Interest in motorsports in India is growing at a feverish pace. After cricket, it is Formula One that garners the most attention on television screens. Now Indian motorsports lovers have an opportunity to witness some high class action.
In December, the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship comes to India in the form of the MRF India Rally 2003. It will commence from the Gateway of India in Mumbai on December 4 and conclude in Pune. There will be 13 special stages, covering 250 kilometers, along the most scenic and historic dirt roads around the Lake City near Pune over three days from December 5 to 7.
Nazir Hoosein, chairman of the Himalayan Rally Association, the organizers of the rally said, "Over the past few years, various motorsports including Formula One and rallying have become very popular thanks to extensive television coverage. We are delighted to have the Asia Pacific Rally back in India."
The rally is being run under the aegis of the FIA, the world body for motorsport, and the Motorsports Association of India, the ASN of the FIA in India.
Over 20 international competitors, driving top rally cars like the Mitsubishi Lancer, Subaru Impreza, Suzuki Ignis, Ford Escort and Proton Pert, will be vying for honours.
"Rallying as a sport has changed. Adventure has gone out of the window and safety has become paramount," said Hoosein.
The main reason for hosting the event in Mumbai and Pune is the Expressway, he said, which allows for quick transport of the cars.
While the prize-money for the event may not match that of cricket or even tennis, the organizers tout it as an excellent opportunity for car manufacturers to showcase their cars.
While cricket may be the most popular sport in India at present, Hoosein made a valid point when he said, "Motorsports is much bigger than cricket on the world stage."
The current standings after the first two rounds of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship are: 1. Fumio Nutahara (Japan, Mitsubishi) with 26 points; 2. Armin Kremer, TEAM MRF (Germany, Mitsubishi) with 21 points; 3. Geoff Argyle (New Zealand, Mitsubishi) with 19 points.