Exclusive! Mahindra Adventure pulls out of the INRC
Mahindra Adventure has pulled out of the Indian National Rally Championship! With barely two weeks to go for the opening round of the 2020 INRC in Arunachal, we have learnt that the national championship winning team and the only factory team in Indian rallying has pulled out. Through all the ups and downs of the INRC, Mahindra Adventure have stayed loyal and kept faith in the championship. Since their entry in 2013 Mahindra Adventure have been the team to beat, fielding the fastest cars driven by the fastest drivers. Prepped by Red Rooster Performance and then Arka Motorsport, the Mahindra XUV500 and, from last season, Mahindra XUV300, have been the fastest cars in the INRC. And of course in Gaurav Gill they have — by far and away — the fastest driver in the INRC.
After winning the championship multiple times with the diesel-powered XUV500, first with the all-wheel-drive and then front-wheel-drive setup — in 2019 the team switched to the Mahindra XUV 300. Two cars were built, the diesel given to Amitrajit Ghosh and the turbo-petrol to Gaurav Gill. Teething problems saw the team DNF in the first events and then there was the horrific accident in Jodphur where major organisational lapses saw locals riding onto the live stage in the opposite direction and crashing into Gaurav Gill coming into the flying finish. Showing his mettle Gaurav Gill bounced back from the incident to win the Popular Rally in Kochi in dominant fashion, sending out an ominous warning to other teams and competitors — that the XUV300 had even more speed in it than the XUV500.
And then 2020 happened. Post the lockdown Indian motorsport has resumed with the excellent team at the MMSC wrapping up the 2020 racing championship with Arjun Balu crowned champion. Rallying though is yet to resume and instead of conducting events in familiar environs the promoters seem intent on kicking off the season in the remote North East, that too with back-to-back rounds. Whether this influenced Mahindra’s decision to pull out of the INRC is unknown, but it is clear that the logistics, costs and sheer effort involved in going rallying in remote far flung (never easy in the best of times) is exponentially higher in the new normal. And in the post-pandemic environment everybody, including car manufacturers themselves, are cutting costs and driving greater efficiencies.
A truncated rally calendar — with no reduction in cost of participation it must be said! — makes little sense for a car manufacturer, what with advertising budgets already cut everywhere. Back-to-back rallies means rally wins cannot be advertised properly while a season spread over only two months means neither can the communication targets be met. And when those rallies are being held in far flung corners that generate barely any column inches in national publications, then how do you justify the (not inconsiderable) spends? Motorsport programs for any manufacturer, after all, are tied to advertising and communication. One might wonder that had the promoters had a better understanding of ground realities, or even applied a more pro-active approach to addressing these obvious problems manufacturers will face, then this drastic step might have been averted.
This is a blow to Indian rallying and it means that for the first time in seven years there will not be a factory team. Rather than getting more car manufacturers involved in the INRC and thus increasing the credibility of the championship, the reverse has happened.
There is one saving grace though, both Gaurav Gill and Amitrajit Ghosh will still be participating in the INRC. Mahindra Adventure have offered both drivers use of the R2-spec XUV 300 prepped by Arka Motorsport. Gaurav Gill’s car will run on and be backed by JK Tyre and that signals the resumption of tyre wars in the INRC. Why? Watch this space.