Vicky Chandhok's gritty return to the rally

After bidding adieu to competitive racing 18 years ago, Vicky Chandhok took to the wheels in the first round of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC).

Vicky Chandhok in action in a Polo R2 at the Indian National Rally Championship.   -  Special Arrangement

“I'm glad we lasted the day and I'm not washed out,” summed up a tiring, yet, an elated 61-year-old Vicky Chandhok after scorching the race tracks after a gap of more than a decade and a half.

Chandhok took to the wheels of a Volkswagen Polo R2, in the first round of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) at the Madras Motor Race Track at Irungattukottai, near here on Saturday, for the first time after bidding adieu to competitive racing 18 years ago.

Although, Chandhok couldn’t make further inroads in the race, which was dominated by Gaurav Gill, the former president of the FMSCI was in awe with the day’s proceedings. “I'm actually now looking forward to tomorrow. I took a while to, let's say, come to terms with the car. For me, coming to terms with the co-driver, recording pace notes, using the corners, the race, left, right etc, you know, he was constantly in your ear giving you instructions.

"So, suddenly everything was quite new to me. It all needs to come back and register. So, the first time, I was driving more by way of sight rather than listening to the co-driver all the time. That's how we used to drive in the old days,” Chandhok said.

Talking about the Polo R2 car, Chandhok said, “I've never driven something like this before. This is a proper rally car. It's got the entire package. It's got a great engine to run. Because of the way the car is built, you must have very little steering input and that’s the tricky part. One should have the confidence that as soon as you stomp on the gas, the car is built in such a way with the LSD gear box, that it'll drag out whichever way the wheels are pointing. It's definitely a very technical car to drive. But, as a package made in India there's nothing that's going to come close. And, I would dare say that if you put a driver like (Gaurav) Gill in it, he would definitely be quicker than his own time off today by at least two minutes. That's the potential of the car."

Chandhok confessed that he had to do a lot of homework before he entered into the fray. “I have been working with my physiotherapist for an hour and a half every morning for the last three to four weeks. I've never done this in my entire life, even when I was rallying. I enjoy my beer in the summer. I've stopped taking beverages. I've stopped taking masala food. I thought I should put in as much effort as I can from my side. In the morning, Gill pulled me aside and asked me to stay hydrated the whole day and eat a lot of bananas and chocolates. That’s what I did and I am happy with the way things have panned out so far,” the 61-year-old added.

The veteran racer said confidence in the manufacturer was one of the reasons why he decided to give rallying a shot again. “I have never been a car-breaker in my entire rallying career. Unless something unfortunate happened, I always try and bring the car to finish. This whole way of working, is bringing me back my rallying days. I think I would have never have attempted to re-enter a rally if I didn't have the confidence of this kind of a service back-up (referring to the back staff) and the manufacturer's backup,” Chandhok added.

Defending champion Gaurav Gill asserted his supremacy in the opening round of the MRF-FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship (INRC), jumping into an early lead after day 1 of the 40th South India Rally, here on Saturday.

Gill, along with his trusted co-driver, Musa Sherif, survived an early scare with the brakes on his Super XUV 500 before slowly coming into his own and winning the last four stages.

The Team Mahindra Adventure pair needed just 44 minutes and 35 seconds to complete the day’s five stages and stay ahead of the pack. But, they know that it won’t be an easy ride on Sunday, with as many as five drivers within striking distance of him.

Younus Ilyas & Harish Kumar (Team Younus Ilyas), in INRC 2, were snapping on his heels all through the day, taking the second position with an impressive timing of 45:39.5. They were just a little over a minute behind Gill.


INRC: 1) Gaurav Gill/Musa Sherif (Team Mahindra Adventure) – 44:35.0 mins; 2) Younus Ilyas/Harish Kumar (Team Younus Ilyas) – 45:39.5 mins; 3) Karna Kadur/Nikhil V Pai (Arka Motorsports) – 45:44.2 mins

INRC 2: 1) Younus Ilyas/Harish Kumar (Team Younus Ilyas) –  45:39.5 mins; 2) Karna Kadur/Nikhil V Pai (Arka Motorsports) – 45:44.2 mins; 3) Rahul Kanthraj/Vivek Y Bhatt (Arka Motorsports) – 46:57.7 mins.

INRC 3: 1) Dean Mascarenhas/Shruptha Padival (Falkon Motorsports) – 45:51.1 mins; 2) Aroor Vikram Rao/Somayya A.G (Falkon Motorsports) – 46:10.2 mins; 3) Chetan Shivram/Rupesh Kholay (Team Akshara) – 46:16.4 mins.


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