On a day of shock exits, Bengaluru pair of Karna Kadur and co-driver Nikhil Pai (Arka Motorsports) took the overall lead in the Rally of Coimbatore, the first round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship 2021, here on Saturday.
Driving a Volkswagen Polo, Kadur, supported by MRF Tyres, enjoyed a lead of over one minute in the Overall standings after four loops of the extremely dusty Special Stages ahead of Himachal Pradesh’s Aditya Thakur (Virender Kashyap) and Mangaluru’s Dean Mascarenhas (Gagan Karumbaiah) who, however, is placed first in INRC-2 category. Thakur leads the INRC-3 class at the end of Leg-1.
The Rally, organised by Coimbatore Auto Sports Club with MRF Tyres as the associate sponsor, will conclude on Sunday when the two physical Special Stages will be run twice in the reverse order. The scheduled start is at 8:48 am.
This morning, 7-times National champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) packed up after SS-2 due to an electrical issue with their Mahindra XUV 300 and when he was ahead by 49 seconds. Also to retire was 2019 champion Chetan Shivram (Dilip Sharan) from Bengaluru with a broken drive-shaft in SS-1. Both Gill and Shivram, however, will rejoin the rally on Sunday in a bid to secure Leg points.
Kadur, despite nil seat time, showed tremendous pace. “I made some mistakes with the set-up for the first loop, but otherwise, enjoyed a good run despite not having any seat time in the car ahead of the rally,” said Kadur.
On his part, Thakur whose driving skills are honed in the mountains of Himachal, was fortunate to survive a crash after his Polo hit a tree in SS-1, damaging the front fender. “The incident did not affect the performance of the car. I had good pace today and hopefully, we will do better tomorrow,” said Thakur.
Mascarenhas, supported by JK Tyres, came away with a bent rear wheel after his Volkswagen Polo slammed into a tree, but had enough pace to lead in the INRC-2 category. “We hit a tree sideways. One of the wheels got bent, but I managed to keep the car on track. The pace, otherwise, was good. Tomorrow, I will continue with the bent wheel and hopefully, will be able to make time on the leaders,” said Mascarenhas.
Meanwhile, fancied Fabid Ahmer (G Sanath) from Palakkad, who is considered a front-runner for a podium finish, had a disappointing day after suffering a puncture on SS-1 and he continued with it in SS-2 before changing the tyre at the service halt. It pushed him to fourth in the Overall standings. “We lost some two minutes due to the puncture. We had no time to change the wheel between the Stages. In the second loop, we made about 40 seconds. So, I will push hard tomorrow,” said Ahmer.
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