Twelve college students from twelve universities in twelve countries were faced with one challenge: driving the fastest remote controlled (RC) mini car in a scale-sized version of the annual off road endurance race, the Dakar Rally, to become the champion of the Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge.
After winning the Red Bull Desert Wings National Finals, Rohit Mahalikudi from M.S. Ramaiah Institute Of Technology, Bengaluru was one of the students flown to the actual Dakar Rally in Pisco Peru for the final RC car race and a once-in-a-lifetime experience with actual Dakar teams.
As the 40th edition of the Dakar Rally began with two days of stages in Pisco, the RC finalists gathered for the global final of the Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge. The students, each one the winner of a local competition at their university, were: Marcos (Argentina), Carlos (Chile), Filip (Croatia), Yoan (France), Marcel (Germany), Rohith (India), Zak (Peru), Aleksander (Russia), Jure (Slovenia), Robin (South Africa), Javier (Spain) and Andrew (United Kingdom).
The students visited the Red Bull Energy Station in the Dakar Village and met official drivers of the Kamaz team, the Red Bull KTM Factory Team and the Peugeot Total Team. They attended the opening ceremony from a VIP section, a few meters away from the official podium. Next, they trekked to the Pisco bivouac, built in the middle of the desert and camped surrounded by trucks, motorcycles and cars for the true “Dakar experience”. During their stay, they got an opportunity to see the vehicles up close and speak with the riders, drivers and mechanics.
Dakar heroes Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb and Stéphane Peterhansel came to see them compete and encouraged each one of them. Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi driver French Cyril Despres was there for the finals too. Jure Mastnak from Maribor in Slovenia, arrived first to the checkered flag and Rohit Mahalikudi (18), the youngest of the participants from Bengaluru finishing as the runner up.
After the Red Bull Desert Wings Global Finals, Rohit said, “I never expected such a big opportunity to come my way. I did not imagine I would be taking part in such an event. Red Bull changed all of that, they came to my college and I took part. I was surprised and pleasantly shocked that I was going to Peru. Red Bull Desert Wings University Challenge Global finals was a great competitive experience and I am elated to be the runner up of this Global competition. Felt so lucky to meet and interact with Peugeot 3008 DKR Maxi French driver Cyril Despres.”