Gaurav Gill (co-driver Aniruddha Rangnekar) brought his vast experience to bear, overcoming difficult conditions after a spell of rain to cement his overall lead in the FIA-Asia Pacific Rally Championship (Asia RallyCup), which is being held concurrently with the 46th South India Rally, the opening round of the 2023 Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) Indian National Rally Championship, here on Saturday. The afternoon showers caught a host of competitors, notably overnight-leading Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) Karna Kadur (Nikhil Pai), the Bengaluru-based reigning national champion, who dropped the order while Mangaluru’s aroor Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal) at the lead moved up, albeit just a few seconds ahead of Delhi’s Philippos Matthai (PV Srinivasa Murthy).
In the Asian Rally Cup competition, Gill, driving a non-turbocharged four-wheel drive Subaru Impreza, finished third with Kadur by a minute and 39 seconds over Thailand’s Mana Pornsiricherd Mana (Thanyaphat Meenil), who was struggling with mechanical problems. The rain affected the top few cars as the surface of the Aavisa Stage became muddy and slippery. Like Kadur, who was driving a Volkswagen Polo, Gill lost time battling the conditions as the duo were among the first on the stage with several cars getting stuck in the mud. Three-time APRC Champion Gill said: “My car didn’t have the boost but obviously my experience of driving APRC and WRC 2 cars helped. These cars are said to be powerful turbocharged machines. So when the turbo isn’t running at its optimum level, these cars are difficult to drive. The weather gods turned everything around. The surface conditions meant even the guys behind me were biding their time as the track dried quickly when the sun came out. Also, I had to ride the last 7-8 km of the last stage of the day without brakes. However, we have a good lead and hope to bring the car back safely tomorrow.”
For 39-year-old Aroor Arjun Rao, who went into the final stage of the day third overall, it was a total reversal in fortune after he last won an INRC event seven years ago. “Honestly I’m blown away as it’s been a long time since I’ve led after Day 1. We rode at a good rhythm and were third overall in the INRC with two more stages to go. The rain made the surface very slippery and we lost time on the ones behind. However, I rode very well in the last leg of the day to make time for others and finish the day as the overall winner in INRC. I just hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow,” said Rao. After the dramatic turnaround today, Kadur was dejected. “I’m disappointed with the weather which played spoilsport. We got stuck in slush after the rain on the Aavisa stage . As the first car, I had to deal with all the puddles of water and the slush, not knowing if I can make the corner! Tomorrow I’m not sure, but it will be a difficult task to make up for lost time,” he said .
The three-day event, organized by Madras Motor Sports Club, will conclude on Sunday when the two stages, Aavisa and MIC Track, will each be run twice in reverse. Partial unofficial classification (after Leg-1):APRC: 1st Gaurav Gill / Aniruddha Rangnekar (India) (01 hr 03 min 04.0 sec); 2. Pornsiricherd Mana / Thanyaphat Meenil (Thailand) (01:04:43.2); 3. Karna Kadur/Nikhil Pai (India) (01:06:56.1).
INRC: 1st Aroor Arjun Rao / Satish Rajagopal (01:05:47.7); 2. Philippos Matthai / PVSrinivasa Murthy (01:05:52.9); 3. Karna Kadur / Nikhil Pai (India) (01:06:56.1). INRC-2: 1st Philippos Matthai / PV Srinivasa Murthy (01:05:52.9); 2. Sahil Khanna/Harish KN Gowda (01:09:35.3); 3. Chetan Shivram / Dilip Sharan (01:08.58.7).
INRC-3: 1. Sheshank Jamwal / Aseem Sharma (01:07:22.7); 2. Daraius Shroff/Shahid Salman (01:07:25.6); 3. Vishakh Balachandran / Anil Abbas (01:08:16.9). INRC-4: 1. Abhin Rai / D. Uday Kumar (01:12:02.7); 2. Dheeraj KV / Pramod Rajan (01:13:24.9); 3. Renuka Gajendran / Angela James (01:28.55.5).
Junior INRC: Arnav Pratap Singh / Arjun SSB (01:08:22.6); 2. Arjun Rajeev / Rohith Gowda (01:09:10.1); 3. Jahan Singh Gill / Sujraj Keshava (01:10:28.0). Women: 1st Pragathi Gowda / Trisha Alonkar (01:08:58.6); 2. Renuka Gajendran/Angela James (01:28:55.5). (ANI)
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