2013 INRC season finale: Arjun Rao Aroor wins Coffee Day Rally
While the 2013 Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) might have already been sealed at the K1000 Rally earlier this year, with Amittrajit Ghosh and Ashwin Naik taking home the title, there was plenty to look forward to at the Coffee Day Rally 2013. The final round of the INRC, held amidst the coffee plantations at Chikmagalur, was the battleground that would see the final championship positions settled up and down the order. The battle for second in the INRC championship was down to the wire with a mere four points separating Arjun Rao Aroor from Vikram Devadasan. Over in the 1600cc class, Aroor was fighting for the championship win with Sirish Chandran. The title was close in the JINRC too, with Asad Khan and Suhem MK separated by five points in the championship.
Overall win at the Coffee Day Rally ensured Arjun Rao Aroor also won the 1600 title
There were more reasons that the Chikmagalur Rally was going to be special, though. For one, there was the fact that it was a contender for the 2014 Asia Cup, which meant that the all stops would be pulled out to ensure that the rally ran to perfection. Then there was also the fact that Volkswagen had decided to bring in a diesel rally car to the stages at Chikmagalur. The Volkswagen Polo GT TDI was rally prepped, with Vikram Mathias behind the wheel, co-driven by Vivek Ponnusamy. People were also looking forward to seeing exactly how the Volkswagen Polo R2 performed after its debut round in the INRC. And to make the crowd in Chikmagalur cheer a little bit more, Sameer Thapar was bringing down the Mitsubishi Evo X, co-driven by GS Mann. Let's see how things turned out at the season finale then.
Fastest car of the rally all through, but Karamjit Singh was out of contention when the lower arm on the Polo R2 gave way on the last stage of the rally
The Super Special Stage held at the grounds of the Amber Valley School was a dusty affair. Sameer Thapar took his Evo X to the top of the timing sheets, completing the two loops of the track with a time of 2min 39.3 seconds. Of course, the Evo X was only eligible for the IRC class. So it was Sirish Chandran, with a timing of 2min 45.3 seconds, who was the fastest of the INRC cars. Off to the three stages of Chettnahalli, Kumaragode and Chandrapura for the titles to be decided, then.
As things turned out, it was Karamjit Singh who would clock the fastest times in every single one of the stages during Leg 1 of the rally. The white and yellow Polo R2 would run away at the head of the field, giving him a clear lead in the rally by the end of Day 1. The closest anyone could get to him would probably be when Arjun Rao Aroor, also in a Volkswagen Polo, would clock a timing of 11min 57.6 seconds, to Singh's 11min 57.2 seconds, during SS5 of the event. How did the GT TDI perform? While Mathias was running well, the diesel Polo clocking good timings, two punctures - one in SS4 and the other in SS7 - would see him lose valuable seconds, putting him down the order. While Singh was running away at the head of the timing sheets, though, there were rally cars dropping off the running order all along the way. The stages at Chikmagalur were narrow, twisty and also rocky. What this meant was that it was a terribly technical rally, one that would separate the men from the boys. The experienced runners would manage to make it through, all right, but a lot of the younger drivers would drop out. At the end of the first day's running, of the 41 cars that started the rally, 19 cars dropped out along the way. Amongst the retirees was APRC Champion Gaurav Gill, in the SuperXUV, out of contention with a mechanical failure. Also out of contention was Sameer Thapar in the Evo X. Leading the INRC was Vikram Devadasan, co-driven by Ashwin Naik, in the Mitsubishi Cedia.
Vikram Devadasan won the 2000cc class of the rally in his Mitsubishi Cedia
While some cars did not make it to the start of the rally the next day, there were still 28 cars that attempted the second leg of the event at Chikmagalur. Gill, however, opted to sit out of the rally, owing mainly to the fact that an old leg injury had flared up, making driving a rally car a painful exercise. What looked clear, however, was that it was Karamjit Singh who would continue to be the man at the head of the timing sheets. Of course, this was true of SS8 and SS9. However, things all changed on SS10. The lower arm on the left hand side of the Polo R2 broke (it was found to be missing three bolts), which meant that Singh (co-driven by Jagdev Singh) was not a classified finisher in the event. The fact that the R2 had broken down on the Chandrapura stage and couldn't be cleared in time also led to the stage being cancelled. This meant the fastest car of Leg 2 would be the Team Jungle Hut Polo GT TDI, piloted by Mathias.
Vikram Mathias in the Team Jungle Hut Volkswagen Polo GT TDI
At the end of the rally it would be Arjun Rao Aroor, who would take overall win at the Chikmagalur Rally, his first overall win in a long time. This would also aid him to victory in the 1600cc class of the event. It is the third time that Aroor has finished overall second in the INRC championship, something that the driver is keen on changing next year. And while he is keen on continuing to rally in the Volkswagen Polo, there is a good chance that he will switch to rallying the Polo R2 next season.
Sameer Thapar might have set the fastest time during the SSS, but the Evo X was out of contention on the first day of the rally
Finishing second overall at Chikmagalur was Vikram Devadasan, while Sirish Chandran finished third in the event. With Singh out of contention in the IRC class, the win in the category went to Sumit Panjabi, co-driven by V Venuramesh. Second place (and the only other classified finisher) in the class, was Syam Chellapan (co-driven by Sob George).
Sumit Panjabi and V Venuramesh won the IRC class after Singh's retirement
While Vikram Devadasan won the 2000cc class at the event, second place went to Prithvi Dominic (co-driven by Ravindra MS), and third place went to Dr Bikku Babu and George Verghese.
Over in the 1600cc class, the win went to Aroor (co-driven by Satish Rajagopal), second place went to Sirish Chandran and Nikhil Pai, while third place went to Hrishkesh Thackersay (co-driven by Niraj Mirajgaonkar).
The JINRC class also saw a Volkswagen Polo at the top, with Rohan Pawar (co-driven by Arjun Mehta) beating the Esteems of Dhruva C (co-driven by Roopesh BC), while Ashika Menezes and co-driver V Lokesh Gowda finished third.
With Gill out of contention in the SUVNRC, the win fell to Sunny Sidhu (co-driven by PVS Murthy), with Lohitt Urs and Bonnie Thomas finishing second. It was Sidhu's best performance all year, with the driver admiting that he has finally been able to adapt to the SuperXUV.
Gaurav Gill and Musa Sherif suffered their first DNF of the season
Now let's see what the 2014 season of the Indian Rally Championship has on offer!
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