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South India Rally victory for MRF supported Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal after 7 years

Updated: Mar 31, 2023


Arjun Rajiv wins Junior INRC; Pragathi-Trisha pair clinches Ladies class

Mangaluru’s Aroor Arjun Rao and Bengaluru's Satish Rajagopal, supported by MRF, took the Overall title in the 46th South India Rally, the first round of the Blueband Sports FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) organised by Madras Motor Sports Club (MMSC) at the Madras International Circuit (MIC) that concluded on March 19.

It was a first win for Arjun Rao in seven years. Sahil Khanna, along with Harish KN Gowda, from Bengaluru driving a Volkswagen Polo topped the INRC-2 category while Daraius Shroff from Mumbai along with Shahid Salman from Bengaluru driving VW Polo tuned by Chetinad Sporting from Slideways Industries sealed his maiden win in the National championship crown by finishing first in the INRC-3 category. Abhin Rai from Kodagu and D Uday Kumar from Bengaluru, driving a Honda CityVTEC tuned by Ideal, emerged champion in the INRC-4 category. Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar, supported by MRF and Sidvin, driving VW Polo prepared by Aart, took the honours in the Ladies class and the Bengaluru pair of Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda, also driving Polo tuned by Snap Racing, topped the Junior INRC category.



Super Special Stages (SSS)

Day 1 on Friday had two Super Special Stages (SSS), out of which the first run was dry and second run was run under wet conditions. Day 2 was no different. The longest Special Stage Aavisa was water- drenched during the second run as 30-minutes rain after the first stage was run rendered it slushy and slippery with cars getting stuck in the sticky mud. The rain spell changed the whole scenario of the earlier placings earned by the drivers till then. Even top drivers struggled but the tail-enders had a relatively easier time as the track started drying up and it was almost dry towards the end. The tail-enders were faster than the cars in the higher classes.

Rains at MMRT on Saturday night, before the final day stages started rendered the MIC Track Special Stage water-logged, and the first run was cancelled. But organisers were keen on running the final stage hoping that the Sun will come up. However, the stage was still very soft and water logged despite of Sun coming out late. The organisers did start the stage, but after a few cars cleared the stage, the dirt track became impossible for the following cars to continue and then the organisers decided to stop the stage and gave scratch times to rest of the drivers.

Sunday - Final day:

The 39-year old Aroor Arjun Rao was lying Overall third going into the day’s last Stage but he turned the tables and it was a total transformation in his fortunes. He won an INRC event seven years ago. Of the two physical Special Stages that were to be run twice each in reverse direction on Sunda both the loops of the MIC Track Stage were cancelled. Thus, the final day’s schedule was reduced to two runs of the Aavisa Stage that held up well to the heavy rains and became dry, unlike in the final run on Saturday.


Overall INRC: The pair of Aroor Arjun Rao from Mangaluru and Satish Rajagopal from Bengaluru supported by MRF driving a Maruti Suzuki Baleno tuned by Mandovi Racing clocked 01:55:26.6 to win the rally. Daraius Shroff and Shahid Salman driving for Team Slideways Industries and tuned by Chettinad Sporting finished second with a total time of 01:58:11.1.

The pair of Sheshank Jamwal and Aseem Sharma from Arka Motorsports with a total time of 01:58:30.1 finished third. Amaittrajit Ghosh from Kolkata and Ashwin Naik from Mangaluru driving a Mahindra XUV300 for Team Arka Motorsports missed the podium by 13sec and had to settle for fourth.

Vishakh Balachandran and Anil Abbas from Team Chettinad Sporting driving Polo were behind by another 45sec in fifth. The Bengaluru ladies pair of Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar, also driving a Polo supported by MRF and Sidvin, tuned by Aart Motorsports, finished sixth with a further difference of 28 seconds. Bengaluru boy, the youngest driver in INRC, Arjun Rajiv, along with co-driver Rohit Gowda, driving a VW Polo tuned by Snap Racing came seventh a further 14sec behind to sixth. Arnav Pratap Singh and Arjun SSB driving VW Polo from Snap Racing team finished eighth taking another 37 seconds to clear the course.


INRC-2: Sahil Khanna from Delhi and Harish KN Gowda from Bengaluru driving VW Polo from Snap Racing were the winners of the class with a total time of 02:01:38.9. The pair of Charen Chandran and Vignesh Mahalingam with a total time of 02:15:29.4 came second in the class. Harikrishan Wadia from Delhi and co-driver BK Rishabh from Mangaluru came third clocking 02:16:53.8. They began their journey in the SSS with an incident as the vehicle stalled in first 500 metres due to throttling issues and they had to continue after losing time. Though the problem continued, they managed to finish the event capturing the podium position, finishing third.


INRC-3: Daraius Shroff from Mumbai and Shahid Salman from Bengaluru won the class with a total time of 01:58:11.1 followed by the pair of Sheshank Jamwal and Aseem Sharma in second. The latter duo clocked 01:58:30.1. Vishakh Balachandran and co-driver Anil Abbas came third clocking 01:59:29.8 to take the final step on the podium.


INRC-4: Abhin Rai from Kodagu and D Uday Kumar from Bengaluru clocked 02:04:48.5 to win the class. Dheeraj KV and Pramod Raman from Bengaluru with a difference of less than three minutes finished second while Arun Mohan and Rishikesh KR finished a distant third.


Junior INRC: The youngest driver from Bengaluru Arjun Rajiv and Rohit Gowda also from Bengaluru won the Junior class with a total time of 02:00:13.2. Arnav Pratap Singh and Arjun SSB driving VW Polo tuned by Snap Racing finished third with a time of 02:00:50.6. Jahaan Singh Gill from Delhi and Suraj Keshava Prasad from Bengaluru, also in VW Polo tuned by Snap Racing, came third with a timing of 02:01.04.9.


Ladies Cup Open: Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar both from Bengaluru were the winners of the Ladies class with a total time of 01:59:58.5. Shivani Parmar from Pune and Sanath G from Bengaluru finished second with a total time of 02:20:12.4. Nikeetaa Takale from Pune and Venu Ramesh Kumar from Coimbatore came third clocking 2:34:11.100.


Fmsci Gypsy Challenge: Defending champion Samrat Yadav and his new navigator Arvind Dheerendra from Bengaluru with a total time of 02:03:12.1 won the Gypsy class. The pair of Darshan Nachappa and Abhinav Ganapathy were second with a total time of 02:09:35.8 while Baljinder Singh Dhillon and Goutham CP finished third with a total time of 02:15:26.4.

“Frankly, I am overwhelmed as it’s been a long time since I am leading after Day 1. We drove with good rhythm and were lying third Overall in INRC with two more Stages to be run. The rains made the surface very slippery and we lost time to those behind us. However, in the last Stage of the day, I drove very well to make up time on others and finished the day Overall first in INRC class. I just hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow,” said Arjun Rao.

The South India Rally witnessed over 19 DNFs (Did Not Finish). Dhruva Chandrashekar and experienced co-driver Kumar Ramaswamy were the first to drop out in the Aavisa stage during the second run under wet conditions. While negotiating a curve under very slippery terrain, his car was hit on the rear by the following car and they had to pull out. They guided as many vehicles as possible to safety while a few still went into the ditch and a few were put back on road. Lanusanen Pongener and Rohit Nagaraj followed suit along with Ruthuparna Vivek and Santhosh Thomas.

Philippos Matthai and Srinivas Murth PV were fighting for the overall place with just a single-digit deficit and just 3-Km left for the finish when their left tie-rod gave way. Dean Mascarenhas and Gagan Karumbaiah had to pull out just 2Km from the start during their second Aavisa stage as their drive shaft was damaged. Anushriya Gulati and Arjun Dheerendra met the same fate as their drive shaft too gave up.

Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai, on the earlier day, lost a lot of time as they were stuck and to add to their woes Karna was dehydrated and so the vehicles coming behind were blocked. On Day 2, in the final stage it was a DNF. Nikhil J and Suraj had hit a rock in one of the corners on Day 1 and damaged their lower arm and the same issue forced them to pull out. Maninder Singh Prince and Vinay Padmashali, had to pull on Day 1 in the slushy stage as his vehicle nose-dived into a ditch. After rejoining on the second day, mechanical issues forced them to retire. On Day 1, Chetan Shivram and Dilip Sharan had the slush damaging the hosepipe in the slippery Aavisa stage and it reflected on their final-day performance. They had to pull out as the engine was over-heating.

Saturday - Day 2:

The afternoon showers at the Aavisa stage on Saturday caught out a host of competitors. The first run was dusty and free-flowing and became a nightmare for the leaders and front runners as a major portion of the track was water-logged, slippery and slushy. Notably overnight INRC leader, the Bengaluru-based defending National champions Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai, dropped down the order to third. Mangaluru’s Aroor Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal moved into the lead, albeit just by a few seconds ahead of Delhi’s Philippos Matthai and PV Srinivasa Murthy from Bengaluru who were in second position. Matthai and Murthy also led the INRC-2 category at the end of Day 2. Seshank Jamal and Aseem Sharma were running fourth clocking 1:07.22 and Daraious Shroff and Shahid Salman were fifth in 1:07.25.






INRC-2: The pair of Philippos Matthai and PV Srinivasa Murthy with a total time of 01:05:52.9 became the leaders in the class at the end of Leg 1 on Saturday, followed by Sahil Khanna and Harish KN Gowda in second. Sahil clocked 01:09:35.3. Brothers Chetan Shivram and Dilip Sharan finished third with a time of 01:08.58.7.




INRC-3: Sheshank Jamwal and Aseem Sharma clocked 01:07:22.7 to lead the INRC3 class at the end of the day on Saturday. Daraius Shroff and Shahid Salman were second clocking 01:07:25.6 while Vishakh Balachandran and Anil Abbas came third in 01:08:16.9.


INRC-4: Abhin Rai and D Uday Kumar led the INRC4 table on Saturday with a time of 01:12:02.7. Dheeraj KV and Pramod Rajan stood second clocking 01:13:24.9. Renuka Gajendran and Angela James were in third with a timing of 01:28.55.5.


Junior INRC: Arnav Pratap Singh and Arjun SSB led the table in Junior class with a total time of 01:08:22.6 at the end of Saturday’s run. Arjun Rajeev and Rohith Gowda were second clocking 01:09:10.1. Jahan Singh Gill and Sujraj Keshava were third in 01:10:28.0.


Ladies: Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar were leading on Saturday 01:08:58.6 followed by Renuka Gajendran and Angela James in second clocking 01:28:55.5. But since the class is only to encourage women participation, the ladies will not be awarded any bonus leg points.

After the dramatic turnaround today, Kadur was crestfallen. “I am disappointed with the weather which played spoilsport. We got stuck in the slush in the Aavisa stage after the rains. Being the first car out, I had to deal with all the water puddles and the slush, not even knowing whether I could make the corner! Tomorrow, I am not sure, but it is going to be an uphill task to make up for the lost time,” he said.


Friday - Day 1:

The twin track of 1.55Km was run twice giving the drivers an equal opportunity for sequential start and both the timings clubbed for the Super Special Stage timing of the day. Most of the INRC drivers had a wet track in the menu in their second run.

Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai from Bengaluru were the fastest with a total time of 02:53.100. The Kodagu brothers Suhem Kabeer and Suhan Kabeer driving a Polo for Team Ammyfied Rallying finished second with a timing of 2:58.700. Kerala pair Dr Bikku Babu, on a come-back trail after two years, and co-driver Milen George supported by MRF were driving a VW Polo representing Team Ammyfied Rallying. They did the third fastest timing of 2:59.200. Dean Mascarenhas from Mangaluru and Gagan Karumbaiah from Kodagu were 0.900th of a sec behind and finished fourth position. The ladies pair of Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar from Bengaluru were fifth clocking 3min 03.100. Aroor Arjun Rao from Mangaluru and Satish Rajagopal from Bengaluru were further 300th of a second away and finished sixth.

INRC: Defending champions Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai were the fastest with 02:53.100. Dean Mascarenhas Gagan Karumbaiah clocked 03:00.100 to settle for second while Aroor Arjun Rao and Satish Rajagopal with a timing of 03:03.400 finished third.

INRC-2: Suhem Kabir with a total time of 02:58.700 topped of the class. Dr Bikku Babu was half a second behind and had to settle for second position. Charen Chandran were came third after another 4 seconds.

INRC-3: Pragathi Gowda and Trisha Alonkar, the ladies from Bengaluru beat the largest field in the INRC including many male drivers clocking 03:15.100 to finish first. Mohammed Sahil from Bengaluru and Eldo Chacko from Kerala finished second with a time of 03:04.500. Himanshu Arora and Kunal Kashyap, both from Himachal Pradesh, were in third with a timing of 03:08.700.

INRC-4: Jagbir Nirwan and Karanpreet Mattu were the fastest in the class by clocking 03:22.100 while Abhin Rai and D Uday Kumar finished second in 03:23.800. Ruthuparna Vivek and Santhosh Thomas by clocking 03:27.400 came third in the class.

In contrast, Kadur felt he could have performed better. “We had a fairly good run, though I thought, we could have been quicker by a couple of seconds. I could have carried a little more pace in some sections. But it was a very short stage for me to wake up and drive. The rains will change our approach tomorrow. We have always driven in Chennai in dry weather. So, let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Casualties of Wet terrain

Jagbir Nirwan and Karanpreet Mattu, Ajay Sankar and Nitharshan, Girish Nair and Ravindra Kumar, Renuka and Angela James, Aroor Vikram Rao and Somayya AG, Babit Ryntathiang and Dhanush CP, Dr Bikku Babu and Milen George, Mehbbob Ul Hussain and Dinky Varghese K and Pradeep Ravi and Avinash CA logged DNF.

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