Team Mahindra Adventure’s Gaurav Gill took another measured step towards his fifth MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, adding the Rally of Arunachal to his conquests here on Saturday.
The three-time APRC champion and his co-driver Musa Sherif were in a class of their own, scorching the two night stages on Friday and winning two out of the four stages on Saturday to the delight of awe-struck fans here in picturesque Ziro.
“They were the fastest and most technical stages that I have seen in the INRC in many, many years,” Gill said, immediately after his victory. “We had a great car, wonderful setup and tyres and we really enjoyed this win,” he added.
Dean Mascarenhas consolidated his position in the INRC 3 class by finishing second in the overall category. In the bargain, he posted his fourth straight victory in as many rounds in his class to virtually seal the title.
Gill’s Mahindra Adventure teammate Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik took the third place by keeping pace with the winners in each and every stage. They were just 11.8 seconds behind Dean and 43.2 seconds behind Gill’s final tally of 58:50.4 minutes in the six stages.
The INRC 2 division was claimed by Younus Ilyas and Harish Kumar as they pipped table toppers Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Y Bhatt, gaining a 19.3 second advantage in the opening stage.
Defending champion Karna Kadur and top contender Arjun Rao’s cars stalled just after the start and blocked the road, forcing the organisers to cancel the stage. Both withdrew from the rally, giving a free run to the rest of the field.
The four drivers ahead of them finished the stage while all others were given the same scratch time of 14 seconds. Rahul Kanthraj, who was among the finishers, could muster only 14:19.3 minutes which eventually hurt him in the final count. He, however, took the second place (fifth overall) to stay ahead in the race for the INRC 2 title.
Gill was calm personified as he built a solid lead of over 50 seconds in the first three stages itself. He took his foot off the pedal in the fourth stage, allowing Dean and Amittrajit to fight it out for honours here.
He reasserted himself in the next stage to ensure that the Rally of Arunachal was safe in his pocket. He is ahead with 75 points from three starts, despite missing Round 4 in Chikmagalur, and simply needs to drive smart in the final round in Bengaluru.
Dean Mascarenhas, with 63 points, has to be reckoned with though as an upset victory can still set him up for the 2017 championship.
INRC: 1. Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif); 2. Dean Mascarenhas (Shruptha Padival); 3. Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik)
INRC 2: 1. Younus Ilyas (Harish Kumar); 2. Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Y Bhatt); 3. Jacob KJ (Venu Ramesh Kumar)
INRC 3: 1. Dean Mascarenhas (Shruptha Padival); 2. Daraius Shroff (Nitin Jacob); 3. Dr. Punyabrata Barma (Mrinmoy Saha)