Rana reigns in rain

The defending champion, in the company of his co-driver Ashwin Naik, has clocked a time of 6:59.02, on a Grand Vitara.

Suresh Rana took lead after third leg of the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare at Belagavi on Wednesday.   -  Special Arrangement

On a day that saw rather heavy rain, reigning champion Suresh Rana forced his way into the lead at the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare. And it was for the first time that the veteran driver from Manali was seeing his name on top of the leaders board.

At the end of the opening leg in the Ultimate Car category, he was placed third, but he moved to the second slot after the second. Samrat Yadav was in the lead position after both those legs, but finally on Wednesday, he had to make way for Rana.

The defending champion, in the company of his co-driver Ashwin Naik, has clocked a time of 6:59.02, on a Grand Vitara. Yadav’s Maruti Gypsy is not that far behind at 7:00.15, with S.N. Nizami in the co-driver’s seat.

Former champion Sandeep Sharma has retained the third place, with a timing of 7:05.46. He too is driving a Maruti Gypsy, in the company of Karan Arya. The action on the third day was mostly on the dirt tracks around Aimangala, a village near Chitradurga.

“It was a tough track, but I enjoyed the challenge and am delighted that I have finally taken the lead,” Rana said. “My car had suffered as many as three punctures in the first two legs that had slowed me down a bit. Now I want to retain the lead for the last two legs.”

Yadav would want to assure him that it would not be easy. “My car had stuck in the third stage today and that proved me costly,” he said. “But I feel I am in a position to catch up with Rana.” To do that, he would have to be at his best in the fourth leg, to be held here on Thursday.

The rally concludes at Pune on July 21. In the Ultimate Bike category, T. Natraj (4:29.30) is still in the lead, followed by Abdul Wahid (4:31.26) and Sanjay Kumar (4:35.57). At the end of the second leg of the Endurance (TSD) Car category, Subir Roy and Nirav Mehta were on top of the table, ahead of Karthik Maruthi and S. Sankar Anand & Raghu Nandan and M. Prakash.

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