Call it luck or sweet surprise, Team Akshara’s Chetan Shivram (co-driver Dilip Sharan), the INRC 3 driver, finished on top of the overall pack on the opening day of the Rally of Coimbatore, the second round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, at the Kethanur windmill farms in Palladam on Saturday.
It was Team Mahindra Adventure’s Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) calling the shots for most part of the gruelling rally that saw almost half the field falling by the wayside. Gill was in an attacking mood in the first three stages even as the others struggled to come to terms with the treacherous terrain that threw new challenges to both the men and the machines. Blame it on the overnight rains but Gill managed it all with ease.
The three-time APRC champion, supported by JK Tyre, looked set for a strong finish with some good stage timings. It was at this juncture that lady luck let him down badly. Going into the fourth stage, Gill suffered a flat front tyre quite early but, the Delhi star decided to carry on. It turned out to be costly as the lower arm of his car gave way midway through and, it was all over for him there.
Opening the field
And that opened the field for the rest to catch up on some lost timings. Quite a few tried and failed but at the end it was Chetan and his younger brother Dilip who managed to emerge the day’s leader much to the joy of his team.
The INRC 2 drivers Suhem Kabeer (Jeeva Rathinam) and Younus Ilyas (Harish Gowda) of Race Concepts, backed by JK Tyre, are now right behind the leader. It can be anybody’s game from here on Sunday.
“We were not really looking at the overall at the start but then call it luck or hard work of my team. Also, there were lots of slush and ruts but a good rally driver should drive any time. And, that’s my opinion,” said Chetan.
“There are lots of parts to rallying such as co-driver, service team and some luck and, driving is only a part of it. We, as a driver-navigator combination, played a good role,” he added.
Gill was not a happy man and he has always been frank with his admission. “We had a flat and we looked for an appropriate place to change the tyres as it was all muddy. We waited for the right place and ended up unfortunately in this situation.”
“I had no idea how it was going to respond and it collapsed very quickly, way quicker than I had anticipated,” he added.
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