- Chetam Shivram [Copyright: INRC India]

Saturday:

On an incident-packed day, marred by crashes and breakdowns, Gaurav Gill exhibited his driving skill and acumen to take the opening day’s honours in the Champions Yacht Club FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship here on Saturday.

The JK Tyre Motorsport stalwart’s car too bore the brunt of the K-1000 Rally’s punishing stages along with many other favourites; but he still managed to be ahead of the 50-strong pack, exhibiting caution and control, rather than speed and aggression as is his wont.

He, along with the wily Musa Sherif, won SS1 and SS3 and finished fourth in SS2 and third in SS4 to garner a healthy lead of almost 50 seconds going into the second and final day. His teammate Karna Kadur (Nikhil Pai), coming on the back of two disappointing rounds, showed his mettle to take the second position behind Gill in the INRC class.

Arka Motorsport’s Karna even won SS4 with an impressive timing of 12:24.200 to show that he was coming into his own and could be a major threat on Sunday. “It was an exciting day, opening up the championship in this penultimate round,” Hema Malini Nidamanuri, co-promoter of the rally, said. “We got to see some amazing driving and I am sure it’s going to be even more fun on Sunday,” he added.

Championship leader Fabid Ahmer, an MRF driver, opted for the smart option, driving steadily in each of the four stages, with the finishing post in his mind. He was in the sixth position at the end of the day and could well go full throttle on the big day.

If his strategy works, with a handy overall lead of 22 points over Gill, the INRC 3 contestant (with Sanath G as co-driver) can hope to go into the last round in Kochi next month as the championship leader. The Team Champions driver, however, would be watching another JK driver carefully: Dean Mascarenhas.

The local lad (with Shruptha Padivel) was within striking distance of him, taking the third position after Day 1. Trailing by just 7 points to Fabid’s 49 in the race for the INRC title, another good run from him could see a change in the leader-board. Dean, meanwhile, continued to hold sway in the INRC2 category, although he had Dr Bikku Babu (Milen George) breathing down his neck.

The good doctor was the clear surprise package of the day, going past the winning post in SS2; he even left Gill in his wake in SS4, taking the second place to Gill’s third, and claimed the fifth position in SS3 and the 6th in SS1 to boast of the best show of the day. In the INRC 3 class, Chetan Shivram (Dilip Sharan) surprised the category leader Fabid, taking 54:28.500 minutes for his four stages.

The INRC 4 saw Vaibhav Marate suffering a setback, withdrawing from the first stage itself after a mechanical problem. He should, however, be back in action on Sunday to put his title aspirations back on track.

Sunday:

Chetan Shivram and Dr Bikku Babu took advantage of the pull-outs by most of the heavyweights to stage a dramatic comeback for MRF in the Champions Yacht Club FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship. The speedy but shrewd duo made it a spectacular 1-2 for the Reds as the carefully laid out but treacherous stages wiped out anybody who dared to challenge them.

Starting from the fifth and fourth positions, Chetan and Dr Bikku preserved their cars before going all out in the final stage to claim the mantle of winner and runner-up in the K-1000 Rally. Defending champion and overnight leader Gaurav Gill was among the biggest casualties as he cried out in the morning itself, with his car refusing to even start after the belting it received on Day 1.

He and all his favoured JK Tyre Motorsport teammates bit the dust, allowing a free run to the MRF men. Akshara’s Chetan Shivram, who had won Round 2 as well in almost similar fashion, emerged as the overall INRC Championship leader with this victory. He (with Dilip Sharan as co-driver) claimed his own category too, the INRC 3, with an overall timing of 1:47:37:300 hours.

That was just 12 seconds faster that Dr Bikku Babu (with Milen George) of Team Champions, who pursued him relentlessly all through the day. The doctor finished ahead of Chetan in the day’s first stage, SS5, and even beat him to the post in the last one, SS8, but that wasn’t good enough to topple Chetan. It, however, fetched him the INRC 2 trophy.

“The top guns may not have fired today but we couldn’t have hoped for a more thrilling finish. It was good to see so many of the INRC 2 and 3 teams making a mark here, ahead of the known champions,” Hema Malini Nidamanuri, co-promoter of the INRC, said.

After the shock exit of Gaurav Gill, order seemed to have been restored, with another JK favourite Dean Mascarenhas winning SS5. But he promptly fell in the next stage, leaving the field for Championship leader Fabid Ahmer.

But the MRF driver, who was nursing his car carefully, suffered a puncture in the next and tumbled out. In the SUV Challenge, Gagan Karumbaiah of Team Champions took the first place to all but seal the 2019 title.

CYC FMSCI INRC, Round 4 Provisional Results:

INRC Overall

1) Chetan Shivram/Dilip Sharan (Akshara) - 1:47:37:300 hr; 2) Bikku Babu/Milen George (Team Champions) - 1:47:49.900 hr; 3) Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure) - 1:51:04.300 hr

INRC 2

1) Babu/Milen George (Team Champions) - 1:47:49.900 hr; 2) Sahil Khanna/Rajit Kadian ( Snap Racing) - 1:52:00.200 hr; 3) Younus Ilyas/Harish Gowda - 04:50:24.200 hr

INRC 3

1) Chetan Shivram/Dilip Sharan (Akshara) - 1:47:37:300 hr; 2) Jacob K.J/Murthy PVS (Arka Motorsports) - 1:53:35.600 hr; 3) Pradeep Kumar/Ahammad Ansary (Pipe & Pipe) - 2:19:58.000 hr

INRC 4

1) Mujeeb Rahman/Gautham CP (Privateer)- 1:55:17.900 hr; 2) Shirole Prakhyat .H/Bharat S.M (Privateer)- 1:57.16.300 hr; 3) Satish Peddineni/Vinay Kumar P. M (Team Champions) - 2:33:19.500 hr

SUV Challenge

1) Gagan Karumbaiah/Thimmu Uddapanda ( Team Champions): 1:75:22.600 hr; 2)Thomas Kuncheria. M/Dwarakanth Sudarshan (Privateer): 02:13:41.200 hr; 3) Sanjay Agarwal/Smitha N (Team Champions): 05:03::07.100

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[Image courtesy: INRC India]

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