Coimbatore, July 30 (IANS) After a seven-week break, the Indian Rally Championship (IRC) resumes with the Rally of Coimbatore that has attracted 37 entries headed by Mahindra Adventure team’s reigning national champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) who is hot favourite to win the Overall crown, his second of the season.
The two-day rally, the third round of the championship reduced to five events following the cancellation of season-opener in Goa, commences here on Friday, covering a total distance of 339 km of which 116.25 km comprise the two competitive Special Stages that will be run thrice, with two loops on Friday and one more on Saturday.
The event was brought forward by a day to accommodate the five-day Dakshin Dare cross-country rally which starts on Monday from Bengaluru.
Besides the Delhi-based Gill, the top-end IRC class includes his teammates Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) and Sunny Sidhu (P.V.S. Murthy), all in the Mahindra XUV 500, veteran Samir Thapar (Gurinder Singh Mann) of JCT Rallying in a Evo X, Lohitt Urs (Shrikant Gowda) piloting the Evo VIII and Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Rajagopal) driving the Volkwagen Polo R2.
In the intervening period between Nashik and Coimbatore rounds, the vehicles have been worked on with the Mahindra XUV now equipped with Limited Slip Differential and, according to Narayanaswamy Leelakrishnan, the former national champion who prepared the vehicles, they will be quicker by at least a second every km as compared to the Nashik round.
Gill, the 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Champion (APRC) was in a league of his own in Nashik where he won comfortably with both Thapar, who had an off, and Urs, struggling with an under-prepared car that he received just a day before the event, unable to offer worthwhile challenge.
Mangaluru-based Aroor was placed second behind Gill in Nashik after he pipped 2013 national champion Ghosh by just one second in a thrilling battle that went down to the wire.
Thus, there is promise of an intense six-cornered battle for the Overall crown with reliability being a critical factor on stages that were described as rough though in patches.
Behind these front-runners are last year’s national champion in the 2000cc class veteran Rahul Kanthraj and his long time co-driver Vivek Bhatt of Team Yokohama, driving the Mitsubishi Cedia. The Bengaluru pair comfortably won the title in Nashik in their category and look set to repeat their feat here.
Further down the grid in the IRC 1600 class is another Mangaluru-based driver Dean Mascarenhas who at 21 has shown rich promise, driving the Volkswagen Polo with Bengaluru’s S.N. Shanmugha in the co-driver’s seat. Mascarenhas held his nerve in tricky conditions to win in his category at Nashik and seems to be improving with every outing after learning to harness his aggression.
The fourth category in the draw is the FMSCI 1600 Cup that has always witnessed tight contests. The grid in this category is headed by last year’s champion in this class, Palakkad’s Adith K.C. and his partner from Bengaluru Harish K.N. in a Honda City Vtec.
The duo finished third in Nashik after encountering mechanical problems behind the Bengaluru-based entrants Dhruva Chandrasekar (Jeevarathinam) and Ashwin Reddy (Suraj M.), also in the Honda City Vtec.
If the Met office forecast of possible thunderstorms in this region over the next two days holds, then it will certainly add spice to the proceedings.
Interestingly, the Rally of Coimbatore will witness the Tata Bolt car which will be used as the ‘Zero’ vehicle. The car, in full rally trim, precedes the competing vehicles on the Special Stage to ensure that the route is clear of obstacles.