National Rally Championship: Flying Gill back in charge

Defending national champion Gaurav Gill, who was seventh in the championship table before this rally, came up with a stunning drive despite gearbox problems.

Defending national rally champion Gaurav Gill in action in the 25th Popular Rally, the final round of the Indian National Rally Championship, in Kottayam on Saturday.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

He had a massive 24-point lead over his nearest challenger and Chetan Shivram could almost feel the national championship trophy that appeared to be his. But the season's overall leader had a horrible day in the 25th Popular Rally, the Champions Yacht Club FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship's final round, here on Saturday.

Shivram, the winner of the last two rounds in Coimbatore and Bengaluru, suffered a massive crash in the opening special stage itself and could not complete even one of the day's eight stages. But if the season's last four rounds are any indication, Shivam could still walk away with a good finish in the National championship's final standings even if he misses the starting line-up on Sunday.

Meanwhile, defending national champion Gaurav Gill, who was seventh in the championship table before this rally – came up with a stunning drive despite losing much time with gearbox problems to race to the lead after the opening day in the two-day rally.

READ| Gaurav Gill looking to turn things around

“We had a major gearbox issue on the sixth stage. We actually came on neutral all the way down from the mountain and literally pushed the car into the service. The mechanics did an awesome job but the delay for being late out of service brought us a 50-second penalty and we were were trailing by 43 seconds over our next driver,” said Gill (navigator Musa Sherif), the JK Tyre star who was driving for Team Mahindra Adventure.

“I drove flat out after that and we got back our 50-sec lead in only two stages. I knew that either I'm going to be first or I'm not going to finish. I had nothing to lose because we've had the worst year we could, so we thought might as well give it a push.”

Gill felt that the opening stage at Pinnakanad, which took off three cars, was the toughest and his car was often jumping and flying in the air. Despite his stunning run, Gill (29 points from the last four rounds) has no chance of going past Shivram.

There was a hot contest between Kerala stars Younus Ilyas (Harish Gowda) and Dr. Bikku Babu (Milen George) behind Gill and the two took the second and third spots at the end of the opening day.

Among the big names to drop out midway through the day was Amritrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) with power steering issues.

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