Indian Rally Championship: Lohitt Urs surges ahead after Gaurav Gill retires
Coimbatore, July 31 Mysuru-based Lohitt V. Urs and co-driver Shrikant Gowda from Bengaluru took a commanding lead of over one minute after defending champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) retired with a driveshaft problem at the end of Leg 1 in the Rally of Coimbatore, the third round of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, here on Friday.
Driving a Mitsubishi Evo VIII, Urs, returning to National rallying scene after a year's break, was involved in a neck-and-neck battle with Mahindra Adventure's Delhi-based Gill, the reigning National champion who was in a Mahindra XUV 500.
The two were tied after the first loop, but the battle fizzled out when Gill, after making six seconds in the day's penultimate Stage, packed up in the fourth Stage.
In second Overall position was Mangaluru's Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Rajagopal) of AR Racing in the Volkswagen Polo R2. Though Rao lost time due to a puncture in the last Stage, he still finished the day with a lead of one minute, 29.5 seconds over Mahindra Adventure's Amittrajit Ghosh of Kolkata and his partner Ashwin Naik (Mangaluru), driving the XUV 500.
Gill, winner of the previous round in Nashik, will be rejoining the Rally on Saturday under the Super Rally format in a bid to secure leg points. "It was bad luck, but I will drive tomorrow and hope to get some leg points," said a dejected Gill.
"It was a close battle with Gaurav, and when I saw him parked in the day's last stage, I eased off. I am happy with my Evo, but my focus is on the season's last rally in December in Chikmagalur which is hosting the APRC Asia Cup, by which time, the car will be in top shape," said Urs.
Rahul Kanthraj in the lead in IRC 2000 category
Meanwhile Bengaluru pair of Rahul Kanthraj and co-driver Vivek Bhatt in Team Yokohama's Mitsubishi Cedia, look certain to clinch their second success of the season in the IRC 2000 class with a 50-second lead over Mumbai combination of Hrishkiesh Thackersey and Ninad Mirajgaonkar of Chettinad Sporting in the VW Polo while Hyderabad's Sumit Panjabi and Nitin Jacob from Bengaluru of SNAP Racing, were lying a distant third driving the Mitsubishi Cedia.
The IRC 1600 category appeared to be a two-horse at one stage before Team Yokohama's Karna Kadur (Vivek Ponnuswamy) broke clear when his closest rival Dean Mascarenhas (Shanmugha SN) retired in the day's penultimate Stage after hitting a rock. Kadur led the class by a minute and 22.2 seconds over Chettinad Sporting's Dr Bikku Babu (Milen George Cherian).
Adith KC (Harish KN) also finished the day with a comfortable 55.3 seconds lead over Ashwin Reddy (Suraj M) in the FMSCI 1600 Cup with the winner of the previous round, Druva Chandrashekar (Jeevarathinam J.) breathing down his neck, just 4.9 seconds adrift.
The Rally concludes on Saturday when one more loop of the two Special Stages will be run and all the respective front-runners declared that they would be nursing their positions rather than needlessly push.
Provisional classification (after Leg-1):
IRC Overall: Lohitt Urs / Shrikant Gowda (Mitsubishi Evo VIII) 1 (01hr, 03mins, 33.8secs); Arjun Rao Aroor / Satish K Rajagopal (AR Racing, Volkswagen Polo R2) 2 (01: 04:42.3); Amittrajit Ghosh / Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 3 (01:06:11.8).
IRC 2000: Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (01:08:45.8); Hrishikesh Thackersey / Ninad Mirajgaonkar (Chettinad Sporting, VW Polo) 2 (01:09:35.8); Sumit Panjabi / Nitin Jacob (SNAP Racing, Mitsubishi Cedia) 3 (01:11:13.0).
IRC 1600: Karna P Kadur / Vivek Ponnaswamy (Team Yokohama, VW Polo) 1 (01:07:17.3); Dr Bikku Babu / Milen George Cherian (Chettinad Sporting, VW Polo) 2 (01:08:39.5);Aroor Vikram Rao / Somayya AG (VW Polo) 3 (01:08:41.2).
FMSCI 1600 Cup: Adith KC / Harish KN (Honda City Vtec) 1 (01:09:47.3); Ashwin Reddy / Suraj M (Honda City Vtec) 2 (01:10:42.6); Druva Chandrashekar / Jeevarathinam J (Honda City Vtec) 3 (01:10:47.5).