or third in the other four.

Only two female drivers were seen at the rally. While Srilatha from Hyderabad teamed up with husband Sachin, Calcutta girl Somonnita Ghosh was with her brother Amittrajit to represent the MRF team.

“There are very few women in this country who are pursuing their passion for rally sports. If we practice well, we can be as good as our male contemporaries,” said Somonnita.

Drivers showcased adventurous stunts at the super special stage that was won by Gill.

“There is a long straight where the cars are expected to touch top speeds of 180 kmph but the route is also technical and challenging as there is a lot of ‘pea gravel’ and cars can skid and slide off the road,” said Gill.

Over 1,000 spectators gathered to watch the rally.

“Watching the champion was a thrilling experience. My friends and I are really excited to have witnessed the event in our university stadium,” said Shiv Saha, a student of the university.

The next round, which has an 84km lap, will be held over two days at the Gurjhetia facility in Chowdwar.

The winners of the championship will represent India at the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.