Itanagar, 16 June 2023: Mangaluru’s Aroor Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal from Bengaluru painted the mountains of Chimpu and Hollongi in red, with a second consecutive victory. MRF Tyres clinched the top-five Overall places, after a long time, sweeping the honours in the Rally of Arunachal Pradesh, the second round of the Blueband Sports fmsci Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) for four-wheelers held at Itanagar.
With rains pouring in full swing so did the challenges on the delayed day one start, in turn two stages had to be cancelled to give way for the Super Special Stage run within the heart of the city, which had never happened before, people turned out in large number than the open and vacant space could accommodate, sensing overcrowding the organisers decided to call off the event at about 12am with 13 cars remaining to take a start due to safety concerns. This decision to utilise the underpass for SSS is laudable and the fraternity stands thankful for the Government of Arunachal Pradesh and the sport loving passionate people of Arunachal. One of the most scenic stages in Arunachal Pradesh 'Ziro' had to be cancelled due heavy rains causing land slides, instead the 4 stages were run from Chimpu and Hollongi and back same as day one. Once again the local administration's will and intention to permit and run the stages with last minute clearances were done in no time, thus kept Lakhpa's wish alive not to disappoint the participants with discounted stages.
On day two, Arjun Rao Aroor and co-driver Satish Rajagopal supported by MRF from Mandovi Racing, who won the first round South India Rally in Chennai, were trailing overnight with about 13sec with the leaders Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik from Arka Motorsports and six seconds behind Arjuna Awardee Gaurav Gill and Aniruddh Rangnekar supported by JK Tyre. The pair of Suhem Kabeer and Jeevarathinam supported by JK Tyre and VM sports foundation were running fourth with 35sec deficit, Dean Mascarenhas and Gagan Karumbaiah also supported by JK Tyre were in fifth position with further 4sec deficit, the pair of Chetan Shivram along with Shiva Prakash from Snap Racing supported by Yokohama with further 7sec difference were running sixth. Two prominent drivers, the women's pair of Pragathi Gowda along with Trisha Alonkar sailed out of water logging straight on to the mount and toppled and were pulled out. Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda also crashed out and rejoined on day two. Aeman Ahmed and Sagar Mallappa supported by VM sports foundation from Ammyfied Rallying had to pull out on day one due to electrical issues.
The leader from the very first stage Ghosh had already consolidated a lead of over 55sec on Gill before disaster stuck in the form of electrical problem in the very last stage of the rally snatched the position he and his navigator Naik really deserved. By the start of the third stage of the day, Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik were left unchallenged, as Gaurav Gill who was running second had lost about 13minutes before the service check in, as his car was stuck in the slush just before entering service park. Suhem Kabeer along with Jeevarathinam supported by JK Tyre and VM sports foundation were comfortably running in overall second position, but 2kms just before the finish of the final stage crashed and had to pull out.
Being the fastest in the very first stage of the Rally, Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal were consistently running in third position, with Amittrajit pulling out in the final stage and Gaurav Gill sliding down due to penalties elevated this pair to the top slot on the podium with a difference of 1min 18sec. The surprise result was a stunning display by Sheshank Jamwal and co-driver Aseem Sharma. The Hamirpur-Chandigarh pair in an INRC3-spec Volkswagen Polo 1.6 punched above their weight to finish second overall followed by MRF supported driver Dr Speed, Bikku Babu, who climbed up from 10th position on day one, he overcame not only rain and extreme weather but jet lag. After landing from US, only for this rally, the Kerala Speed Maestro who finished third Overall with a further difference of 8sec, came first in his class INRC2. With virtually no seat time, the doctor did it again. He said: “One of the toughest tarmac rallies I have ever driven for sure.”
Just behind the podium defending champion supported by MRF Karna Kadur from Arka Motorsports with experienced Kumar Ramaswamy as navigator, with a 2sec deficit salvaged an Overall fourth place after coughing up a road penalty. With a further difference of 3sec the Delhi daredevil Philippos Matthai of Speed Sport fame, along with PVS Murthy from Arka Motorsports supported by MRF and VM Sports Foundation rounded off the top-5 for MRF Tyres and also took a second in his class INRC2. The Bengaluru pair of Chetan Shivram and Shiva Prakash from Snap Racing supported by Yokohama with a further difference of 15sec were sixth. Gaurav Gill and Aniruddha Rangnekar supported by JK Tyre finished in seventh position after road penalties with a further difference of one second. The VM sports foundation supported drivers from Ammyfied Rallying Arnav Pratap Singh and Arjun SSB finished in 8th position with a further difference of 24sec, Fabid Ahmer and Sanath G supported by JK Tyre from Chettinad Sporting finished in 9th position, Jahaan Gill and Suraj Keshava Prasad supported by JK Tyre from Snap Racing finished in 10th position with a further difference of 5sec, Harkrishan Wadia and Prajval Pai from Arka Motorsports finished eleventh. Dean Mascarenhas and Gagan Karumbiah supported by JK Tyre were running in fifth position on day one but while taking a right hander their car tail hit the railing and had to pull out.
Dr. Bikku Babu and Milen George supported by MRF from Chettinad Sporting were the winners with a total time of 1:04.44, followed them in second position with a difference of 5sec were Philippos Matthai and PVS Murthy from Arka Motorsports supported by MRF and VM Sports Foundation, Chetan Shivram and Shiva Prakash from Snap Racing supported by Yokohama completed the podium with a further difference of 21sec. Missed the podium with 46sec difference were the pair of Fabid Ahmer and Sanath G from Chettinad Sporting supported by JK Tyre, Harkrishan Wadia and Prajval Pai from Arka Motorsports with further 2min 1sec difference finished in fifth position.
Sheshank Jamwal and Aseem Sharma from Arka Motorsports supported by MRF were the winners of the class with a total time of 1hr 4min and 35sec, followed them in second position were the pair of Arnav Pratap Singh and Arjun SSB supported by VM Sports Foundation driving from Ammyfied Rallying with a difference of 30sec finished in second position, the Snap Racing pair of Jahaan Gill and Suraj Keshava Prasad supported by JK Tyre finished in third position with a difference of 29sec. Daraious Shroff and Shahid Salman from Chettinad Sporting missed the podium with a difference of over 1min 24sec, Mohammed Sahil and Eldo Chacko supported by VM Sports Foundation from Ammyfied Rallying finished in fifth position with a further difference of 3min13sec
It was a clear sweep for the VM Sports Foundation supported drivers as they dominated all the three placings, Abhin Rai and D Uday Kumar driving for Ammyfied Rallying were the winners of the class with a total time of 1hr 11min 47sec, Ruthuparna Vivek from Snap Racing was navigated by veteran rally driver Sanjay Agarwal with 1min 45sec difference they stood second, third position also belonged to a VM Sports Foundation supported seasoned navigator Dr. Dinesh S from Ammyfied Rallying who took along a new comer lady driver Phoebe Nongrum for her first podium with a difference of 5min 5sec. The remaining two pairs of drivers supported by VM sports foundation from Ammyfied Rallying had a DNF as Arun Mohan came in contact with his teammate's crashed car tail on stage and had to pull out.
Defending champion Arnav Pratap Singh along with Arjun SSB supported by VM Sports Foundation driving for Ammyfied Rallying were the winners of the class, as Jahaan Gill and Suraj Keshava Prasad from Snap Racing supported by JK Tyre fell short of 29sec for the top placing and settled for second, Mohammed Sahil along with Eldo Chacko supported by VM Sports Foundation from Ammyfied Rallying with a difference of 4min 37sec settled for third position. While there team mate the pair of Abhin Rai and D Uday Kumar finished in fourth position with a difference of 1min 34sec, Ajay Sankar and Nitharshan finished in fifth position with a further difference of 58sec. Pune lady driver Nikeetaa Takkale along with seasoned navigator Venu Ramesh Kumar supported by VM Sports Foundation from Ammyfied Rallying finished sixth.
Anushriya Gulati along with Arjun Dheerendra driving for Dark Don Rallying with a total time of 1hr 13min 20sec were the winners, with a difference of 36sec the pair of Shivani Parmar and Dr. Vani Parmar from Chettinad Sporting finished in second position, came in third was Nikeeta Takkale and Venu Ramesh Kumar supported by VM sports foundation with a difference of 2min 37sec. Phoebe Nongrum and Dr. Dinesh S also supported by VM Sports Foundation from Ammyfied Rallying finished fourth with a further difference of 2min 3sec, the pair of Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar supported by MRF and Sidvin from AART crashed out in the very first stage of the rally while crossing a water logged patch.
Defending champion Samrat Yadav along with Arvind Dheerendra supported by VM sports foundation and Yokohama from Ammyfied Rallying were the winner with a total time of 1hr 8min 53sec, Aman Preet Ahluwalia and Amber Udasi finished in second position with a difference of 2min 19sec, Baljindar Singh Dhillon and Goutham CP finished third with a further difference of 4min 12sec. While Dr. Akarsh Sundar and Ravi Kumar Reddy supported by VM Sports Foundation finished third with a difference of 8min 34sec and their team mate Sanjay Razdan and Karan Aukta finished under MPL as they had to reel under the radiator leakage issue.
“I am confident in my favourite Tarmac stages. But the rally turned out to be tricky with fortunes fluctuating after every stage. The weather conditions made it very challenging as we frequently changed from full-dry to full-wet Tyres. The credit should go to MRF Tyres for withstanding these extreme fickle conditions and my right tyre choice worked perfectly for us. A big thanks to MRF, Mandovi racing and Falkon Motorsports for giving an amazing car. Without my navigator Satish, this win would not have been possible,” said a visibly pleased Arjun Rao, who is leading the INRC Overall table after two rounds. When Rao began the MRF team was nicknamed Red Thunder.