Samir Thapar and co-driver Gurinder Mann lit up the AVT Premium South India Rally with a brilliant run that put them in the lead in the Overall classifications. Thapar, piloting a Mitsubishi Evo X, extended his advantage to well over a minute over championship leader Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) at the end of day one. Gill was piloting a Mahindra XUV 500.
Third overall was PG Abhilash (Kumar Ramasway) of Team R3A PGA Motorsport in a Mitsubishi Evo 6, some 27 seconds adrift of the Mahindra Adventure driver. The day witnessed a big crash as Gill’s team-mate and 2013 INRC champion Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) rolled his XUV 500 on the fifth stage while his teammate Karna Kadur (PVS Murthy) retired after hitting a rock on SS-2.
Thapar, who last won a National championship event in 1997 at the Karnataka 1000 Rally, was obviously pleased with the performance and said he would play it safe on Sunday when the three special stages would be run. He commented, “We drove hard today on all stages. The second and third Stages were tight and slippery, but we did not back off though it was challenging to drive hard”
“After a long time, we got a car that we wanted. In Nashik (first round) we had lots of problems and I missed the second round in Coimbatore as I was out of the country. But today, everything came together and it was fun", he added.
Gill, winner of the previous two rounds of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, was not surprised to be beaten. He said, “Like I said yesterday, the Stages are fast with lots of straights where the Evo with more power and being lighter had an advantage. But I thought Sammy (Thapar) drove brilliantly and I am not surprised that he made so much time on us.”
In the IRC 2000cc class, Bangalore’s Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) of Team Yokohama was ahead of Prithvi Dominic (Ravindra MS) by some 57 seconds.
The IRC 1600cc class was poised for a tight finish after Vikram Devadasen (Srikant Gowda) of Team Yokohama made time over Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal) in the Spectator Special Stage that was run in heavy rains to turn a slender deficit into an eight-second lead.