Bikku Babu trumps strong field

Dr. Bikku Babu (Milen George) of Team Champions took everybody by surprise by topping the time sheets at 03:10.8s.

Points to ponder: Mahindra Adventure teammates Gaurav Gill and Amittrajit Ghosh.   -  Special Arrangement

Six-time national rally champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) has always gone full throttle from the start. But for once, he seemed to drive a bit cautiously in the opening stage (SSS) of the 41st South India Rally, the season's opening round of the Champions Yacht Club – FMSCI MMSC Indian National Rally Championship at the MMRT here on Friday.

Even as the three-time APRC star played it safe on the tarmac, Dr. Bikku Babu (Milen George) of Team Champions took everybody by surprise by topping the time sheets at 03:10.8s.

But it did not matter much for Gill as he knew the game has just begun. "We had some technical issues but I am not bothered much as we still have two more days. We will get it sorted out and, expect a better show tomorrow (Saturday)," said Gill.

"This rally is quite special for me. I had been here as a 15-year-old with my uncle and since then it has become my favourite," he added.

Talking about the dirt stages after the recee, he said it was a beauty to drive. "A lot of hard work has gone in preparing the stages. It's pretty smooth and fast and, for us having touched high speeds at the international level, we want to replicate the same in India."

And he is quite certain do that as he is on a brand new car (Mahindra Adventure XUV300 R2 petrol) and with brand new rubbers (JK Tyres).

“We had two days of testing at Coimbatore last week and we were really pleased with the whole set-up,” said Gill.

His Mahindra Adventure team-mate Amittrajit Ghosh however spun his car two corners before the finish.

The first round of the INRC powered by MRF will see 51 top rallyists from across the country fight it our over a total distance of 298.70kms with many as 117.33kms earmarked for eleven special stages on gravel and dirt tracks.

This is a perfect start to the championship,” said INRC promoter Vamsi Merla. “We have already had the most number of entries and the biggest crowd at INRC, making it that much more thrilling for all of us,” he added.