52 entries set for South India Rally

There is heightened expectations and excitement ahead of the 47th MMSC South India Rally to be run here from March 15 to 17 and which has attracted 52 entries.

The three-day event, organized by the Madras Motor Sports Club, and promoted by Blueband Sports, doubles up as the first round of AVT Gold Cup FIA APRC South India Rally – Asia Cup which has received 10 entries, all from India, and the Blueband fmsci Indian National Rally Championship (52 entries, including the 10 APRC contenders) to be contested over 137 Kms of 13 Special Stages and covering an overall distance of about 446 Kms.

The Madras International Circuit is the hub of most activity, including the Super Special and Track Stages. It will also house the Service Park, the Rally Headquarters and Media Centre.

The Asia Cup entry list is headlined by Mangalorean Aroor Arjun Rao (co-driver Satish Rajagopal), the 2023 Overall National champion, driving a Maruti Suzuki Baleno and representing Mandovi Racing. Rao also heads the INRC field which includes Delhi’s Harkrishan Wadia (co-driver Kunal Kashyap), the 2023 INRC 2 champion, and Chandigarh-based Jahaan Singh Gill (Suraj Keshav Prasad) of SNAP Racing who has moved up to INRC 2 after capturing the INRC 3 and JINRC titles last season.

A notable absentee is multiple APRC and INRC champion Gaurav Gill who had originally entered, but withdrew at the last minute due to delay in getting his Ford Fiesta shipped from Dubai in time for this weekend’s event.

The seven-round INRC comprises various classes that include Overall (INRC), INRC 2, INRC 3, Junior INRC (below 26 years of age) and Women, besides the FMSCI Challenge Cup, a non-championship category for Maruti Gypsy vehicles.

Harkrishan Wadia
The weekend action will witness seven female competitors, including five drivers – Pragathi Gowda (Bengaluru), Harshitha Gowda (Bengaluru), Phoebe Nongrum (Arunachal Pradesh), Anushriya Gulati (Pune, 2023 women’s champion) and Tarushi Vikram (Chikkamagaluru), besides two co-drivers Trisha Alonkar (Bengaluru, 2023 National co-driver champion) and Shivani Parmar (Mumbai).
Pragathi Gowda, Trisha Alonkar, Karamjit Singh
Pragathi, sponsored by SIDVIN, will be setting a milestone in Indian motorsport. She is poised to become the first female from India to pilot a four-wheel drive car, the 300bhp Subaru Impreza shod with MRF Tyres, with Malaysian Karamjit Singh, the former World Rally champion (Production Cars), tutoring her.

“I am very excited and looking forward to the South India Rally. I am even more grateful that a legend like Karamjit Singh has taken time out to train me to drive this powerful car and SIDVIN for supporting me. I haven’t had any seat time in this car, and it will be a learning curve for me,” said Pragathi who will be partnered by co-driver Trisha Alonkar.

FIA Observer, Dale Moscatt from Australia, was all praise for the organisers and the Special Stages. “I did a recce of the Kelam Stage yesterday. The organisers have done a great job in putting together so many kilometres into such a small place. It is fully fenced off area and so security and everything is fantastic in the Stage.”

“It will be challenging to all competitors. Today, we went to the other Stages (Aavisa and Track) which are the same as last year. Lots of turns and bumps, and so, very challenging. The facility here at the race track (Madras International Circuit) is great.”

Taking an overview of the event, Clerk-of-the-Course (CoC) Manoj Dalal, who is also the secretary of MMSC, said: “You can expect an action-packed weekend as the field, rich in youth and experience, is extremely competitive. There are many familiar faces and a few relatively new entrants. As organisers, MMSC has taken every precaution and all permissions to ensure a safe and successful event which is a showpiece in the INRC calendar. We extend our thanks to all the sponsors, the promoters, the Media and, of course, the competitors, for their whole-hearted support and involvement.”

The competitors are scheduled to do a reconnaissance of all the Special Stages on Thursday and Friday morning. The competition will commence on Friday afternoon with the Spectator Special Stage at the Madras International Circuit. The following two days will witness the competitors negotiating the other Special Stages (Track, AAVISA and Kelam). The Rally will conclude on Sunday afternoon with prize-distribution ceremony at the MIC.