National champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) of Team MRF Tyres finally broke the Rally of Maharashtra jinx as he clinched the title in the first round of the 2010 Speed-Indian National Rally Championship in Nashik.
It was virtually a Sunday drive for the front-runners who were more intent on maintaining their overnight positions while negotiating the 2.25 km long Spectator Special Stage that was run in the morning.
Thus, overnight leaders Girijashankar Joshy (co-driver Chandramouli Madiraju) of Ovion Racing in 2000cc (Group N), Rahul Kanthraj (co-driver Vivek Bhatt) in 1600cc, Dr Bikku Babu (co-driver George Verghese) in 1400cc, Phalguna Urs (co-driver Anoop Kumar) in Rally Star Cup and Amarinder Brar (co-driver Himashu Pareek) in Gypsy classes, emerged winners.
Though the 29-year-old Gill, driving a Group N+ Mitsubishi Cedia, conceded about three seconds to arch-rival Vikram Mathias (co-driver PVS Murthy) of Red Rooster Racing, he still won the overall title with over two minutes to spare.
"Finally, I got the monkey off my back and broke the Nashik jinx," was how a relieved Gill reacted. At the same venue last year, Gill's car stalled soon after the start and was out of the competition.
"We went in with a different set-up today and I was more intent on doing some drifts, just to give the spectators something to cheer about. Overall, it was a good outing for us and we had no problems with the car," said Gill as he busied himself to leave for the Asia Pacific Rally championship commencing 3rd July.
Second placed Mathias, who topped the time-charts in the Triple-S, admitted that the Red Rooster Cedias lacked the pace to keep up with Gill.
"We made a few changes for this season, notably suspension, but got caught out in the slow corners in the long Ozharkhed stage (16.64 Kms). Today, the gap was just too big to make up and we didn't even make an attempt," said the 2008 National champion.
For Joshy, it was an excellent outing in the three-day event. "Today, we didn't really push as we had a big lead and yes, it was a Sunday drive. We just wanted to finish the stage today," said the 31-year old, now in his fifth season and winner of the National titles in Rally Star Cup.
Ovion Racing's team manager, Sudham Sargod was obviously delighted that both Joshy and Sujay Suresh (co-driver Varun Satyanarayan) delivered a 1-2 finish. "We are in automotive business and motorsport provides us with branding opportunity. Overall, I am very happy with our team's performance here in Nashik," he said.
Likewise, Kanthraj was happy with his performance here. "For the first time in many rallies, we had a trouble-free run. The preparations were just perfect. We spent a lot of time in building the car and hopefully, we will continue the same way this season," he said.
Provisional final classification:
Overall/2000cc (Group N+): Gaurav Gill/Musa Sherif (MRF Tyres) 1 (1hr, 22mins, 42.5secs); Vikram Mathias/PVS Murthy (Red Rooster Racing) 2 (1:24:53.2); Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik (Red Rooster Racing) 3 (1:26:35.5).
2000cc Group N: Girijashankar Joshy/Chandramouli M (Ovion Racing) 1 (1:29:46.5); Sujay Suresh/Varun Satyanarayan (Ovion Racing) 2 (1:32:01.3); Sirish Chandran/Nikhil Pai (Pvt) 3 (1:34:30.7).
1600cc: Rahul Kanthraj/Vivek Bhatt (Pvt) 1 (1:36:15.4); Shailendra Hegde/Sheraz Ahmed (Pvt) 2 (1:40:02.5).
1400cc: Dr Bikku Babu/George Verghese (Pvt) 1 (1:36:24.8); Byram Godrej/Anjay Kapadia (Pvt) 2 (1:36:39.9); Monish/Jeeva (Pvt) 3 (1:45:49.1).
Rally Star Cup: Phalguna Urs/Anoop Kumar (Pvt) 1 (1:37:26.7); Venkatapathy Mettuchetty/Santosh Kumar Selvaraj (Pvt) 2 (1:38.47.1); VS Rathan/Preetham (Pvt) 3 (1:41:58.6).
Gypsy: Amarinder Brar/Himanshu Pareek (Pvt) 1 (1:36:53.6); Sachin Singh/Adhiraj Bardhan (Pvt) 2 (1:41:19.4); Shakti Bajaj/Dharmesh Sinha (Army) 3 (1:43:00.7).