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AdBuzz-LeadThe engines howl, the exhaust note crackles and a rally car flips sideways at 100 km/h as stones shoot out from under the tyres and bystanders scramble to get out of the way.

It’s no secret that the sixth Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge, taking place today is not a route for the novice. Organised in Jhal, a small town in Balochistan, 600 kilometres from Karachi, the Challenge spans 200 kilometres of rough terrain and is arguably Pakistan’s most aggressive, and popular, rally.

Vehicles participate in four categories, ranging from 1,300-3,500 cc and over. And while some of the cars bear similarities to those that you might see on city streets, don’t be fooled. Competitors spend heavily on modifying their four-wheel drives – tuned engines, gas filled shock absorbers, racing seats with four point harnesses, rollover bars, full face helmets and high speed performance tyres – they are all standard fare when driving on a surface with sand, shale and rock at speeds of up to 170 km/h.

Organised by notables of the Magsi Clan, and sponsored by the Emirates Motor Sport Federation (EMSF), the Jhal Magsi Desert Challenge invites ambitious drivers from Pakistan and beyond; last year it was a duo from Turkey, Burcu Cetinkaya and her navigator Cicek Guney (who unfortunately did not manage to complete the race); this year, Abdo Feghali from Lebanon is hoping to do better.

The EMSF is once again helping drivers train for the rally. However, there are no guarantees as to how cars or drivers will fare; the track has a history of claiming its share of contestants’ vehicles.

Last year, six out of the participating 13 vehicles did not manage to finish the race, while Nadir Magsi, the home favourite, delighted crowds by clinching first place. However, his comments at the end were meant to show that even riders who participated should be proud.

“It was a very difficult track… It’s easy to get carried away but even crossing the finish line is an achievement.”

– Romano Karim Yusuf

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on January 13, 2013.