Off-roading competition near Palghar will test limits of both driver, vehicle

Published: Jun 22, 2018, 06:00 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

It's all about overcoming any obstacle that comes your way. A dense forest? No problem

An obstinate mind, a monstrous vehicle and treacherous terrain — these are the three basic requirements for off-roading, a motorsport that stretches the limit of not just the car but also the driver's perseverance. It's all about overcoming any obstacle that comes your way. A dense forest? No problem. A shallow river? Easy peasy. That's the mindset people cultivate when they take up off-roading. And around 100 such enthusiasts in 50-odd vehicles will now make their way to Palghar this month-end, for a competition at Mud Crushers Zone, which is a manufactured track meant for a slightly watered-down version of off-roading.

But what goes into the making of these vehicles? What specific modifications are needed? How dangerous is the sport? And what are the basic dos and don'ts? We give you the lowdown on these questions ahead of the event, so that in case the idea of off-roading sounds tempting to you, you know where to begin.

Shonak Gholkar

The vehicles

First things first, you need a 4x4 vehicle. "It should preferably be something like a Jeep or Force Gurkha, which can withstand almost any terrain. But you can also get an SUV, though what you gain in terms of seating comfort, you lose when it comes to navigability," says Shonak Gholkar (in pic), who's co-organising the competition near Palghar. But acquiring the vehicle is just the beginning. For, the key to successful off-roading lies in the modifications you make. Mud-terrain tyres are a must. Another important addition to the vehicle is a winch, which is fitted in the middle of the front bumper. This is connected to the car's battery and can be operated with a remote control, helping pull the vehicle out if it gets stuck in the mud, in a hole, or some other tricky situation.

Then there is a snorkel. "It's a type of filter that sucks in air and is stuck below the bonnet. So if you're going into a river, this is what will help suck the water out," says Sherwin D'Silva, another off-roading enthusiast we speak to. He adds, "You can also add metal sheets to the bumper, so that the car can slide up if there is a big rock in your way. In fact, there are actually all sorts of modifications you can make. The list is almost endless."

Either way, send your car for servicing once it's been through the torture of off-roading. At the very least, a thorough wash will be needed since it will be covered in mud, given the fact that you're as unlikely to find an off-roader on a concrete road as you are to find Lewis Hamilton playing cricket.

Palghar 1

Thar Palghar

Palghar 2
Scenes from an earlier off-roading event held at the venue in Palghar

Dos and don'ts

* Don't try it alone: That's the first rule that beginners have to keep in mind about off-roading. "You don't know where you might get stuck. It could be in the middle of nowhere. So, it's advisable to have someone with you, since your mobile phone won't always have connectivity," Gholkar says, adding, "Your co-driver is actually like your better half, who will help you navigate obstacles by giving you a different perspective."

* High-quality parts: Invest in a pair of quality mud-terrain tyres, apart from halogen or fog lights. Carry a fire extinguisher just in case. And if you're looking at the ideal time of the year to go off-roading, choose the monsoon. This is when the earth is wet and slushy, which enhances the thrill of off-roading since the whole point of the exercise is making things as difficult for yourself as possible.

Off-roading hotspots

Most people find natural spaces like forests and rough terrain to practise the sport in or build tracks in places like private farmhouses. This is because off-roaders tend to attract crowds, which can get dangerous. But outside of from Mud Crushers Zone, Adventure Nation near Lonavala is another commercial venture that offers people a chance to go off-roading. They charge Rs 3,500 for a night, and the cost includes a safety briefing and a 45-minute spin around the track they have created.

That apart, Rajmachi near Lonavala is an ideal place for off-roading. Nestled in the midst of the Western Ghats, it has mud tracks and undulating roads that are conducive to the sport.

Then there is the Hinjewadi-Maurunji-Pawna trail in the same area that is another option. End your journey at a serene lake, which lies in the midst of rolling hills and paints a pretty picture.


Rules of competing

It's not just a race against time. Off-roading is also about having the technical ability to stay on track no matter what the hurdle is. D'Silva says, "Normally, the course is lined with bunting. And every time you touch one of these flags, points get deducted. So, what happens is that you are given a stipulated amount of time to complete each course. And whoever finishes successfully within that period, and with the maximum number of points, is declared the winner."

On: June 30 and July 1 at Ecowoods Agrotourism, Ambadi, Palghar East.
Call: 9820844688
Cost: Rs 5,000 and Rs 7,500 (for the pro course)

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