He is arguably the country’s best rally driver. But for Gaurav Gill, this has been one of his worst years in the Indian National Rally Championship. Hit by technical woes, the JK Tyre ace could not win a single round of the championship this season.
Gill and his navigator Musa Sherif — who are currently in the seventh spot in the overall standings — will look to turn things around when the 25th Popular Rally, the Champions Yacht Club FMSCI INRC’s fifth and final round, begins at the Windsor Castle Hotel, Kottayam, on Saturday morning.
“Yes, this has been a difficult year, we’ve had a lot of issues. These kinds of things are completely out of our control. Sometimes, things don’t go the way you want them to go. We will be looking to turn things around in this rally,” Gill told Sportstar on Friday evening.
Tough special stages
Despite his vast international experience and Asia Pacific Championship victories, Gill feels the special stages in the Popular Rally are tough.
“This is one of the most difficult tarmac events I’ve ever come across. It’s very, very difficult, very fast and completely blind in some places. It will require total commitment,” he said after Friday’s recce.
With many of the big names struggling and dropping out, this season has produced a surprise overall leader in MRF’s Chetan Shivram (co-driver Dilip Sharan, 75 points), who is driving in the INRC-3, a lower category, with Fabid Ahmer (co-driver G. Sanath, 51 points) in the second spot.
“Shivram has conserved his car brilliantly and has been consistent and went to take two overall wins, in Coimbatore and Bengaluru,” said Bikku Babu, the Kerala star who is fourth in the overall INRC standings and who will be one of the stars to watch along with defending Popular Rally champion Younus Ilyas.
The two-day rally, which has attracted 35 teams, will be run around Kottayam and the second stage, at Chotti, could be a tough challenge for the drivers.
“Towards the end of the stage, it was broken badly so it’s being repaired. The road is a bit slippery and with the tarmac tyres the guys might find it a little difficult,” said Babu.
The event, which concludes on Sunday, will cover a total distance of over 500 km, including 121.74 km earmarked for the 12 special stages.
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