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Auto Adventurers Add Charity to Chase

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July 2009
Auto Adventurers Add Charity to Chase

Autorickshaws are not popular for traveling long distances. As some would say, ‘speed trap’ takes on a new meaning when you ride in one. These compact three-wheel scooters, also known as autos, are mainly used for ferrying passengers in India’s cities and towns.

But will that change eventually, given that we have a Rickshaw Challenge every year?

It’s a set of auto rallies for driving enthusiasts and daredevils, many of whom come from outside India. It got started when Aravind Bremanandam, a software engineer who moonlights as a champion racer, organized a rally from Chennai to Kanyakumari (Classic Run) in 2006. The tagline—“An amazing rally for the clinically insane”—said it all.

There are now two other standard rallies in India, though more are on the way. The Mumbai Express, starting in Chennai, takes 12 days, while the Malabar Rampage takes longer (17 days) because it involves a round trip between Chennai and Kerala.

Call it Auto Tourism for Adventurers. Guidebooks are not needed, but grit and gumption will be an asset. Before the rally, participants pay a fee and undergo simulation training at Chennai’s Institute of Road Transport. The rally is a test of endurance, not speed. In fact, drivers are fined for going over the speed limit!

Another requirement: An ability to deal with mechanical breakdowns.

Charity is an important element of Rickshaw Challenge, and teams are encouraged to raise funds from their home countries for an Adopt-a-Village program. Creative names and colorful makeovers are also a hallmark of the rallies, adding to the fun. Two examples of names: “Three Men and a Tuk Tuk” and “Screaming Cheetah Wheelies.”

Chennai Event Management Services (CEMS), set up by Bremanandam, organizes the rallies every year. Now there is another rally—Tech Raid—which will cover the IT triangle of Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad. For six days in October, the teams will travel about 590 miles, tackling various challenges along the way. “The challenges cannot be described or predicted, and are just part of what makes Tech Raid an endurance rally,” note the organizers. “Others involve unique tech-oriented competitions that teams will have to complete along the way.”

For those who are interested, here’s a possible team name: “Techies in a Tuk Tuk.”


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