24th Popular Rally: Gaurav Gill triumphs, takes National driver’s title

The three-time Asia-Pacific Rally champion from Delhi had Kerala’s seasoned Musa Sherif as his navigator.

Gaurav Gill (left) and his navigator Musa Sherif after winning the 24th Popular Rally, the final round of the MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, in Kochi on Sunday.   -  special arrangement

Despite going through some tense moments midway through the final day, Gaurav Gill won the 24th Popular Rally here on Sunday evening and with it the National driver’s title for the sixth year.

The Team Mahindra Adventure driver had built up a huge 53-second lead over his nearest rival, Kollam’s Younus Ilyas, after the nine-stage penultimate day in Idukki.

But on Sunday, he lost a little more than 30 seconds and finished 13th in the final day’s second stage, the 8.5km road at Peermedu just before coming to Kochi.

“I had a big lead yesterday but I cut it down to almost 20 seconds, we had a small issue so I decided to slow down completely. The rally was not easy but I would say, it was under control,” said Gill, the three-time Asia-Pacific Rally champion from Delhi, who had Kerala’s seasoned Musa Sherif as his navigator.

Meanwhile Ilyas, who had a dream run on Saturday, also had a few worries on the final day. The Race Concepts driver lost his way in the two-day rally’s shortest stage – the 2km super special stage at Kalamassery’s HMT Colony – and that cost him some 12 seconds but he hung on to finish overall second, a creditable performance for someone who had three DNFs (did not finish) in four rallies this season.

“I not only went the wrong way in the final stage, my car got switched off too. So, we had to push hard in the final round. This is my best-ever finish in a national championship rally,” said the 24-year-old Younus (navigator K.N. Harish) who also topped the INRC-2 category in the rally.

The results (Popular Rally, last round of INRC National championship): 1. Gaurav Gill & Musa Sherif  (Team Mahindra Adventure) 1:29:58.9s, 2. Younus Ilyas & K.N. Harish (Race Concepts Motorsport) 1:30:33.1, 3. Karna Kadur & Nikhil V. Pai (Arka Motorsports) 1:30:54.4.

INRC-1: 1. Gaurav Gill & Musa Sherif, 2. Sirish Chandran & A.A. Ragnekar (SC) 3. Amittrajit Ghosh & Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure).

INRC-2: 1. Younus Ilyas & Harish, 2. Karna Kadur & Nikhil Vittal Pai, 3. Phalguna Urs & G.M. Srikanth (Snap Racing).

INRC-3: 1. Dean Mascarenhas & Shruptha Padival, 2. Fabid Ahmer & G. Sanat (Chettinad Sporting), 3. Darius N. Shroff & Shahid Salman.

FMSCI 2WD CUP: 1. Vikram Gowda & B.G. Sudhundra (VG), 2. Suraj Thomas &  Sob (ST), 3. Lanusanen Pongener & Amrith (Amrith).

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