Nashik, June 12: Reigning national champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) underlined his undoubted class by taking a commanding lead to head the overall classification at the end of day one in the Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra, here on Friday.
The second round of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship witnessed some fast and furious action as the 31-year old Gill, driving the Mahindra XUV 500 for team Mahindra Adventure, took a firm grip with a three minutes, 26 seconds lead over team-mate Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik), the 2013 National champion, while the third Mahindra Adventure entrant Sunny Sidhu (PVS Murthy) were third overall.
Gill, the 2013 Asia Pacific champion, moved into the lead after early leader JCT Rallying's Samir Thapar (Gurinder Singh Mann), driving an all-wheel drive Evo X, surrendered a five-second advantage when he broke the rear suspension in Special Stage-3.
'Good battle with Sammy'
At the end of the first loop of the three Special Stages, Gill led the pack by 58 seconds, ahead of Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal), driving a R2 variant of the Volkswagen Polo with Team Yokohama's Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) in Mitsubishi Cedia, a distant third while Thapar slid to ninth Overall.
After the service break ahead of the second loop, Thapar moved up to third Overall before he went off in the day's last Stage to drop out of contention.
"Overall, it went off very well. At the start, I had a good battle with Sammy (Thapar), but after he lost time, I kept pushing to take a comfortable lead. Our Mahindra team had made some changes to the SUV and it helped me go faster, though not quite to the limit, but we will get there.
"As for tomorrow (Saturday) when we will run one more loop of the Stages, I will maintain my rhythm. After all, the car and I are set up for pace!" said Gill who won here last year.
'Absolutely no grip'
While Gill kept up a hot pace, behind him, positions changed. Rao was caught out by rains in the last Stage as his Polo was running on slicks.
"There was absolutely no grip and I had no option but to literally crawl which cost me a lot of time," said Rao.
Rao's misery meant Ghosh made progress on the grid despite having problems with the clutch. "I was stuck in third gear in some of the Stages and it cost us some time," said the Kolkata-based Ghosh.
Leading the IRC 2000cc class was Bengaluru's Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) of Team Yokohama despite suffering a puncture on the last Stage while Mangaluru lad Dean Mascarenhas (Sudipta Padiwal) was in front in the IRC 1600cc catgory and Dhruva C (Jeeva Rathinam) was ahead in the FMSCI 1600 Cup.
Classification after Leg-1 (Partial, Unofficial)
IRC Overall: Gaurva Gill/Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure, Mahindra XUV 500) 1 (57mins, 28secs); Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure, Mahindra XUV 500) 2 (1hr, 54secs); Sunny Sidhu/PVS Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, Mahindra XUV 500) 3 (01:01.05).
IRC 2000cc: Rahul Kanthraj/Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Cedia) 1 (01:01:54); Hrishikesh Thackersey/Ninad Mirajgaonkar (VW Polo) 2 (01:04:00); Ilyas Younus / Thomas Paul (Cedia) 3 (01:04:57).
IRC 1600cc: Dean Mascarenhas/Sudipta Padiwal (VW Polo) 1 (01:02:31); Dr Biku Babu/George Milen (VW Polo) 2 (01:04:56); Vikram Rao Aroor/AG Somayya (VW Polo) 3 (01:06:07).
FMSCI 1600 Cup: Dhruva C/Jeeva Rathinam (Honda City V-Tec) 1 (01:09:24); Adith KC/Harish KN (Kari Sports, Honda City V-Tec) 2 (01:09:28); Ashwin Reddy Daram/Salman Shahid (Rally Cross, Honda City V-Tec) 3 (01:11:13).