Rally de Bengal: Rao leads Gill on Day One

Kolkata, Oct 31 (IANS) Mangalore-based Arjun Rao and co-driver Satish Rajagopal, in a Volkswagen Polo, took a 16.6-second lead over championship leader Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) of Mahindra Adventure at the end of a chaotic Leg-1 of the Rally de Bengal, the fourth round of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, near here Friday.

The rough terrain of the one physical Special Stage that was run thrice took a heavy toll with six of the 18 starters retiring though most opted to err on the side of caution. Three more Stages will be run Saturday.
While Rao came up with an excellent drive to win one of the three Stages, Gill, the 2013 Asia Pacific champion and driving the Mahindra XUV 500, had to contend with brake failure that led to loss of time on the second loop.
A satisfied Rao said: “The first loop was a bit slippery due to pebbles, but the second and third runs were just fantastic. The route was fast and flowing, but navigation was very critical as there was no margin for error. Overall, am happy with the car and will try to drive the same way tomorrow.”
Gill said: “The terrain was pretty quick though the loose stones made it a bit tricky, especially in the first loop. Thereafter, it settled down and the cars which are lighter than our SUV had the advantage. We are trailing by about 16 seconds and obviously, I will be attacking tomorrow, but will not take any unnecessary risk.”
Bangalore-based veteran Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) of Team Yokohama and piloting the Mitsubishi Cedia, comfortably led the IRC 2000 class as did Adith KC (Harish KN) in the FMSCI 1600 Cup.
Among those retiring were local hero and 2013 National champion Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) of Team Mahindra Adventure and JCT Rallying’s Samir Thapar (Gurinder Mann) in a Evo X.
Provisional classification (Leg-1):
IRC Overall: Arjun Rao / Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo) 1 (39mins, 25.7secs); Gaurav Gill / Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 2 (39:42.3); Sunny Sidhu / PVS Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 3 (40:54.0).
IRC 2000: Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Cedia) 5 (43:51.3); Saddam Ali / Chandan Sen 2 (48:05.6); Sumit Panjabi / Venu Ramesh Kumar (Cedia) 3 (1hr, 12mins, 45.8secs).
IRC 1600: Rao / Rajagopal 1; Phalguna Urs / Anoop Kumar (VW Polo) 4 (43:23.2); Adith KC / Harish KN (Honda City V-Tec) 3 (44:36.5).
FMSCI 1600 Cup: Adith / Harish 1; Parag Dhiwar / Aditya Dhiwar (Maruti Baleno) 2 (48:04.0); Aniruddha Ranganekar / Nitin Jacob (Maruti Baleno) 3 (51:45.6).