Automotive brand Maruti Suzuki has, historically, been known to sponsor Indian Army teams and others to professional motor rallies. But early on, it seemed clear to the brand that those efforts weren’t enough to fuel excitement in motorsports across the country.

Seeing the need for various formats that span a variety of interest and difficulty levels, the brand has organised its own rallies since 1998 and been able to attract more takers year-on-year.

Scale & partnerships

Vinay Pant, Associate Vice-President, Marketing, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, says, “In early 1980s, motorsports was non-existent, or very limited, in the country…we’ve brought motorsports within the reach of ordinary enthusiasts over the years. As a leader in the automotive space, we feel motorsports completes our offerings to the customers.” The Maruti Suzuki motorsports calendar features the now well-known properties like Raid De Himalaya, Desert Storm and Dakshin Dare, all cross-country rallies, which have completed 17, 14 and 8 editions, respectively. It also conducts rallies in smaller formats like the National Super League TSD Rally Championship and Indian National Autocross Championship – each of the two formats currently has events in about six to eight different locations. But Maruti Suzuki has to factor in dedicated partnerships in its investments to be able to conduct rallies in a ‘safe and controlled’ manner.

“We partner with various motorsports clubs to help organise these rallies. As rally experts, they are involved right from planning the route, identifying the stages, defining the competition sections, logistics, required permission from the state authorities… and planning of emergency medical and evacuation services,” Pant shares.

He adds that more than 150 members of organisations such as Northern Motorsport, and Himalayan Motorsport are actively involved to help safely execute Maruti Suzuki’s rallies. All Maruti Suzuki motorsport events are reportedly run under FMSCI and FIA rules and safety guidelines. Safety efforts include ambulances along the route while every rally is “monitored for its entire duration by radio-equipped/GPS-enabled cars”.

Feeding the fever

The brand’s flagship property Raid De Himalaya will see its 18th edition in October. In 2010, the participation at Raid De Himalaya stood at 85, while 2015 saw 250 participants, which turned out to be the highest ever participation across all of Maruti Suzuki’s formats so far. From 2013 to date, there’s been a slow though steady increase in participation across all of Maruti Suzuki’s rallies. One of the ways the brand has managed to fuel excitement around its motorsports events is by encouraging participation from individuals across age groups and genders, whether professionals or amateurs. Maruti Suzuki’s Pant says, “What also distinguishes the Maruti Suzuki rallies is that participants can drive any make of car and we don’t restrict participation to Maruti Suzuki cars.”

The TSD Rally and Autocross championships are later introductions to the brand’s motorsports offerings. Amateur rally enthusiasts seem to feel encouraged to hone their skills and go on to participate in the cross-country rallies.

Investments in motorsports for 2016-17 by the brand were doubled over the previous fiscal. Meanwhile, Maruti Suzuki Raid-de- Himalaya is now “internationally sought after” and listed on the off-road rallies calendar the Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme, Geneva, Switzerland, which “currently features only 12 motoring events worldwide”.