National champion Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik), driving a Mitsubishi Cedia (Group N), scrambled into lead after front-running Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal) in a Volkswagen Polo conceded lead following a broken drive shaft to drop to overall sixth on the opening day of AVT Premium South India Rally, here on Saturday. On a day of furious action in the first round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, 2011 champion Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) of team Mahindra Adventure in a Mahindra XUV 500, topped the time charts with a blistering one hour, 13 minutes, 22.2 seconds as against Ghosh’s 01:16:00.7.
While the SUV category made its debut in Indian rallying, so did Volkswagen Polo with Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) leading in the 1600cc class, ahead of Byram Godrej (Prjajwal Pai), driving a Maruti Baleno, in second place with Rao in third after docking road penalty of two minutes, 20 seconds for late check-out from service at the end of the day.
In fact, it was Rao who set the pace in the INRC and was placed overall first going into the day’s seventh and final Special Stage. However, close to the finish, his Volkswagen Polo suffered a broken drive shaft, but Rao completed the stage with his co-driver Rajagopal pushing the car over the time control line. Ghosh had mechanical problems to deal with right through the day. Placed second behind Ghosh in overall standings was Bangalore’s Vikram Devadasen (Shrikanth Gowda) who put in a sensible drive in his Mitsubishi Cedia, but has some 23.6 seconds to make up on Sunday if he hopes to win the title.
While Gill was at his fluent best to dominate the day’s proceedings by being the fastest in all the seven Stages, Delhi’s Samir Thapar (Vivek Ponnusamy) of Team JCT Rallying, the lone entry in the Indian Rally Championship (IRC) category driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, was second quickest with a time of 01:15:56.0, despite incurring a penalty of one minute, 10 seconds.
Of the 37 vehicles which started the event, five cars dropped out while Sumit Punjabi (Dr S Dinesh) walked out unhurt after crashing their Cedia.