A well-contested rally

The overall winners -- from left -- Samir Thapar and Gurinder Singh Mann (third), V. R. Naren Kumar and D. Ram Kumar (first) and Vikram Mathias and B. S. Sujith Kumar (second). -- Pic. SCORP FEATURES-The overall winners -- from left -- Samir Thapar and Gurinder Singh Mann (third), V. R. Naren Kumar and D. Ram Kumar (first) and Vikram Mathias and B. S. Sujith Kumar (second). -- Pic. SCORP FEATURES

IF there is a National Rally that can earn points the first time it is run, it is the Power M1 Challenge conducted by the Motorsport 1, an organisation, founded by Nawaz Sandhu (nee Bathena). Power Challenge was an example of how a rally should be run. Having experience in the field of rallying is something, but putting it to good use is another and Nawaz proved her organising prowess.

The fourth round of the MAI (Motorsports Association of India) run Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) brought back the dare-devil sport of rallying to the Northern part of India. A famous sport in this part of the country way back in the seventies, the city of Chandigarh went out of the National Championship for six years, after the Mountain Challenge was run in 1997. The MAI became the ASN of FIA (Federation Internationelle Motorsport) in 2000 and after that was looking at organising an event in Northern India. Hats off to Nawaz Sandhu, the well known rally and racing lady driver of yesteryear. She decided to run this event after she moved into Chandigarh last year, after marrying Karandip Singh Sandhu.

The Power M1 Challenge brought life into rallying in Chandigarh, and some of the old `bombshell' drivers such as Samir Thapar and Rajeev Khanna and four time National Champion Hari Singh's co-driver Gurinder Singh Mann were present to take the start. A total of 16 cars lined up for the Power M1 Challenge. In fact many more entries were expected, but for obvious reasons could not enter. Whether the sport is benefiting from the MAI-FMSCI imbroglio or not, the competitors are suffering.

On September 19, after pre-event scrutiny to confirm that the participating cars were to the standards laid out by the MAI, all the gleaming rally cars went around the city in the evening. The Power M1 Challenge kicked off with a Super Special Stage (SSS) for the spectators to get a closer view at the Parade Grounds in Chandigarh. If there was anything in the Power M1 Challenge that needs to be improved, it is the SSS. The lighting was poor and no crowd due to the lack of publicity. The next two days ran nine Special Stages, over three basic Special Stages, to total up the required Competitive distance.

The Power M1 Challenge belonged to Karandip Singh and co-driver Jaidas Menon, but for an unfortunate mishap. The first leg of the Power M1 Challenge that started from Chandigarh and ran through the foothills of the Himalayas in the Kasauli area brought in new leaders in the fourth round of the MAI Indian National Rally Championship. Team MRF's Karandip Singh and co-driver Jaidas Menon took a 13 seconds lead over team-mate and championship leader V.R. Naren Kumar and co-driver D. Ramkumar, finishing the day on top. "We actually had a 21 seconds lead over Naren", said Karandip, who is running second in the National Championship. "Both Naren and me are going on our limits and it is not going to be easy. In the first stage, Naren made three seconds on me, then in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th stage, I made 2, 4, 10 and 11 seconds respectively. In the 6th stage, we eased off a bit since the stage had become a little rough. But it was a bad strategy. Taking the stage flat out, Naren, made eight seconds on us. In the last stage we both tied and the lead came down to 13 seconds", he said.

Karandip who should have comfortably taken the Power M1 Challenge, lost the rally in a freak accident in the second leg. But Providence saw him escape with no injuries. Karandip, who rolled over the mountain side after his MRF Honda V Tec brakes snapped, said: "We were at a deep curve in the second stage of the day, and were going all out, when the brakes snapped without any warning (Normally we get a warning as the brakes get weaker and weaker). I had no other go but to go over the mountain. We went on the side, did a somersault and landed 40 feet down on all fours. Thank God, the car did not suffer much damage".

With Karandip Singh and Jaidas Menon out of their way, Team MRF Tyres' V.R. Naren Kumar and co-driver D. Ramkumar once again were on the podium, the eighth time in a row in the Power M1 Challenge. The Coimbatore duo had an easy day after team-mates Karandip Singh and co-driver Jaidas Menon pulled out of the second leg making the day easier for Naren and Ram as they had to finish the event. Talking about his eighth victory, Naren Kumar said, "It was a hard fought one. Both Karandip and I were driving to our limits, but for his retirement I do not think it would have been an easy victory. We could make 2 and 3 minutes on him, but not more".

In the 1400cc class, fire-brand rallyists, Team JCT Samir Thapar and Asian Zone and four time National Champion co-driver Gurinder Singh Mann, who were back after a long gap, driving Karthikeyan's car from Coimbatore, proved that they have not rusted, fighting it out from the word go, to emerge winners and the third spot overall. (Karthikeyan had become a proud further recently). "I am delighted to be here after four years and win", said Samir Thapar. "It is good to be back in rallying after two years and win this class", said Gurinder Singh Mann. In fact, the second placed Lohith V. Urs and co-driver M.K. Boppanna had a lot of complaints about their car and wished that a better car would have won them the rally. The fight was on between Championship leaders Rahul Kanthraj from Team Movva and Lohith V. Urs from the word go, but Samir had nothing to lose as he was enjoying a rally drive after long. Rahul who was leading the class until the second stage found the lower arm of his Movva Esteem pack up and come out of the knuckles ending his campaign in the first leg itself. "We had a lead of 8 seconds on Lohith and 9 on Samir, when this happened. Lohith who was leading 9 seconds over Samir until the third stage said: "We started taking it cool because Rahul was out and the 4th stage was very rough. We found our tyres chewed up by the time we climbed that stage, and to our shock Samir made 50 seconds on us in that. Though he has the advantage of the imported Silverstone tyres that he is driving on, I would still say that he is very good on this terrain and we are having a good competition after a long time".

In the Rally Star Cup category, Ram Prashanth and co-driver Thiru Murthy took the lead from first leg leaders Ranjit and Shanmuga who faced some problems with their car in the last two stages. Winning their maiden rally, Ram Prashanth said: "Our advantage was that I have finally found a co-driver who has been with me for the past two events." Prashanth has been having different co-drivers for every event. The Coimbatore duo have won the top spot in the sixth rally of their career, and seem to be poised for better days. Team Mandovi Arjun and Chinnappa who are leading the National Championship in this class were out of the rally after the first leg due to crossing the stipulated `maximum permitted lateness'. "We went off the road and by the time we could recover and come back into the rally, it was too late", said Chinnappa.

Another impressive performance was that of Team MRF Vikram Mathias and co-driver B.S. Sujith Kumar who after many DNFs (Did not finishes) finished a rally at second position.

The Power M1 Challenge that started with 16 cars, had three drop-outs each in the two legs, to end the rally with 10 finishers. Leela of Team MRF had a mechanical problem with his Honda V Tec. Rahul Khanna and daughter driver-Meha had too many problems with their car and pulled out.

The total run for Leg I was 342.11 kms including the competitive Special Stage distance and 275.85 kms of traversing Liaison distance, and the second leg distance of 235.18 kms comprising 36.18 kms of Competitive Special Stages, and 199 kms of traversing Liaison distance. Completing a total of 577.29 kms in all, the finish line ceremony at the Leisure Valley where the winners popped Champagne was an impressive one. Himachal war dancers and local cultural troupes entertained the gathering.

The prize distribution function was all fun and frolic. A very impressive cup called the Patiala Cup, which is in the Sandhu household in connection with Horse Racing, was given to Motrosport 1 to be presented as a rolling trophy to the winner — Naren and Ram, who held it for the first time

The results:

Overall: 1. Team MRF Limited — V.R. Naren Kumar & D. Ram Kumar — 1:43.46, 2. Team MRF Limited — Vikram Mathias & B.S. Sujith Kumar — 1:44.22, 3. Team JCT — Samir Thapar & Gurinder Singh Mann — 1:46.25, 4. Lohith. V. Urs & M.K. Boppanna — 1:47.31, 5. Team Gulf Oil — Jiby Maliakkal & Nikhil. V. Pai — 1:51.43, 6. Rajiv Suri & Rajeev Mehta — 1:58.22.

Upto 1400 cc Class: 1. Team JCT — Samir Thapar & Gurinder Singh Mann — 1:46.25, 2. Lohith V. Urs & M.K. Boppanna — 1:47.31.

Rally Star Cup: 1. Ram Prashanth & Thiru Murthy — 1:51.18, 2. Team RAC — Ranjith Ballal & Shanmuga — 1:51.41, 3. Yogeshwar Gill & Harkanwal Cheema — 2:05.23, 4. Krishna Kumari & Namrata Kumari — 2:16.40. — Scorp News