One could say that it is a little late to be taking a look back at the 2017 MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship season. And one would be right, except that it wasn’t really a season where everything went as expected.
Sure, Gaurav Gill participated in enough rallies to rack up points and claim his fifth national rally championship title, which was his third since he started to drive for Mahindra Adventure. But this season could well be remembered for unwanted logistical issues, which one could hardly fault rally organizers or the INRC’s promoters for.
Gill took part in only four of the six rounds of a season in which the final round had to be pushed to as late as January because of inclement weather-related cancellations and postponements. One of the rounds he missed was the India Rally in Chikmagalur, where the INRC was a supporting category to the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s final round for 2017. Gill won that rally in the APRC class to clinch his third APRC title.
Gill won all four of those rounds for Mahindra Adventure, in which he has been competing in cross-country rallying and the INRC since 2012.
INRC 3 champion Dean Mascarenhas, despite rolling into a ditch in the first Super Stage and falling behind by over 16 minutes, managed to take the second place in the overall standings.
Defending INRC champion Karna Kadur, however, took advantage familiar home conditions to force his way to the third position in the K-1000. His second podium finish helped him secure second place in the INRC 2 category and third place in the overall Championship.
Rahul Kanthraj claimed the INRC 2 title. The only driver who could have upstaged him, Younus Ilyas, pulled out during the rally’s fourth special stage.
The FMSCI 2WD Cup was taken by Chetan Shivram and Rupesh Kholay.
Defending K-1000 winner Amittrajit Ghosh crashed in the sixth and final stage. His car was heavily damaged but he and his co-driver, Ashwin Naik, walked away with minor injuries.
It was not a very pleasant way for Ghosh’s season to end, especially as the last Karnataka based rally he took part in, the India Rally, also saw his victory bid end by a crash that resulted in him having to pull out of the rally.
For Ghosh, the official end of the 2017 season is very much about looking forward. Which goes for Indian rallying in general after having announced a seven-round calendar for this year. Two of the events on the calendar are, however, still have a provisional status. The rounds in Bengal and Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh still face the same threat of weather related disruption.
Late April and early November are the dates for the two rounds, respectively. The event in Arunachal is part of the continued push by Indian motorsport series and one-off events to tap into the interest in rallying and off-road events in the North-Eastern part of the country.
Sadly, however, there will be no event held for the northern part of India. Neither Jaipur or Delhi-NCR features on the calendar. The latter was a particularly problematic venue in 2016 on account of the National Green Tribunal’s ruling on the originally planned rally course that led to a less than savoury replacement venue. Jaipur’s exclusion is a shame too, given that there are enough rally enthusiasts in Rajasthan on account of both the Desert Storm and the India Baja.
Of course, the larger issue outside of the INRC calendar is if the Indian rallying stage will see a successor to Gill’s position as its biggest draw. Or will the increasingly matured rally star will just keep racking up wins like a forgone conclusion?