Gaurav Gill wins Round 1 of the Indian National Rally Championship
After dominating the first day of the Rally of Arunachal, the JK Tyre duo of Gaurav Gill and Musa Sherif continued their momentum to score the overall win, and with it bagging the victory in the first round of the 2020 Indian National Rally Championship. The multiple-time INRC and APRC champ was already showing a strong pace during the first day of the rally, being at an average 30 seconds faster per stage than his opponents (attributed, of course, to an average speed of around 8kmph faster).
Gill took a total of 56:55.200 minutes to complete the eight stages, recording a victory by a margin of an impressive 4:25.700 minutes over the second-placed duo of MRF Tyres’ Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai. That said, his timing for the last round, the reverse run of the Chimpu leg, did suffer a bit (cortesy a flat tyre just two minutes away from the flying start) handing Kadur a narrow victory of just about 12 seconds.
Nevertheless, the order of the second- and third-placed racers stayed the same, with MRF Tyres’ Karna Kadur coming in as first runner-up (as mentioned) and JK Tyre's Dean Mascarenhas (and Shrupta Padival) coming in as second runner-up.
The top ten results for the first round are as follows:
As with day one of the rally, the second day was not at all devoid of incidents. The first stage, which was to start at 8 am was delayed due to a civil medical urgency, causing it to be rescheduled for 9:06 am. This was followed by two cars (the number 16 of Arjun Rao/Shanmuga Sundaram and number 40 of Divyanshu Vyas and Dhanush CP) breaking down, further pushing the start to 9:35 am. The next two rounds were relatively hassle-free, with stage 7 delayed by just one minute. The last stage (SS08) was delayed at the start due to data issues. And finally, number 27 (Volkswagen Polo of Suhem Kabeer and Jeeva Rathinam) suffered a DNF.
Defending champion Team Yokohama’s Chetan Shivram’s engine malfunction, the reason for his DNF on day one could cost him dear as he is likely to miss out of Round 2 as well.
Meanwhile, the Bengaluru women’s team of Pragathi Gowda (with co-driver Deeksha Balakrishna) impressed everyone with their debut performance. Representing the all-women’s Team Vasundhara, Pragathi posted a total time of 01:07:53.400 hours to not only win the women’s category ahead of her teammate and veteran Bani Yadav (with Subhkiran Pal Kaur Brar), she also won the Junior INRC Category beating the likes of Arjun Rao and Rakshith Iyer. She finished fourth in the INRC 3 category and ended ninth on the overall standing.
Maninder Singh Prince along with co-driver Vinay Kumar posted a total time of 01:05:49.700 hour to clinch the INRC 3 category, while Fabid Ahmer (with Eldo Chacko) won the second place for their total time of 01:06:05.700 hours. Aditya Thakur and his co-driver Virender Kashyap of Team Nutulapati took 01:07:07.700 hours to complete the rally and take the third position.
Ultimately, with the top three finishers being from JK Tyre (Gaurav, Dean) and MRF (Karna), it may not be as premature as initially considered to say that the tyre wars would not be rekindled. Rally enthusiasts now need to look forward to the next round, scheduled for this weekend at the very same venue, to discern if this round’s proceedings were a one-off, or whether we need to start choosing between the Reds and the Yellows!