The ninth edition of the Hornbill Motor Rally at Kohima, Nagaland returned after a hiatus of three years. The Hornbill Rally is organised by JK Tyre and the Nagaland Adventure and Motorsports Association. Delhi’s ace rallyist Gagan Sethi with his co-driver Sabatullah Khan took home the trophy in the Time Speed Distance (TSD) rally with a penalty count of just 29 seconds.
Flagged off by Hari Singh – multiple Indian National Rally Champion – at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, the Hornbill rally was held in the backdrop of the famous Hornbill Festival. A total of 29 participants took the challenge, 20 entries in the ‘North East’ class and nine entries in the ‘Open’ class. Spanning over 55 kilometres, the competitors had to traverse through rocky terrains, broken tarmac, gravel and slush, through the outskirts of Kohima before culminating in Kisama village. The participants also had to negotiate a total of seven surprise time controls.
Gagan and Sabatullah teamed up for the first time. "It was a difficult rally and I was facing a lot of problems with the car. But my navigator was brilliant and he helped us cruise past the field to claim the title. Even though we were driving together for the first time, we hit it off instantly and our coordination was really very great,” Gagan said after the rally, dedicating the win to his wife.
Finishing second on the podium were Bijo Awom and Chandrasekhar 1:44 minutes penalty. And they were joined by Tali Akang and Nirav Mehta who finished third with a penalty of 2:05 minutes.
In the North East class, Alex Suohu and Akhrielie Vizo took the first place with a penalty of 9:44 minutes. Thezakkielie Zuyie and his co-driver Moamarimsong managed second place after scoring a total penalty of 10.5 minutes. And Anguzo Sekhose and Mengu Yhome (penalty of 12:29 minutes) rounded off the podium at third place.
Other awards given out at the end of the rally included ‘best-decorated car’ which was won by Kevin Puro/Neihu Dzuvichu. The ‘couple team’ award was lifted by Atoka Awomi/Mercy Mezhatsu. Nagaland Adventure Club bagged the ‘best institution/club’ trophy, while Mikrio Kyina/Arun Kyina was awarded the ‘most disciplined team’ trophy.