Chikkamagaluru, December 10: With 40 entries in fray, the Coffee Day India Rally 2015, which doubles up as the concluding round of the FIA Asia Cup and the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, promises high-octane action as the cream of country’s rally talent converge here for the three-day extravaganza beginning Friday.
The event, also supported by Karnataka Tourism and Indian Oil, kicks off with a ceremonial start at the Coffee Day Global premises on Thursday evening, followed by the hugely-popular Super Special Stage at the Amber Valley School grounds on Friday. The cars will then head out of town for the Special Stages on Saturday and Sunday.
The 180 Kms-long Asia Cup Rally which is also a contender event for a round of 2016 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, has attracted eight entries led by Mysuru’s Lohitt Urs with Srikanth Gowda of Mudigere as his co-driver in a Mitsubishi Evo VIII, and Arjun Rao Aroor of Mangaluru (co-driver Satish Rajagopal, Bengaluru) driving the Volkswagen Polo (R2B variant).
None of the registered Asia Cup crews from overseas is taking part as Japan’s Hitoshi Takayama has already clinched the title with a round to spare. However, the Asia Cup participants in the Coffee Day India Rally are eligible for IRC points. With two wins from three starts this season, the vastly experienced Urs heads the IRC points table with a tally of 95, well clear of Team Mahindra Adventure’s former National champion Amittrajit Ghosh from Kolkata (co-driver Ashwin Naik, Mangaluru) who is on 72, driving the Mahindra XUV 500. Also in title hunt is Arjun Rao Aroor with 64 points.
“We have not done much work on the car apart from what was necessary. We didn’t have too many problems this season, winning the previous two rounds, and we hope to carry the momentum in Chikkamagaluru,” said Urs. Behind the top three is Delhi-based reigning National champion and Team Mahindra Adventure’s marquee driver Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif, Mangaluru) who has had a dismal season as he drew blank in two of the three rounds after opening the season with a win in Nashik. With 52 points in the kitty, Gill, the 2013 APRC champion, is effectively out of the title race. The maximum points available are 39 (25 for win and 14 Leg points).
The tight and twisty terrain interspersed with fast and flowing corners, is expected to favour the all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi Evo and the compact Polo cars, though Gill, piloting the heavier and bulkier XUV 500 has often authored his own script with some stunning drives, defying all odds in the process.
In the IRC 2000cc category, Bengaluru pair of Rahul Kanthraj and Vivek Bhatt of Team Yokohama, who won all the three previous rounds, are set to clinch the class championship as they are 34 ahead of Hyderabad’s Sumit Panjabi. A three-way battle is on in the IRC 1600cc class which Kerala’s Dr Bikku Babu (87 points) leads, closely followed by Team Yokohama’s Karna Kadur (70) and Aroor Vikram Rao (61), all driving the Volkswagen Polo.
The scenario in the FMSCI 1600 Cup is much tighter as Ashwin Reddy (87), Druva Chandrasekhar (83) and last year’s champion Adith KC (69) are bunched together at the top.
The organizers, Motor Sports Club of Chikkamagaluru, have laid out yet another challenging route that comprises four physical Special Stages, three of them in the Coffee Day estates and one at the University in Birur with the Asia Cup cars covering 180 Kms and the IRC, 120 Kms. MSCC have put in massive efforts to get the route ready for the event after overcoming huge odds, mostly by way of unseasonal wet weather that hampered preparations.