New Delhi: The road travelled by the greats of the Mughal era is all set to become the stage for the clash of the titans with the Indian automobile giants - Maruti Suzuki, Mahindra and Tata Motors - battling it out in the third Jammu and Kasmir (J&K) Rally June 30-July 1.
The battleground is the motorsport arena -- and the track travelled by the legendary Akbar and later Mughal emperors through the sylvan Pir Panjal range of the Western Himalayas in Jammu and Kashmir will now witness the three automobile manufacturers locked in a battle for the top spot.
The J&K government is enthusiastic about hosting the event as the Rally will showcase the untapped potential for adventure tourism in the state. The event promises to give tourists a whole new high, taking them beyond the Sonamarg, Gulmarg and Pahalgam route to a different, offbeat circuit, exploring untouched areas like the Sinthan Pass, Pir Ki Gali, Bafliaz and the picturesque medieval Mughalsarai at Aliabag.
Teams Tata, Mahindra and Maruti have earlier fought it out in the Raid De Himalaya and the Desert Storm too, but the stakes were not as high as they are going to be now.
Mahindra Adventure and Tata Motors have gone all out to rope in the top current motorsport champions. They are out to dislodge Maruti Suzuki from its dominant position in its own events.
The Mughal Rally has two categories - Xtreme and Enduro. The Xtreme is an about outright speed, while the Enduro follows the TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) format. For Rally Xtreme, the three automobile majors are fielding champions of competitive motorsport in the country for an all-out 'speed and skill' contest. Tata's Xenons are up against Mahindra's tigers - the XUV 500 and the Thar - and Maruti's powerdrive, the Grand Vitara.
Mahindra boasts of star driver Gaurav Gill, numero uno at Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2011; former APRC winner Karamjit Singh, a Malaysian of Indian origin; Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) winner Lohitt Urs of Mysore, and Chandigarh daredevil Sunny Sidhu. Gill, Singh and Urs are driving the XUV 500, while Sidhu takes on the Mahindra Thar for the event.
Team Tata has Sanjay Takale of Pune, Taufeeq Mughal of Srinagar and Arindam Ghosh of Kolkata for the Xtreme category. Takale has repeatedly recorded podium finishes at the formidable Raid De Himalaya and the Desert Storm. All three are driving Xenons.
Maruti, the biggest automobile maker of the country, are in no mood to give up their predominant position. The star of the outfit is the tough mountain driver Suresh Rana of Manali. Rana is seven-time consecutive winner of the Raid De Himalaya and numero uno at the Desert Storm. Rana will take on the Xenons, the XUVs and the Thars in a Grand Vitara.
Team Thunderbolt, which had Rana on board earlier, is now headed by Chandigarh's Harpreet Bawa. Bawa has been a surprise winner at several motorsport events when the favourites for the crown had to move into the 'DNF' (Did Not Finish) category on account of mechanical failures in their vehicles. Also in the team are Harkaran Singh and Sameer Pandey.
The Mughal Rally is organised by the Shimla-based premier motorsport club, Himalayan Motorsport, whose flagship event is the Raid De Himalaya.