JK Tyre vs MRF Tyres vs Yokohama set for three-way battle in INRC 2020
The 2020 season of the Indian National Rally Championship is set to kick off with a double header at Itanagar for the Rally of Arunachal. But the journey till here hasn’t been smooth, courtesy the lockdown. Even when things started returning to normal, a setback came in the form of Mahindra Adventure pulling out of the INRC, promoting JK Tyre to step it to support Gaurav Gill. This followed hot on the heels of Yokohama throwing its hat in the ring after four long years, supporting 2019 INRC champ Chetan Shivram among others. And finally, as we divulged earlier today, MRF Tyres have thought it worth their while to make an appearance with a full factory effort!
Starting in alphabetical order, we have JK Tyre, and its small army, led of course by Arjuna awardee and multiple INRC/APRC champ Gaurav Gill. He will be piloting the Mahindra XUV 300 along with co-driver Musa Sherif. The XUV 300 has been prepped to full R2 specifications including a sequential gearbox and the second car will be piloted by Amittrajit Ghosh co-driven by Ashwin Naik. But that’s not all. Also flying the JK Tyre Motorsports’ canary yellow colours will be Dean Mascarenhas from Mangalore (with Shruptha Padival), Suhem Kabir from Coorg, Fabid Ahmer from Cochin and Syed Salman from Mysore.
Additionally, JK Tyre will also be nurturing grassroots talent, fielding four local teams from the North East, in the form of Phurpa Tsering (with Yashwardhan Kumar), Nabam Asha (with Dinky Varghese), Hage Naku (with Hage Bitu) and Pem Sonam (with Lenin Joseph). Phew!
Moving now to MRF Tyres which is the most popular tyre brand in the INRC but has stayed away from a full factory effort for nearly a decade. They now make their full-fledged return backing Team Kadur’s VW Polo driven by Karna Kadur (with co-driver Nikhil Pai). Their Polo is supported by Volkswagen Motorsport and is a full R2-spec car running the new 1.0-litre TSI engine.
And finally, we move to the Yokohama Tyres team whose charge is led by the reigning champion Chetan Shivram (co-driver Rupesh Kholay) driving the VW Polo in the INRC 2 category. Also part of the lineup is Denn Thimmaiya, competing in the INRC 1 category in an R2-spec Mitsubishi Cedia, while Lokesh Gowda will drive the Cedia in the INRC 2. Arjun Rao will also be driving a VW Polo, albeit as a part of INRC 3, while Vaibhav Marathe will be driving a Honda City VTEC in the INRC 4 category.
What’s in it for us rally enthusiasts?
Speaking about an impending flare-up of the famed JK-MRF rivalry would be reaching for low-hanging fruit. Yes, it was a massive attraction in the 1990’s and early 2000s, but everything – the drivers, the cars, the sheer scale of the competition – is diametrically opposite in 2020; and that’s without even considering all that the ‘new normal’ entails. Also, let’s not forget that Yokohama too are past INRC champions. Let’s hope the rallies are now run properly so that the sponsors see value in ramping up their commitment and raising the standard of the sport.