Coffee Day Rally: Exciting battles in the offing

IANS| Updated: Dec 18, 2013, 17:07 PM IST

Chikmagalur: With the Coffee Day Rally being a candidate event for a round of the 2014 Asia Cup, which is part of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), and with close battles for titles, there is plenty of action in store over the next three days.

Though Kolkata-based Amittrajit Ghosh along with his co-driver Ashwin Naik has already clinched the overall title, there is still plenty at stake in the Coffee Day Rally, the fifth and concluding round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, that has attracted 41 entries.

With four straight wins, Ghosh, who will be missing the rally due to prior commitments, has sealed the championship with a round to spare, garnering 156 points, but the competition will be no less for the other two podium positions.

Mangalore’s Arjun Rao (co-driver Satish Rajagopal) is lying second overall with 66 points, just four ahead of Bangalorean Vikram Devadasen who will have a new partner in Naik, while in fourth spot is Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) on 51 and the seasoned pair of Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Bhatt, on 50, in fifth.

Rao is also involved in a tight contest for the INRC 1600cc crown. With two class wins and a podium finish, Rao has 105 points while Sirish Chandran is on 90, followed by team-mate Byram Godrej (Prajwal Pai) on 70.

The trio will be piloting the Volkswagen Polo that has a strong presence in the Coffee Day Rally with 10 vehicles, all of which will enjoy on-site support in terms of spares.

The Junior INRC class too is poised for an exciting finish with Asad Khan (Zayne Asrar) on 119 points, closely followed by Suhem MK (Jeevarathinam) who has 114. Both the pairs have two wins and a podium finish apiece, thus setting the stage for a battle royale.

The close contests in the INRC notwithstanding, newly crowned Asia Pacific champion Gaurav Gill and former world champion (production class) Karamjit Singh of Malaysia will be the star attractions.

The 32-year old Gill from Delhi, along with veteran co-driver Musa Sherif, in a modified Mahindra XUV 500 representing the Mahindra Adventure Rally team, has already clinched the championship in the introductory SUV class with three wins for a total of 117 points, well clear of team-mates Lohitt Urs (Bonnie Thomas) who has 63 and Sunny Siddhu (PVS Murthy) 42.

Gill, who was crowned the 2013 APRC champion last month, has thrilled the spectators with his speed and car control while being the quickest in all the four rounds. It will be no different this time given the terrain in the Coffee Day estates just outside Chikmagalur.

Hyderabad’s Sumit Panjabi, with 116 points, has also clinched the title in the top-end IRC class in which Karamjit, along with his long-time co-driver and compatriot Jagdev Singh, is taking part, but not eligible for championship points, being a foreign national.

Completing the IRC field is JCT Rallying’s Samir Thapar (46 points) who will be partnered by Gurinder Singh Mann in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Mann, a former multiple National co-driver champion, is returning to competitive rallying after a lapse of 13 years.

Karamjit will be in a factory-supported Volkswagen Polo R2 in Slideways Industries livery. The car is being test run in preparation for the 2014 season. Through the four rounds so far, Karamjit has won a huge fan following with some super-quick drives and with more development work done on his car for the Coffee Day Rally, he is expected to provide some thrilling fare.

Also in the fray is former National champion Vikram Mathias and the 2012 Asia Pacific co-driver champion Vivek Ponnusamy, driving a turbo-charged, 1.6 diesel engine-powered Volkswagen Polo which too is on a test run.

The rally commences Thursday evening with a 2.50-km spectator Super Special Stage at the Amber Valley school, before the vehicles head to the Coffee Day estates for the three Special Stages that will be run twice Friday and once Saturday, completing a total distance of 370.68 kms.