Indian National Rally Championship begins Saturday


Coimbatore : The first round of the 2009 Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) under the aegis of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) will be flagged off here Saturday amidst high expectations with a new promoter and sponsor in place besides a touch of modernisation by way of GPS tracking and electronic timing.

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With a grid of 60 vehicles competing in five classes and the return of MRF with a four-car team led by the country’s top driver Gaurav Gill and reigning National champion Vikram Mathias of Red Rooster Racing, the INRC has received much needed boost by way of competitiveness.

Of more significance is the world renowned TagHeur timing equipment that will make its maiden appearance in the championship with all the competing vehicles fitted with GPS-enabled tracking and timing devise.

The IMG Sports-Pro Sports Promotions who are promoting the series with Bharat Petroleum’s Speed as the title sponsors, have no doubt put in serious effort to take the INRC to the next level, but few competitors were excited with the Special Stages (138.72 Kms) that was described as “narrow, tight and twisty” and which will take a lot away from the powerful and quick Mitsubishi Cedia (N+ class).

Gill, who will be driving a Cedia, said: “Coimbatore Rally has always been a delight in the past, but this time around, I found the stages are far too tight. A car like the Cedia (2000cc) needs much more space and I feel the going will get tougher as the track surface will get worse as the rally progresses.”

Team-mate Lohit Urs, also in a Cedia, echoed the views, saying: “Not the usual Coimbatore stages. They are not fast and flowing as in the past and I think we will need to be a bit conservative in our approach.”

Up against the MRF team is Mathias, also in a Cedia and he agreed that the stages are “a bit tighter than usual” but with some high speed sections. “The average speed will definitely come down. Also, the tyres and transmission could take a pounding as some sections are quite rough,” he said.

However, D Ramkumar, the clerk-of-the-course (CoC), himself a top-notch co-driver, said the stages were the same as in the past with a few modifications. “With the kind of budgets we have, that’s the best we could do. Even then, the average speed would be in the region of 70Kmph as it was last year.”

The featured N+ class has seven contenders with four from MRF – Gill/co-driver Musa Sherif, Lohit Urs/Chandramouli M, Arjun Balu/Sujith Kumar BS and Arjun Rao Aroor/Satish Rajagopal – and two representing Red Rooster Racing led by Mathias/Srinivasa Murthy PV and Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik, besides a private entry in Biju Anthony/Uday Kumar.

Also in the fray are 26 entries in the Rally Star Cup (carbureted Esteem) category, nine in 1600cc class (Maruti Baleno), 13 in 1400cc class (MPFI Esteem) and five in Maruti Gypsy class.

The two-day event will conclude with a Spectator Special Stage (1.2 Kms) Sunday afternoon.