Day one of the Coffee Day rally, season finale of the 2014 Indian Rally Championship turned out to be a day of attrition as 11 competitors, including multiple national champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) failed to finish.
Another former national champion, Vikram Mathias and his debutant navigator Swaroop Mohan, took overall honours at the end of day one - across the stages run through the coffee estates of Chikkamagaluru.
Mathias, piloting the Mitsubishi Evo IX for the first time, drove smart in tricky conditions to top the time charts with one hour, 21 minutes, 33.8 seconds in the top-end IRC class, enjoying a lead of over four minutes.
In second spot behind Mathias was Sunny Sidhu (PVS Murthy) piloting the XUV 500 for Team Mahindra Adventure, clocking 01:25:52.0, ahead of Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Rajagopal) in the Volkswagen Polo R2 (01:26:24.1).
Team Yokohama’s Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt), who has already sealed the championship in the IRC 2000 class, was the quickest in his category with a time of 01:26:55.7 driving the Mitsubishi Cedia while young Dean Mascarenhas (Shanmuga SN), in the VW Polo, put in another impressive show to top the IRC 1600 category and was the second quickest on the day.
The day’s very first Special Stage claimed victims in Team Mahindra Adventure’s Gill who retired due to a steering column problem with his XUV 500, Samir Thapar (GS Mann) of JCT Rallying as his Evo X packed up with a gearbox issue and Karna Kadur (Sujith Kumar) escaped unhurt after crashing his Mitsubishi Cedia into a tree, wrecking the car.
Meanwhile, Mathias, who stopped rallying four seasons ago but participates in one-off events, drove with some circumspection due to brake issues. “It is scary as the brakes stop working halfway into the Stages and I had to ease off a bit. I also lost time on the day’s first Stage as I spun a couple of times,” said Mathias.
Crowd favourite Gill, who did not also finish Friday’s Super Special Stage due to a broken drive shaft, said: “It was unfortunate that the steering column gave way and there was nothing we could do, but I will be rejoining the Rally on Sunday.”
Coffee Day Rally
Provisional Classification (Leg 1):
1. Vikram Mathias / Swaroop Mohan (Mitsubishi Evo IX) 01hr, 21mins, 33.8secs
2. Sunny Sidhu / PVS Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 01:25:52.0
3. Arjun Rao Aroor / Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo R2) 01:26:24.1
1. Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Cedia) 01:26:55.7
2. Prithvi Dominic / Chandrashekar M (Cedia) 01:27:13.4
3. Byram Godrej / Somaya AG (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 01:29:04.9
1. Dean Mascarenhas / Shanmuga SN (VW Polo) 01:25:09.5
2. Chandan Gowda / Shahid Salman (VW Polo) 01:31:23.5
3. Ritesh M Guttedar / Lokaranjan (VW Polo) 01:43:45.7
FMSCI 1600 Cup:
1. Raghu Nandan B / Suraj K (Honda City VTEC) 01:29:28.3
2. Bopaiah KM / K Karumbaiah (Maruti Esteem) 01:29:51.4
3. Lokesh Gowda / Ashika Menezes (Maruti Esteem) 01:31:06.3