Steep ascents and descents, sandy terrain, sturdy vehicles…Mahindra Great Escape tested the skills of both man and machine.

First you could hear them from a distance, then it turned into a muffed rumble as they came closer and then you could hear the roar as a medley of Mahindra vehicles thundering across the arid terrain came in sight. That was the opening vista for the 67th Mahindra Great Escape held in the sleepy town of Mandawa in Jhunjhunu district, Rajasthan.

This popular off-roading event isn't a competition of who reaches quickest to the post but an opportunity to put man and Mahindra to a rigorous test. This particular Great Escape was an ‘invitees only' event where participants, company dealers and members of the media could use a range of Mahindra 4x4s to conquer the sandy slopes. Of course, everyone wanted to check out how the recently launched Thar CRDe would perform on a ‘surface' it's designed for.

The customary pre-event briefing saw the drivers and passengers of over 50 vehicles get an idea of the arduous 36km course. Rally ace and event specialist Hari Singh gave the tips and tricks to go off-roading in this type of terrain.

The excited participants moved over to their vehicles once the briefing finished, strapped on their seatbelts and then revved up their Mahindras, all set to go sand-dune bashing over tricky Rajasthan terrain. The convoy moved sedately from Mandawa town and wound its way to a location that seemed ideally designed to test the skills of both man and machine.

Steep ascents and descents were aplenty and each vehicle had to shift into low four-wheel drive to make it through patches meant strictly for off-roaders. From among all the Mahindras, which included Boleros, Scorpios, Legends, Classics and Getaways, the recently launched Thar clearly seemed at home in the sandy terrain, making exceptionally light work of a course that proved tricky for some.

It was fun to see people-laden cars trudge up hills of sand, only to get stuck half-way through and be sent back down to have another go. The right way to tackle the tricky terrain was to carry momentum, stay on the gas, keep the gear ratio in four-wheel low and drive in second gear only. After a couple of attempts, all the cars made it through the course and returned to the flag-off venue. For those fiercely competitive participants who didn't quite have their fill of conquering sand, the company had set up an off-road course to see who was the quickest in the Thar CRDe. Here too, the 4x4 poster boy proved to be very agile and quick.

Given the Thar's growing popularity at the latest Mahindra excursion, expect many more Thars in the next Great Escape.