Tumkur (Karnataka), Nov 9 (IANS) Reigning champion Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) all but clinched the overall Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) title as their nearest contender Vikram Devadasen (George Verghese) crashed out on the opening day of the IMG Karnataka 1000 Rally here Saturday.
After two loops of the three physical Special Stages, Ghosh, driving a Group N-spec Mitsubishi Lancer Cedia, led the field by one minute, 28.8 seconds with Prithvi Dominic (Pruthvi Sthal) in second place, followed by Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt).
Devadasen, also in a Cedia, and 56 points behind Ghosh, was on pace with the leader until he suffered a puncture in SS-5 and then flipped the car 500 metres from the finish of the day's last Stage to drop out of contention.
"Going into a right-hander just before the flying finish, I hit a bund and was not carrying enough speed through the corner. I did my best to control but the car flipped and landed on the roof. Some bystanders helped us roll the car back and we continued but lost too much time. We will rejoin the Rally Sunday but have no chance to finish anywhere at the top," said Devadasen.
Ghosh maintained consistent pace through the six Stages to finish on top but he is skipping the fifth and final round in Chikmagalur next month as he would be abroad.
"We didn't have any problems today. We have almost clinched the championship but I am disappointed that I would be missing the last round in Chikmagalur as the fresh dates after postponement coincide with my holiday abroad and which I had planned well in advance," said Ghosh.
Meanwhile, newly-crowned Asia Pacific Rally Champion (APRC) Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif), driving a modified Mahindra XUV 500 in the non-INRC SUV class, topped charts clocking a blistering one hour, 53.3 seconds.
Gill led his Mahindra Adventure Rally teammate Sunny Sidhu (PVS Murthy) by over two minutes while Lohitt Urs (Bonnie Thomas), the third Mahindra entrant, was third a further 57 seconds adrift.
Elsewhere, the INRC 1600cc class is developing into a thrilling battle with championship leader Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal) ahead of Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) of Slideways Industries by just 4.9 seconds. The two, both driving Volkswagen Polo, are separated by only six points.
In the Junior INRC class, MK Suhem (Jeevarathinam), second in the championship, led the pack by one minute, 3.3 seconds ahead of Aroor Viram Rao (Somayya AG). Championship leader Asad Khan (Zayne Asrar) ended seventh.
The Indian Rally Championship (IRC) saw former World Rally champion (production class) Karamjit Singh (Jagdev Singh) from Malaysia, driving a factory-prepared Polo R2, was quickest with a 15-minute lead over Sumit Panjabi (Prakhyath Shirole) in a Cedia.
The third IRC entry, albeit last-minute, veteran Narayanaswamy Leelakrishnan (D Ram Kumar), piloting a four-wheel drive car for the first time, retired with a damaged oil pump after his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X landed heavily following a jump.
Provisional classifications (Leg 1):
INRC Overall/2000cc: Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik (Cedia) 1 (1 hr, 3 mins, 28.7 secs); Prithvi Dominic/Pruthvi Sthal 2 (01:04:57.5); Rahul Kanthraj/Vivek Bhatt 3 (01:05:04.6).
INRC 1600cc: Arjun Rao/Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo) 1 (01:05:59.5); Sirish Chandran/Nikhil Pai (VW Polo, Slidways Industries) 2 (01:06:04.4); Byram Godrej/Prajwal Pai (VW Polo, Slideways Industries) 3 (01:11:53.3).
JINRC: Suhem MK/J Jeevarathinam 1 (01:07:09.9); Aroor Vikram Rao/Somayya AG 2 (01:08:13.2); Philip Thomas/Milen George Cherian 2 (01:10:15.2).
SUV RC: Gaurav Gill/Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure Rally) 1 (01:00:57.3); Sunny Sidhu/PVS Murthy (Mahindra Adventure Rally) 2 (01:03:02.2); Lohitt Urs/Bonnie Thomas (Mahindra Adventure Rally) 3 (01:04:00.1).
IRC: Karamjit Singh/Jagdev Singh (VW Polo R2, Slideways Industries) 1 (01:01:45.5); Sumit Panjabi/Prakhyath Shirole (Cedia) 2 (01:16:47.1).
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