CHENNAI: A small motor workshop’s owner going on to become one of India’s finest off-road rally drivers is a journey worth talking about. Suresh Rana has come a long way from his humble origins.
Hailing from a small village in Kulu (Himachal Pradesh), Rana — also nicknamed the Manali Man — had no intentions of racing. He was happy with his workshop in Manali and apple orchard at home.
While navigating the treacherous roads en route to his workshop one day, he was spotted by a racing enthusiast who suggested that he try rallying. The rest, as they say, was history.
“I participated in the Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya for the first time in 2001. I finished third in my group and sixth overall. That gave me the confidence to keep trying,” Rana told Express.
Since then, Rana has won nine Raid and four Desert Storm crowns. The 43-year-old hasn’t missed a single edition of the Raid since starting out. “Raid is one of the most dangerous rallies in the world. You have to brave cold weather and treacherous turns. Winning nine and being able to be competitive every time gives me great satisfaction,” he said. He is set to go on recce for the upcoming Raid on October 2.
When asked why he hasn’t tried his luck abroad, Rana revealed problems regarding sponsorship. “I have always wanted to try. But, costs have prevented me. I’m trying to race in the Malaysian Rally next year. Hopefully, things will work out.” Incidentally, Rana wanted to quit in 2004 because of monetary issues.
Rana has a wife and a 14-year-old son, and they get very apprehensive when he leaves for rallies. “They keep telling me to not go. Nowadays, I just let them know a day prior to the event.”
When not rallying, Rana is keeps busy with his new venture: the Raptors Driving School in Manali. He has already churned out two batches of eight drivers. “I’ve always wanted to give something back to the sport. I’ll continue till I’m fit. But, I’d like someone from my school to take up my mantle in the future.”
Rallying is still far from popular, and Rana feels that the huge costs add to the problems. “When I started, entry fee used to be less. It’s a lot now. If that amount is decreased, newcomers will start coming. Corporate backing and more events will also help.”