Updated: Dec 19, 2020
Gill conquers high-speed super-technical stage with ease and grace. Karna Kadur takes pride a pair that settles. Debut win for ladies Pragathi Gowda and Deeksha Balakrishna
Arjuna awardee Gaurav Gill was at his best driving a Mahindra XUV 300 fashioning JK Tyre victory in the season-opening Rally of Arunachal, the first round of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) 2020, which successfully began with a whopping 43 entries, but the high-speed super technical tarmac terrain saw less than 50 per cent finishers.
Spread over two days, the 108-km tarmac route was split into four night stages on Day 1 and four day stages on Day 2, the 14-km Special Stage was taken in forward and reverse directions.
Gaurav Gill and co-driver Musa Sheriff driving on JK tyres began their winning spree and were best and unmatchable till the end. They started to build the lead of over 30 seconds, right from the first stage and never looked back there on. With a very huge margin of 4 min 25 seconds, this top pair began the season on a positive note.
Karna Kadur and co-driver Nikhil Vittal Pai, driving an under-development R2 spec VW Polo with MRF Tyres, finished second and this finish meant a lot for them, as they logged too many DNFs (Did Not Finish) in the previous season. One of the youngest teams, Dean Mascarenhas and Shrupta Padival, driving an R1 spec VW Polo on JK Tyres, did complete the podium with a further difference of one minute nine seconds.
Team Snap Racing secured the fourth and fifth spots, both driving a VW Polo, the pair of Sahil Khanna and Vidit Jain came in fourth with a further difference of 55 seconds while their teammates Maninder Singh Prince and co-driver Vinay Padmashali were further slower by 2min 23seconds to finish fifth overall. Fabid Ahmer and co-driver by Eldo K Chaco driving a VW Polo on JK tyres with a 16-second deficit stood sixth.
Gaurav Gill had the final say as he along with Musa Sheriff, driving a Mahindra XUV300 on JK tyres won with ease. Despite setup issues, Gaurav Gill with controlled aggression managed to attain very high speeds and, with an average speed of around 110kmph, the duo kept the spectators on their toes throughout the rally extending their overnight lead of over 3min 9sec to 4min 25seconds till the end. Then, they had to just nurse their vehicle to the finish from the next four stages.
The pair of Karna Kadur and Nikhil Vittal Pai was driving an under-development R2 spec VW Polo on MRF tyres. They were the only team in this round to be supported full-fledged by MRF. Karna left with no time to test the car and had a few spins in the stages. Thus, in the process he lost time in a few stages but managed to finish second. Amittrajit Ghosh along with Ashwin Naik, driving a Mahindra XUV 300 on JK tyres were running in overall second position till horror stuck them in SS2. Just before the flying finish underwent a rarest of rare situation, as their front wheel detached after the studs came out, the driver had to chase it on foot for about 100mts to bring back and fix it. Fortunately, they finished the flying finish and arrived at the TC. They pulled out on Day 1, rejoined on the final day and did a splendid drive as they clocked a couple of faster timings than the leader.
The straight fight between Dean Mascarenhas and Dr Bikku Babu kept everybody awake, the whole night. With a deficit of five seconds from Day 1 on Bikku, Dean along with Shrupta Padival driving a VW Polo on JK Tyre began his day with a positive note as he clocked the stage with 8min 11 sec, there on with a total time of 1:02.30 he was the winner of the class. Sahil Khanna co-driven by Vidit Jain from Team Snap Racing driving a VW Polo were 55 seconds slower to reach the top and hence had to settle for second position. The pair of Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Y Bhatt both from Bengaluru driving a VW Polo with a further difference of 3min 8 seconds finished third as they had a puncture on Day 2, after hitting a boulder. The pair of Dhruva Chandrasekhar and PVS Murthy, driving a VW Polo were further slower by 4min 57seconds and stood fourth. Lakshay Veer Dabas co-driven by Amandeep Singh Chhabra finished in fifth position with a further difference of 2min 39 seconds. Suhem Kabeer along with Jeevarathinam driving a VW Polo on JK Tyre had issues with their clutch right from the start due to an oil leak from Gear box oil seal. They restarted on Day 2 and finished the rally. Disaster stuck in the very first stage of day two for the overnight class leader Dr Bikku Babu and Bonnie Thomas, slided on a right hander and their rear end was stuck between the divider and had to windup. Nevertheless, situation was for the first car of the rally, after taking the start with ECU issues just at the line up defending Champion Chetan Shivram along with Rupesh Kholay driving a VW Polo on Yokohama tyres had to pull out just 4kms into the stage due to ECU failure.
Maninder Singh Prince and co-driver Vinay Padmashali representing Snap Racing driving a VW Polo on JK Tyres were the winners with a total time of 1:05.49, Fabid Ahmer along with Eldo K Chaco driving a VW Polo on JK Tyres lost his top spot by a mere one hundredth of a second. Aditya Thakur along with Virender Kashyap driving a VW Polo with a further difference of 1min 2seconds finished 3rd. The all ladies team participants Pragathi Gowda and Deeksha Balakrishna, driving a VW Polo both in their debut rally managed to finish fourth with a further 45 seconds difference. Pradeep Kumar paired with Ahammad Ansari, driving a VW Polo to finish fifth. with a further 4minutes 16 seconds difference. Hage Chada and Hage Bittu driving a Mitsubishi Cedia dropped out in the final stage of the rally, Syed Salman co-driven by Rishabh BK pulled out in the 6th stage after banging a road divider, Arjun Rao along with Shanmuga SN began the rally with brake issues, but finally had to pull out at the end of Day 1. Vaibhav Marathe pulled out after a crash, similar to that of Lokesh V. Two participants Harkrishan Wadia and Amer Beg did not take a start.
Lausanen Pongener and Lokaranjan HJ driving a Honda City with a total time of 1;18.03 were the winners followed by Khyati Mody and co-driver Sagar Mallappa from Snap Racing in second position with a difference of 4:50 seconds. The pair of Rohith Iyer and Manjunath rejoined on Day 2, after being dropped out in the final stage of day one, due to a fuel pipe leakage settled for third. Mujeeb Rahman along with Goutham CP from Snap Racing were the class leaders right from stage one with a splendid lead of over eight minutes but ran out of luck in the very last stage as the steering ball joint gave up about two kilometers from the final stage start. Despite attempting to finish the rally in reverse gear, the duo had to settle for a DNF.
FMSCI Gypsy Challenge:
Daksh Gill along with Mrinmoy Saha with a total time of 1hr 14min and 8seconds won the class surpassing Mohd Kaif Khan along with Arjun Dheerendra from Snap Racing who were the first runner up clocking 1hr 15min and 25Sec. Sanjay Razdan and co-driver Karan Aukta came third by clocking 1:16.01. Kariappa Mekerira and co-driver Abhinav Ganapathy finished fourth with a total time of 1:16:34 followed by Vikramjit Singh Chaudhary and co-driver D Uday Kumar at 1:17:06. Deepak Sachdeva and co-driver Mohit Malik came sixth clocking 1:28:31. Four drivers including Sanjay Agarwal did not finish.
The pair of Pragathi Gowda and Deeksha Balakrishna from Vasundhara Jewellers driving a VW Polo in their Debut rally finished on top of the class along with being ninth overall with a total time of 1:07.53. Rohith Iyer along with Manjunath finished second after rejoining on Day 2.
Phurpa Tsering and Yashwardhan Kumar driving a VW Polo with a timing of 1:18:06 were the winners followed by a lady entrant Nabam Asha and Mahesh Nandi with a timing of 2:03:24 driving a Maruti Baleno.
“It was a great start to the season. The stages were really fast and I enjoyed driving here. The car has been fantastic and there is absolutely nothing I could complain about. We made some adjustments to the car from last year and it has worked wonders, and all I could say is, me behind the wheels of a car like this on tarmac is just the perfect combination,” an ecstatic Gaurav Gill said.
"The car shows great potential and is still under development and will surely be a machine to reckon with in the future and with more seat time, it promises to be a great machine in the future," Karna Kadur, overall second.