Forty lakh - give or take a few - is the kind of money that you spend even before you earn the right to dream of being India’s fastest on rally tracks.
These rally folk are weird people. They buy a new car, tear it apart only to build it up again with the most utilitarian components. The car has no ac, bounces around on stiff suspension and tyres, has no rear seat and creates a keening din that’s an assault to both ear and decorum. Of course, while you shorn it of all comfort you do manage to spend about three times more than its cost price on it.
The modified Mitsubishi Cedias that dominated the opening day of the Speed Indian National Rally Championship come equipped with a custom-built engine, a suspension system hovering about the 10 lakh mark and take about two months to build. By the end of it, they churn 230 bhp with a top-end of 200 kph plus and have the ability to snarl over ditches, dips and bumps with contempt. Give a machine like that to a driver on song and the two sing a duet that’s mesmerising in its intensity.
Gaurav Gill is that man in Indian rallying these days. The former crash-more-than-not maverick has matured into a veteran 28-year-old who’s the prime asset for Team MRF right now. The reigning national champion was up against the return of six-time winner Naren Kumar but that particular bit of rivalry will have to play out at a later date as Kumar’s gear box acted up early and broke down completely a few stages later.
Gill leads the pack by a minute and 33 seconds and that is a huge lead given that the competitive stages are all of 12.3, 7.6 and 16.6 kms.
Vikram Mathias and Amittrajit Ghosh, both of Team Red Rooster and in Cedias, are placed 2nd and third. Thankfully all three of these guys are backed by solid sponsors and they don’t have to fork their own cash to fuel their speed dreams.