For Hem Raj who had been driving a taxi for a decade now for tourists in Manali, a passion for car rallies was deeply hidden.
He loved what he did but had to curb his speed for the safety of his passengers. And when he got the chance to drive in cross-country events, he grabbed it with both hands. With ten-time Raid De Himalaya champion Suresh Rana backing his efforts, he started to raid the mountain ranges across India and even went on to win a few.
Rana was quite surprised with his skills and wanted him in the INRC. So, when the Rally of Coimbatore Talent Hunt programme was announced, he got Hem Raj enrolled and booked his flight tickets and even took care of his board and lodging.
Hem Raj did not disappoint him. He emerged the best among the bunch and earned a fully-sponsored drive for the INRC fourth round at Hyderabad starting next month.
“He is a talented driver both in the hills and the plains. I saw him driving on the streets in Manali and his handling of the car was too good. He has all the abilities to be a champion driver in six months,” Rana told The Hindu over phone from Manali, and was quick to add that Hem Raj is the best he has seen in many years.
Why INRC? “Because, there are not many cross-country rallies. But, now, everyone’s focus is on INRC and, I want him to make his mark there,” said Rana.
“Rana sir is my inspiration and it is because of him I am here in Coimbatore. I am happy to have booked a berth for the INRC fourth round and, I promise to give my best in Hyderabad and make everybody proud,” assured Hem Raj.