Club Mahindra Eco Rally 

The Club Mahindra Eco Rally, a lovely run from Kochi to Munnar, had a nice mix of cars and competitors and had lessons for all, says STAN RAYAN

GOING TO Munnar is no longer an unending series of oohs! and aahs! Gone are the broken roads and loose stones, which turned even sturdy cars into rickety jalopies. Which often forced your rear to grumble and groan in agony. 

As the Tata Sumo sliced through the bends and turns, you could even feel the wind whizz beneath your ears. But heaven comes for a price. 

You have to go a lot deeper into the hills to snog nature these days, to lose yourself in its cool, virgin ambience. 

The Club Mahindra Eco Rally, a 146-km run from Kochi to Munnar the other day, was a small step in helping nature retain its sparkling charm a little longer. 

For nearly two decades, Munnar has seen rally stars race through its exotic stretches at maniac speed, burning loads of fuel, but the key to last Sunday’s event was to make the most from every drop of fuel. The idea was to squeeze the maximum mileage from every litre, to crown the most fuel-efficient and nature-friendly car. 

As the 26 cars lined up for the Sunday drive at the Regional Sports Centre in Kochi, there was a spicy variety despite the small field. There was a nice mix, from the plain Janes to the luxury birds. One could spot the Maruti 800s, the Zens, Wagon-Rs, the Honda Citys, the Indicas, Fiat Unos, Ford Ikons, even a couple of Skodas. 

The participants too were a lively and colourful lot. Some of them had come with their wives and children in tow and there was even an all-women crew receiving last-minute tips from their hubbies, both top-notch rallyists in their heyday. 

But the results threw up a big surprise. 

When you see some of the large cars flying past you on the highway, you were often tempted to gush, `here goes the great guzzler’. 

But it was a big bird, which sipped the least and pipped the field at Munnar. The large and luxurious Skoda Octavia (Diesel) took the top prize, consuming just four and half litres for the 146-km competition for a winning average of 32.58 kms per litre on the winding hilly route. 

“The key to winning was minimum braking and floating on the same speed with the mildest possible acceleration,” said a thrilled M. C. Roy, an Executive Vice-President with the Choice Group, who coaxed the Skoda to the champion’s crown. 

“You’ve got to watch your engine with your mind. There were a lot of curves and turns but we took an effort not to apply the brakes often. And going on neutral on certain stretches helped. Overall, it was a smooth affair all the way,” said Roy who had wife Neetha as navigator and children Rahul and Rohit for some noisy support. Roy walked away with five prizes in all, including the Best Couple and Best Club Mahindra Team. 

Gautham Reddy and Joshi in a diesel Ford Ikon finished a close second while V. S. Darish and A. V. Srinivas (Opel Corsa) were third overall in the rally sponsored by Club Mahindra Holidays and Bharat Petroleum. 

And after a steady drive, the all-women’s team of Roshni Punnose and Rema Sangeeth (Maruti 800) finished a creditable sixth overall and second in their class. 

“The results will certainly ruffle a few feathers,” said Hormazd Sorabjee, the Editor of Autocar India magazine which organised the event. And he was not exactly speaking about male feathers. 

“The Skoda, with its direct fuel engine and turbo, gave Roy an edge but it’s all a matter of striking a balance between keeping your momentum and keeping your foot on the accelerator,” said Hormazd, literally tipping his hat to Roy’s driving skills. 

As we wound our way down, leaving the enchanting hills one by one, sadly taking in the concrete demons that appear to slowly replace the picture-postcard route, we couldn’t help wondering how fast Munnar has changed. Rallies like these could help us realise the little things we could do to slow down the rot. 

And for sure, a little drop goes a long way.