Stage set for exciting contests

Stakes high in final round

Stage set for exciting contests

 Amittrajit Ghosh along with his co-driver Ashwin Naik may have already clinched the overall title but there is still plenty at stake in the Coffee Day Rally, the fifth and concluding round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, starting here on Thursday.

Of greater significance is that the Coffee Day Rally, which has attracted 41 entries, is a candidate event for a round of the 2014 Asia Cup, which is part of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

Ghosh, who has four straight wins under his belt, has sealed the championship with a round to spare garnering 156 points but the competition will be intense for the other two podium positions.

Mangalore’s Arjun Rao (co-driver Satish Rajagopal) is lying second overall with 66 points, just four ahead of Bangalorean Vikram Devadasen who will have a new partner in Naik, while in fourth spot is Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) of Slideways Industries on 51 and the seasoned pair of Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Bhatt, on 50, in fifth spot. Rao will also face tough competition for the INRC 1600cc crown. With two class wins and a podium finish, Rao has 105 points while Sirish Chandran is on 90, followed by team-mate Byram Godrej (Prajwal Pai) on 70, in fifth.

The trio will be piloting the Volkswagen Polo that has a strong presence in the Coffee Day Rally with 10 vehicles. The Junior INRC class too is poised for an exciting finish with Asad Khan (Zayne Asrar) on 119  points, closely followed by Suhem MK (Jeevarathinam) who has 114. Both the pairs have two wins and a podium finish apiece, thus setting the stage for a pulsating contest.

Notwithstanding the close battles in INRC, newly-crowned Asia Pacific champion Gaurav Gill and former World champion (production class) Karamjit Singh of Malaysia will be the star attractions.

The 32-year old Gill from Delhi, along with veteran co-driver Musa Sherif, in a modified Mahindra XUV 500 representing the Mahindra Adventure Rally team, has already clinched the championship in the introductory SUV class with three wins for a total of 117 points, well clear of team-mates Lohitt Urs (Bonnie Thomas) who has 63 and Sunny Siddhu (PVS Murthy) 42.

Hyderabad’s Sumit Panjabi, with 116 points, has also clinched the title in the top-end IRC class in which Karamjit, along with his long-time co-driver and compatriot Jagdev Singh, is taking part, but not eligible for championship points, being a foreign national.

The rally will commence on Thursday evening with a 2.5 kms spectator Super Special Stage at the Amber Valley school, before the vehicles head to the Coffee Day estates for the three Special Stages that will be run twice on Friday and once on Saturday, completing a total distance of 370.68 Kms.

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