Coimbatore, July 31: Two-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill began his MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship 2017 on a dominant note, winning Round 1 with consummate ease here in Coimbatore on Sunday (July 30).
The 35-year-old ace rallyist and co-driver Musa Sherif, who were 4th off the blocks, stormed into the lead in the first stage itself. Gill tackled the gravel road with all its twists and turns in his typical aggressive way to round it up in just 12 minutes and 11 seconds, a full 18 seconds ahead of the 24-car field.
Driving for Team Mahindra in an XUV 500, Delhi's Gill showed his class and gumption in the remaining four stages too, sweeping each of them in style. He kept increasing his lead by a minimum of 20 seconds in each stage to finish the 70-odd kilometres in one hour and thirty-six seconds, almost in a canter.
Defending INRC champion Karna Kadur and Nikhil Pai (Arka Motorsports) from Bengaluru finished one minute forty-five seconds behind to take the second position.
Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik (Team Mahindra Adventure) grabbed the last place on the podium even though they had technical issues with his vehicle.
Gill understandably looked pleased, flashing smiles and posing for pictures after the victory. "It was a good win. I enjoy driving here in Coimbatore and it's always nice to start the season with a victory," he said.
"It was a nice smooth round, with no drama and no fuss. I particularly enjoyed the second stage where our skill and control came into play," he added.
Karna showed immense speed in his Polo but just couldn't match Gill's pyrotechnics; he, however, stayed ahead of the pack in the INRC 2 category. Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Bhatt who finished overall fifth took the second position, cruising into the park ferme just 3 seconds later.
Dean Mascarenhas and Shruptha Padival claimed the Round 1 honours in INRC 3, finishing fourth in the INRC pecking order.
One of the leading pairs, Arjun Rao and Satish Rajgopal, pulled out in the first stage itself. Five other teams joined them on the DNF list, with the heat playing a role. Aroor Vikram and Somayya AG, in fact, had a bad crash and their car literally burnt down; luckily, both the driver and the co-driver escaped without a scratch on their persons.
A good holiday crowd assembled at the spectator points on the outskirts of Coimbatore to enjoy the spectacle. They were treated to some brilliant and daring driving, with the stars of Indian rallying hitting the chicanes at high speed and leaving behind a dust trail.
INRC: 1. Gaurav Gill & Musa Sherif (Team Mahindra Adventure); 2. Karna Kadur & Nikhil Pai (Arka Motorsports); 3. Amittrajit Ghosh & Ashwin Naik (Team Mahindra Adventure)
INRC 2: 1. Karna Kadur & Nikhil Pai (Red Rooster Performance); 2. Rahul Kanthraj & Vivek Bhatt (Red Rooster Performance); 3. Younus Ilyas & Harish Kumar
INRC 3: 1. Dean Mascarenhas & Shruptha Padival; 2. Dr Biku Babu & Milen George; 3. KM Bopaiah & Karumbaisah G