Sirish’s blog: The Ed sends it at the Kochi round of the INRC in a Polo R2
Not for nothing do they call it a crash box. The whine of straight-cut gears wears you down. The ratios are so closely stacked, 3500rpm in fifth gear translates to 60kmph. In the stage you’re constantly pulling or pushing the gear lever, banging up and down the sequential box Ken Block-style, no need to use the clutch and leaving all mechanical sympathy at the service park. The tuned engine screaming at 8500rpm shatters the early morning calm of Kerala’s tea plantations. It’s my first rally after four years away, the years spent in rehab getting that rally drug out of my system. I’m rusty, our motorsport editor is my new co-driver, and I’m in the middle of a three-way fight for the 2018 championship.
I’ll be honest, I was terrified. I did a short test on the evening before the Popular Rally and I was trembling. I went to sleep hoping the rally would be cancelled. I’d forgotten about the raw commitment, and big balls, required to #sendit; to trust the co-drivers’ calls knowing that, one mistake and we are wrapped around a tree.
Long story short, it was the drive of my life. On the 8th stage we set the overall fastest stage time, and followed it up with another fastest time on the very last stage. In INRC 1 we split the works Mahindras to bag the second step of the podium. Overall we finished fourth fastest. We showed that the much vilified VW Motorsport R2 Polo has front-running pace. And reliability. We did enough for Mahindra to seriously consider switching to the XUV300 for next season. And I discovered nothing makes you feel more alive than driving a rally car at pace. No prizes for guessing my resolution for 2019.