Amid weather-based cancellations, rally fans finally got to see some action at the Jaipur Rally as Gaurav Gill and Mahindra exerted their dominance, despite a slight hiccup.
Two-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill asserted his dominance in the MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, comfortably winning four out of the six special stages to claim Round 3 in Jaipur.
For rally fans it was a rare instance of an INRC actually going ahead and completing as rain caused the cancellation of the Chennai round and the next round in Ziro also being delayed due to rain. Now there will be no action until late November when the APRC field comes to join the INRC runners for the India Rally.
Team Mahindra Adventure runners Gill and co-driver Musa Sherif began their march fo victory Team Mahindra Adventure in the dark, early hours of the only day of running, conquering the championship’s first night stage with ease. They took barely 13:21.1 minutes to complete the 13.9 kilometre Night Hawk stage, blasting through the sharp turns and undulating curves with ease.
The pair, however, suffered issues in the second special stage, the tricky Shiv Shakti 1, taking 6:49.1 long minutes to finish fifth in the stage, yielding the lead to defending champion Karna Kadur of Arka Motorports (6:01.5) and his own teammate Amittrajit Ghosh (6:12.1) for the first time this year.
“I suffered in the second stage as I couldn’t avoid a rock and picked up a puncture,” said Gill about his temporary setback.
“But I am glad I came through. This is one of the toughest rallies and the night stage has really got us all excited,” he added.
Kadur and Ghosh’s advantage was short-lived as Gill as the champion driver got back into his stride. He finished the Flying Machine stage in an astounding 12:09.5 minutes to crack the 13.8 kilometres and reclaim the rally lead.
Gill in his XUV 500 was beyond anyone’s reach in the following two stages as well, driving in his typically aggressive manner. He needed just 5:55.4 minutes to complete the fourth special stage and increase his lead. Kadur and Ghosh kept pace till that stage but then disaster struck for both contenders.
Kadur’s car broke down in SS 5 and he tumbled out of contention. Ghosh too faced a mechanical problem and managed to clock a tardy 18:16.9 minutes, nearly five and half minutes behind Gill to slide into sixth position. He made up time quite dramatically in the final stage but couldn’t do enough to get back on to the podium.
The twin setbacks opened the path for Dean Mascarenhas’ INRC 3 team and Rahul Kanthraj’s INRC 2 outfit to jump towards the sharp end of the rally’s overall classification.
Mascarenhas and his co-driver Shruptha Padival, in their VW Polo, produced and impressive performance to climb all the way to second. They hung on to the fortuitously gained position doggedly, despite only managing fourth place in the seventh and final special stage.
Kanthraj and navigator Vivek Bhatt stunned the field by winning the final stage, although Gill took it easy after being assured of winning the round. That ensured them the third place on the podium.
Rallying is all about unpredictability on and off the stages, however, and the sixth special stage, had to be cancelled due to an emergency in a village. The speedy rally cars had to be reigned in to temporarily stop the event and let an ambulance with a lady in labour rush to the hospital.