Chikkamagaluru, December 2: The Coffee Day India Rally, country’s biggest motorsport event after Formula One Indian Grand Prix, gets rolling here tomorrow with Gaurav Gill and co-driver Glenn Macneall of Team MRF Skoda headlining a 50-car combined grid.
The three-day event, organized by the Motorsports Club of Chikkamagaluru, doubles up as the sixth and concluding round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, and Round-4 of the MRF FMSCI Indian Rally Championship. In all, 10 crews are competing in the international section and 40 in the domestic championship.
After tonight’s ceremonial start in the town, the Rally gets down to business with a shakedown followed by Super Special Stage at the Amber Valley School grounds on Saturday before the cars head to the estates of Coffee Day Global, about 30 Kms away, for the Special Stages which will be run on Sunday and Monday. With the region not experiencing rains in the past few weeks, the tight and twisty terrain will be a dust bowl, while putting to test both man and machine.
Delhi-based Gill, who turned 35 today, and who has already sealed the 2016 APRC title, his second in three years, is on the verge of scoring a historic sixth consecutive win this season. If he succeeds, he will become the only driver ever to win all the rounds in this championship that in the past has produced several World champions.
“Though I have already taken the title this year, I still want to finish the season on a high with a win here in my home country in front of my family and friends,” said Gill on the eve of the Rally referring to the presence of his young family, including two sons besides a huge number of fans from all across India, expected to descend on this coffee town that has run out of hotel rooms.
While Gill, driving the super-quick MRF Skoda Fabia R5 is expected to dominate, his team-mate and German champion Fabian Kreim (co-driver Christian Frank) will be involved in a tight battle for the second spot in the championship with Cusco Racing’s Michael Young (Malcolm Read) who will be piloting the Subaru Impreza WRX STi, the same as his two team-mates Sanjay Takale (Noriko Takeshita) and Japan’s Yuya Sumiyama (Takahiro Yasui).
Meanwhile, in the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, Team Mahindra Adventure’s London-based Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik), who heads the Overall leaderboard driving the Mahindra XUV 500 and Mangaluru’s Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Rajagopal), in the more nimble Volkswagen Polo R2 are locked in a titanic battle, just one point separating the two as each won a round.
With Gill, who drove for Mahindra Adventure in the previous three rounds and won in Nashik, not in the fray in the National Championship here, both Ghosh and Rao have an excellent chance to consolidate their positions.
The position is similar in the INRC 2000 class where young Karna Kadur (Nikhil Pai) is just three points ahead of Dr Bikku Babu (Milen George) while Jacob KJ (Manoj Manmohan) is comfortably placed in the FMSCI Cup category, having won all the previous three rounds.
In the IRC class, PG Abhilash (Srikanth Gowda) heads the championship following two wins, but he will be in a 2-wheel drive Cedia as his Mitsubishi Evo 8 could not be transported from Malaysia on time. He won two of the three rounds with a non-finish in the Delhi leg of the championship.
The APRC cars will cover a total distance of 519.02 Kms of which 225.26 Kms comprise 17 Special Stages while the National Championship vehicles will do 315.05 Kms with 102.14 Kms of Special Stages.