Ghosh and Naik top in South India Rally

Chennai, March 24 (IANS) Overnight leader National champion Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) nursed his ailing Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia (Group N) to a splendid victory in the AVT Premium South India Rally even as debutants Mahindra XUV 500 and Volkswagen Polo achieved a 1-2 finish in their respective categories to provide a memorable finale to the first round of the 2013 FMSCI Indian Rally Championship here Sunday.

It was all that Kolkata’s Ghosh could do to bring the Cedia home in one piece as he had to deal with mechanical problems through the two days and 14 Special Stages to clock one hour, 54 minutes, 09.3 seconds to annex the Overall title.
“Over the two days, we had to change 13 parts and we never had a clean stage. Thus, it was great to come away with a win, my second here after 2011, and start the new season with maximum points although we didn’t get to drive the way we wanted,” said Ghosh.
Finishing second behind Ghosh was Bangalore Vikram Devadasen (Shrikanth Gowda), also in a Cedia, with a time of 01:54:41.5 while the Kerala pair of Dr Bikku Babu and George Verghese came in third at 01:55:31.0.
In the INRC 1600cc class, Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) and Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal), both in Volkswagen Polo, finished in that order ahead of Byram Godrej (Prajwal Pai) who drove a Maruti Baleno.
“It was a good result for Volkswagen Polo considering that we came to the event with hardly any testing, but the car handled well even in the rougher sections which speaks a lot for its reliability. Our thanks to Volkswagen for providing all the support,” said Chandran.
There were celebrations in Mahindra Adventure camp too as 2011 champion Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif), driving the XUV 500, was the quickest overall and duly won the title in the SUV category with team-mate Sunny Sidhu (PV Srinivas Murthy) coming in second followed by the lone Gypsy entry, Bangalore’s Sanjay Agarwal (Shivaprakash E).
“The performance of the XUV 500 was beyond our expectations. A lot of people had underestimated the capability of the XUV, but we showed what it was capable of. It was a learning experience and I am sure we will improve through the season.
“The MRF tyres also played an important part in our success. They gave us specially prepared tyres for this event and they worked really well,” said Gill who underlined his status as country’s top Rally driver.
Also impressive was Delhi’s Samir Thapar (Vivek Ponnusamy), the lone entrant in the Indian Rally Championship category in an all-wheel drive, turbo-charged Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Thapar, returning to rallying after a 12-year break, was the second fastest behind Gill, clocking 01:52:59.0.
Topping the Junior INRC class was Suhem MK and Jeevarathinam J in a Maruti Baleno while Asad Khan (Zayne Asrar) driving a Maruti Esteem were second with Adith KC (Robin Rajkumar), also in a Maruti Esteem completing the podium.
Provisional final classification:
INRC Overall: Amittrajit Ghosh / Ashwin Naik (Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (01hr, 54mins, 09.3secs); Vikram Devadasen / Shrikanth Gowda (Mitsubishi Cedia) 2 (01:54:41.5); Dr Bikku Babu / George Verghese (Mitsubishi Cedia) 3 (01:55:31.0).
INRC 2000cc (Group N): Ghosh / Naik (Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (01:54:09.3secs); Devadasen / Gowda (Mitsubishi Cedia) 2 (01:54:41.5); Dr Babu / Verghese (Mitsubishi Cedia) 3 (01:55:31.0).
INRC 1600cc: Sirish Chandran / Nikhil V Pai (Volkswagen Polo) 1 (01:56:00.2); Arjun Rao / Satish Rajagopal (Volkswagen Polo) 2 (01:56:47.6); Byram Godrej / Prajwal Pai (Maruti Baleno) 3 (01:57:19.4).
JINRC: Suhem MK / Jeevarathinam J (Maruti Baleno) 1 (01:58:08.8); Asad Khan / Zayne Asrar (Maruti Esteem) 2 (01:58:54.5); Adith KC / Robin Rajkumar (Maruti Esteem) 3 (02:03:21.0).
SUV: Gaurav Gill / Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 1 (01:50:32.3); Sunny Sidhu / PV Srinivas Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 2 (01:59:20.9); Sanjay Agarwal / Shivaprakash E (Maruti Gypsy) 3 (01:59:27.5).
Indian Rally Championship: Samir Thapar / Vivek Ponnusamy (Mitsubhishi Lancer Evo X) 1 (01:52:59.0).