Off-roading does not involve speed, but it sure is an art in itself. This slower form of motorsport is steadily growing in interest, especially in the North East. Reason being fabulously spectacular and challenging terrain is everywhere you look and the locals use four-wheel drive vehicles of all hues for their daily commute owing to the indifferent nature of the roads. Add a little off-road training and immediately you have a huge bunch of enthusiasts ready to take up a hardcore off-road challenge.
A group of like-minded off-road enthusiasts called the Association of Off-roaders Nagaland (AON) decided to tap off-roading talent in the distant state and started an off-road challenge to push skill levels in the region. Thus the Off Road Maestro was born. Currently running in its fourth year, it is regarded as one of the toughest competitive off-road challenges in the North East.
The past few editions were run on artificially made tracks within Dimapur city. But this year, with an increased number of off-road aficionados registering for the event, the organisers decided to make the challenge a little tougher. Partnering with a property called Shalom resort – their 20-acre property was the perfect playground. It had everything an off-roader could hope for from slush trails to river crossings to steep ascents, descents and even huge boulders. Everything was there to challenge and test the drivers’ skill.
After finishing the necessary documentation and dinner, the convoy headed to tackle the first challenge of the competition – a night stage which involved driving over mounds in a paddy field, getting through the slush pit and to the finish line. It was more like a warm-up to what lay ahead.
The morning’s proceedings began with the water crossing, which everyone managed to complete with ease. The third and fourth challenges involved a lot of technique in terms of driver’s skill, use of equipment and presence of mind. In both challenges, the competitors had to tackle driving past almost 90-degree inclines and descents, sharp turns over boulders and fording streams. While some managed to get their cars to the top, some burnt their clutches trying to power their way out and ended up losing precious time. During the last challenge of the day, tackling the slippery incline, a competitor Neiki lost control, toppled and landed in the stream. The quick response teams played their part and in no time Neiki was back on the trail again.
But that wasn’t all for the day. The drivers had yet another night stage to tackle. Once again the paddy field was the chosen playground, but this time it was not as easy. Driving through the slushy stream, competitor number 109 drowned the car and blew the ECU unit. They had to eventually be winched out after the other competitors finished the course.
Another two challenges were left for the winner to be crowned. First the participants had to cross a six-foot wide canal, building a bridge using logs. Next they had to manoeuvre through a rubber plantation before traversing huge boulders to end the day.
Meme Sekhose and Kezha Semou (competition number 102) who were the frontrunners right from the first challenge, maintained their position and were crowned the champions of the 2016 Off Road Maestro Challenge followed by Yanger Lusang and Sahimongba (103) in second and Avui Rutsa and Atoulie Vizo (104) in third place.