KJ Jacob and co-driver Shanmuga SN from Arka Motorsports bagged their maiden big victory as they became the Overall winners of the Rally of Hyderabad, the fourth round of the Blueband Sports fmsci Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) 2023 which concluded at Sanghi Nagar, near Ramoji Film City, on Oct 29.
Thrissur’s KJ Jacob, who made his debut in the INRC in 2015 at K1000 rally in Bengaluru, took his first Overall victory. Ably assisted by co-driver Shanmuga of Bengaluru, the duo driving an INRC2 spec Volkswagen Polo 1.6 punched above their weight. Hyderabad’s tough terrain and, the longest special stage among the current rally venues in, India, proved daunting as the top-three in both the INRC1 and INRC2 and many overnight leaders, fell by the way side in the final stage on Sunday. Of the eight premier class cars, driven by top guns in the country, only Younus Ilyas finished the punishing course.
Vishakh Balachandran and Anil Abbas and young turk Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda, both driving the lower INRC3 spec Polo 1.6 cars finished Overall second and third, respectively. Jacob and Shanmugha also won the INRC2 class while Vishakh and Anil took the INRC3 victory.
Vivek Ruthuparna and co-driver Athreya Kousgi won the INRC4 while talented Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar bagged the Ladies class. Baljinder Singh Dhillon and Goutham CP won the Gypsy class.
Aroor Arjun Rao, a little later multiple title winner Gaurav Gill and defending champion Karna Kadur failed to finish on the first day. It was interesting to note that the top six Overall finishers of the day were all from lower INRC2 and INRC3 classes.
Top place of the day was held by the Chettinad Sporting driver Mangaluru’sAroor Vikram Rao along with co-driver AG Somayya, who were supported by MRF, with a thin margin of 4sec over the Bengaluru pair of Chetan Shivaram and E Shivaprakash, who were supported by Yokohama. With a further difference of 20-sec, the Kerala driver Fabid Ahmer and co-driver Jeevarathinam, in JK Tyre colour, were place in third at the end of Day 1.
Jacob KJ along with Shanmuga from Arka Motorsports shod on MRF tyres were in fourth position, 35sec behind. Vishakh Balachandran and Anil Abbas from Chettinad Sporting, were another 5 seconds behind in fifth position. The Bengaluru pair of Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda were in sixth position, with 22sec further difference.
Gaurav Gill along with co-driver Aniruddha Rangnekar, supported by JK Tyre, were leading the rally till stage two by over 40sec. But they fell prey in the final stage of the day after completing just about 15kms due to mechanical breakdown and there on, they decided not to take start on Day 2. Championship leader Aroor Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal's stage one performance was not to the fullest and in stage two they had to pull out due to drive shaft issues.
Prominent drivers like Philippos Matthai and PVS Murthy from Arka Motorsports, supported by MRF, had to pull out just after six kms from the start due to brake drum issues. Similar was the case of the Himachal pair of Aditya Thakur and Virender Kashyap from AART Motorsports. The duo supported by MRF had to pull out in stage two. Harkrishan Wadia along with Kunal Kashyap began the rally with his just-procured VW Polo. They had coolant leakage issues along with engine overheating which forced him to pull out mid way of stage one. Amittrajit Ghosh from Kolkata along with Ashwin Naik from Mangaluru representing Arka Motorsports were going on well but a puncture and brake issues forced them to cut down their speed and they lost lot of time but still completed all the stages. The pair of Karna Kadur and Vivek Ponnusamy from Arka Motorsports supported by MRF were reeling with electrical issues in the last stage of the day and lost huge time and later had to follow the convoy which was taking the piled up vehicles to the finish. Jahaan Singh Gill and Suraj Keshava Prasad, supported by JK Tyre, also fell prey in the final stage of the day due to ball joint and drive shaft issues.
Jacob KJ from Thrissur and Shanmugha from Bengaluru representing Team Arka Motorsports extended the Day 1 lead of 5sec to 41sec in the last stage, and pulled up the top slot over the second finishing pair of Vishakh Balachandran and Anil Abbas from Chettinad Sporting. Vishakh began the final day with a lead of about 22sec but the Bengaluru pair of the young Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda also from Chettinad Sporting reduced the difference to 12sec on Day 2. But still, they fell short by 10sec and finished in third position.
The pair of Jason Saldanha along with Thimmanna UB began the day with about 1min difference to the winner. They finally managed to reduce the Day 1 difference by 6sec to secure fourth position. After beginning the day with over 1min 16sec difference, the pair of Yogeshwar Singh Gill and Venu Ramesh Kumar managed to finish fifth with a difference of 2min 32sec with the leader.
The pair of Ritesh Guttedar along with Suraj M began the day with about 44sec further difference. They were behind by 1min 37sec but secured sixth position. Younus Ilyas, who made a comeback to rallying after a long gap along with Nitin Jacob, finished seventh with a difference of 3min 06sec with the leader. After beginning the day in second position, the pair of Chetan Shivram and Shivaprakash E ran out of luck with two punctures in both the stages and in the first stage of the day had to replace the tyre and their opportunity to crop up a surprise fizzled out and they finished seventh with a difference of 3min 33sec with the leader.
The Bengaluru pair of Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar from AART Motorsports, supported by MRF, managed to climb to sixth position, up from Day 1, to finish ninth with a difference of 3min 58sec with the leader. Yashas M Nayaka along with Sudhindra Gopalkrishna finished in tenth position with 5min 55sec difference with the leader.
Vikram Rao Aroor who began the day with a leading position, but it was short lived. In the final stage of the day, he had to pull out due to drive shaft issues. Karna Kadur’s Day 2 was no different. Once again the electrical issues cropped up and they had to pull out. Fabid Ahmer after starting third was unable to complete the first stage of the day due to drive shaft issue.
Philippos Matthai, who rejoined on Day 2, met the same fate of Day 1, as the Brake master cylinder snapped and with nil brake before the high speed corner, he pulled out. Amittrajit Ghosh also had to pull out in the very first stage of the day due to puncture and reoccurance of the braking issues. Wheel nuts sheared off and wheel came off in the final stage for the pair Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Bhatt forcing them to end their run. Younus Ilyas along with Nitin Jacob were the lone finishers of the class, as seven from this class did not finish.
INRC2: Only four of the total 12 cars managed to finish the rally, while this class also managed to produce the overall winner.
Jacob and Shanmugha were the winners of the class with a difference of 2min 32sec over the pair of Ritesh Guttedar and Suraj M. The pair from Bengaluru Chetan Shivram and Shiva Prakash with 1min 01 sec further difference completed the podium. Deepak M along with Uday Kumar came in fourth position.
INRC3: Out of the 23 in fray in this class, nine competitors did not finish. Top two positions were bagged by the Chettinad Sporting. Vishakh and Anil with a total time of 1:55.18 were the winners followed by Arjun Rajiv and Rohit in second position with a difference of over 10sec. Jason Saldanha and Thimmu Uddapanda from Coorg representing Dark Don Racing with 36sec further difference stood third. Yogeshwar Singh Gill along with Venu Ramesh Kumar from Ammyfied Rallying were fourth with a further difference of 8sec. Pragathi Gowda along with Trisha Alonkar from AART Motorsports finished in fifth position with 1min 35sec deficit.
INRC4: Vivek Ruthuparna from Chikkamagaluru and Athreya Kousgi from Mumbai with a total time of 2hr 11min 07sec won the class followed by Safeekunddin and Arun V in second place, with over 10min 33sec difference.
Ladies Class: The pair of Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar both from AART Motorsports won the class with a total time of 1hr 58min 7sec. The pair of Nikeetaa Takkale from Pune and Raghuram Saminathan from Coimbatore, representing Snap Racing, finished second with a difference of 13min 37sec.
Junior INRC: Arjun Rajiv and Rohit from Chettinad Sporting were the winners while Jahaan Singh Gill along with Suraj Keshava Prasad from Snap Racing, supported by JK Tyre, came second. Vivek Ruthuparna along with Athreya Kousgi completed the podium in third.
Gypsy, a non-championship class, was bagged by Baljinder Singh Dhillon and Goutham CP with a total time of 2:26.23. Meanwhile, Sanjay Lal and V Sekar from Coimbatore with 47sec deficit stood second and Abhishek Gowda and Dhiraj Manaewere, behind by 51sec, settled for third position.
Dr Akarsh Sundar and Ravi Kumar Reddy finished in fourth with 2min 24sec further deficit. Sanjay Agarwal along with Mazdayar Vatcha never had a good rally. They had head gasket leakage issue on Day 1 and after fixing it, on Day 2 in the first stage, they had turbo issue to be sorted out. Once he took the start, he finally managed to finish fifth. Darshan Nachappa logged a DNF.