Jaipur : Two-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill asserted his supremacy in the MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship 2017, comfortably winning four out of the six special stages to claim Round 3 here on a blistering Sunday.
Gill and his partner Musa Sharif began the march for Team Mahindra Adventure late on Saturday, conquering the championship’s first night stage with élan. They took barely 13:21.1 minutes to complete the 13.9 kilometre Night Hawk stage, zipping through the sharp turns and undulating curves in the dark with ease.
The pair, however, suffered issues in SS 2, the tricky Shiv Shakti 1, taking 6:49.1 long minutes to finish fifth in the stage, yielding the lead to defending champion Karna Kadur of Arka Motorports (6:01.5) and his own teammate Amittrajit Ghosh (6:12.1) for the first time this year.
“I suffered in the second stage as I couldn’t avoid a rock and picked up a puncture,” Gill said, about his defeat.
“But I am glad I came through. This is one of the toughest rallies and the night stage has really got us all excited,” he added.
Karna and Amittrajit’s joy was, however, short-lived. Gill was back in his elements in SS 3, the Flying Machine stage, taking an astounding 12:09.5 minutes to crack the 13.8 kilometres to reclaim the rally lead.
Gill in his XUV was beyond everybody’s reach in the next two stages too, driving in his typically aggressive manner. He needed just 5:55.4 minutes to complete SS 4 and widen his lead. Karna and Amittrajit kept pace till that stage but then disaster struck both of them.
Karna’s car broke down in SS 5 and he tumbled out of contention. Amittrajit too faced a mechanical problem and managed to clock only 18:16.9 minutes, nearly five and half minutes behind Gill to slip to the sixth position. He made up time quite dramatically in the final stage but couldn’t do enough to get on to the podium.
The twin setbacks opened the path for Dean Mascarenhas’ INRC 3 team and Rahul Kanthraj’s INRC 2 outfit to jump into contention.
Mascarenhas and his co-driver Shruptha Padival, in their VW Polo, had an impressive stage to climb all the way to the second position. They hung on to the godsend doggedly, despite being pushed to the fourth place in SS 7.
Kanthraj and navigator Vivek Bhatt stunned the field by winning the final stage, the SS 7, although Gill went easy after being assured of winning the round. That ensured them the third place on the podium.
One stage, the SS 6, had to be cancelled due to an emergency in the village that required the rally to be stopped to let an ambulance with a lady in labour rush to the hospital.
INRC: 1. Gaurav Gill & Musa Sharif; 2. Dean Mascarenhas & Shruptha Padival; 3. Rahul Kanthraj & Vivek Y Bhatt
INRC 2: 1. Rahul Kanthraj & Vivek Y Bhatt; 2. Younus Ilyas & Harish Kumar; 3. Jacob KJ & Manoj Mohanan
INRC 3: Dean Mascarenhas & Shruptha Padival; 2. Saddam Ali Saikh & Abhijeet Singh; 3. Daraius Shroff & Nitin Jacob
FMSCI 2WD Cup: 1. Chetan Shivram & Rupesh Koley; 2. Suraj Thomas & Thomas Paul; 3. Sachin Sharma & Sagar Malappa
4WD Open: 1. S. Yadav & V. Kashyap; 2. Himangshu Arora & Kunal Kashyap; 3. Sanjay Razdan & Karan Aukta
2WD Open: Lakshya Veer Dabbas & Aakshay Suhhag