Kohima, Dec 2 The countrys top TSD rallyists are all set to race in the JK Tyre Hornbill Rally, with the defending champion Gagan Sethi promising another valiant attempt at the title on Monday.
Being held alongside the famous Hornbill Festival, Gagan Sethi and his co-driver Sabatullah Khan are all excited and raring to go in their Maruti Suzuki Gypsy.
"It is great to be back here in Nagaland for the Hornbill Rally. I come here as defending champion and I know that I am the favourite this year too," Gagan said.
"Of course, a lot has changed in the last three years and a number of new faces and new contenders have emerged. But I am confident that we will be able to defend the title," he added.
The popular TSD rally which will run over a distance of 55 kms is going to be tricky as the rallyists will not be given prior information about the course or the triple cautions. They will be handed the tulips just a minute before the flag-off, making their test that much more challenging.
"That's the charm of a good TSD rally," another top contender Samuel, who competed in the Open class, said. "The mystery is what turns this into a level playing-field and we have to rely on our instincts and calculations to get over the line first. We are really excited about tomorrow and are confident of finishing on the podium," he added.
Talking about the rally being part of one of the biggest cultural festivals in the country, he said, "Being a local from Kohima, I would like to thank JK Tyres for coming back to Hornbill after three years. They give us a national stage to perform and that is what has helped motorsport grow in this region," he said.
Hari Singh, head of Operations of JK Motorsport and multiple-time Indian National Rally Championship, was highly impressed with the way local organisers NAMSA have planned the entire event. "I have seen the course and it's amazing. The drivers are going to love it even though their skills will be severely tested," he said.
The rally, held under the aegis of FMSCI, will be flagged-off tomorrow at 8:30 am from the Indira Gandhi Stadium and end at the Heritage Village Kisama.
Apart from the rally, there will be other attractions for fans and visitors: an exhibition wrestling contest, traditional fire-making competition, hip fest, horticulture exhibition and of course the big one: the Hornbill International Music Festival.
"We are delighted to be part of the Hornbill Festival again. It is in line with our vision of promoting the sport in the Northeast. We are really glad to see the kind of hard work that NAMSA has put in to organise the rally and would like to thank them for their dedication in promoting motorsports," Hari Singh said.
"We are also very thankful to the honourable chief minister of Nagaland, Mr. Neiphiu Rio, and his government for their support and belief that they have in us. Our goal is to make the region the next motorsport hub of the country," he added.