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The fourth edition of the 2017 JK Tyre Arunachal Festival of Speed (AFOS) witnessed a total of 18 cars on day one (11 rally prepped cars and 7 stock vehicles) and after three gruelling days of rallying through the mountains in Dirang, 14 cars still managed to survive. Battling rain, cold, uneven surfaces and even dodging shooting stones, MS Autocross champion Amanpreet Ahluwalia drove his turbocharged Maruti Gypsy to victory, winning the 2017 AFOS title and a Rs 10 lakh cash prize followed by KM Bopaiah in his VW Polo in second place and veteran rallyist Sandeep Sharma in third.
Leg 1: Autocross Run
On day one, all the 18 cars tackled the Autocross track at a packed L’Opon stadium in the heart of the small town of Dirang. Amanpreet Ahluwalia got off to a flying start clocking the fastest time of 2 minutes 9 seconds. Most of the track was pretty wide, which made it easier for the SUVs to tackle the course. As a result, KM Bopaiah in his VW Polo could not match the turbo powered Gypsy, finishing three seconds behind Amanpreet and was followed by Sandeep Sharma in third.
Leg 2: 5 stages
After a relatively easy autocross challenge, the competition got tougher on day two as the participants had to tackle a total of five stages – an 8km monastery run, three hill climbs (one in reverse) and a 4km sprint. To begin with, the rain played spoilsport, because of which the monastery run had to be cut short from an 8km stage to only a 4km uphill climb. The route downhill had been washed away, making it difficult to drive on. Slipping and sliding despite 4WD being engaged Amanpreet clocked the fastest time, keeping KM Bopaiah’s Polo a good three seconds behind. After the monastery run, the rally drivers headed towards the Chugstage – a hill climb which was also carried out in reverse. It was during the hill climb stages where turbo power really outran the Polo and since it was not running a re-mapped ECU (it malfunctioned, so Bopaiah ran with the standard ECU setting) it was short on firepower, giving Amanpreet the upper hand, who clocked the fastest times in all the three hill climbs.
The last stage of the day was the sprint stage. With a kilometre of tarmac leading to a 3km dirt track in the riverbed of Sangti valley in Dirang. This was the only stage where the Gypsy was slower than the Polo. The Polo had the advantage of weight and acceleration, because of which Bopaiah managed to gain a four-second lead ahead of Amanpreet, who finished second in the stage, ahead of Sandeep Sharma in third.
Leg 3: 4 stages
At the end of Leg 2, Amanpreet had managed to garner a 28-second lead ahead of KM Bopaiah, who was struggling to match the Gypsy’s pace. Once again the competitors tackled the same stages as leg 2. Amanpreet continued to dominate the time charts, clocking the fastest times in the monastery run and the hill climb. Once again Bopaiah took the lead in the sprint section but it was not enough to get him to the top.