Arjun Rao sweeps Coffee Day Rally honours

Chikmagalur (Karnataka), Dec 21: The Mangalore-Bangalore combination of Arjun Rao and co-driver Satish Rajagopal, driving a Volkswagen Polo, took the honours in both INRC Overall and 1600cc categories as the Coffee Day Rally, the fifth and final round of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship, concluded here Saturday.

Two of the three Special Stages scheduled to be run today were completed while the third was cancelled after Malaysia’s former world champion Karamjit Singh (co-driver Jagdev Singh) crashed his VW Polo R2, blocking the route.

For Rao and Rajagopal, it was touch and go today as they ran the two Stages with a bent steering ball-joint, but survived to win the title in the Overall and 1600cc categories.

“We had to drive very carefully due to the bent steering ball-joint which we couldn’t repair due to lack of time. We somehow managed to finish the two stages and the third was cancelled after Karamjit crashed.

“Of course, I am extremely happy to win both Overall and 1600cc titles here. I thank Volkswagen for their support and the MRF tyres (ZM2) that I used were just fantastic. There was no damage to the tyres despite the rough terrain,” said the 30-year-old Rao who ended the season second in the Overall championship behind the absent Amittrajit Ghosh.

In fact, Rao and Rajagopal had three wins and a second place finish this season while the duo was excluded from the Coimbatore Rally that they had won for a technical infringement.

Finishing second Overall behind Rao, who clocked one hour, 55 minutes, 06.7 seconds, was Bangalore’s Vikram Devadasen (Ashwin Naik) in a Mitsubishi Cedia at 01:59.56.5 while Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) of Slideways Industries, piloting a VW Polo, was third in 02:00:40.7.

There was heartbreak for overnight leader in the Junior INRC class, Suhem MK (Jeevarathinam) who retired and conceded the top spot to Rohan Pawar (Arjun Mehta) of Slideways Industries.

The Coffee Day Rally, which is a candidate event for a round of 2014 Asia Cup series, took a heavy toll as only 17 of the 38 vehicles completed the event, losing the battle to the rough terrain in the nearby coffee estates.

Provisional classification:

INRC Overall: Arjun Rao / Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo) 1 (1hr, 55mins, 06.7secs); Vikram Devadasen / Ashwin Naik (Mitsubishi Cedia) 2 (01:59:56.5); Sirish Chandran / Nikhil Pai (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 3 (02:00:40.7)

INRC 2000cc: Vikram Devadasen / Ashwin Naik (Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (01:59:56.5); Prithvi Dominic / Ravindra MS (Mitsubishi Cedia) 2 (02:01:04.5); Dr Bikku Babu / George Verghese (Mitsubishi Cedia) 3 (02:05:10.7).

INRC 1600cc: Arjun Rao / Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo) 1 (01:55:06.7); Sirish Chandran / Nikhil Pai (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 2 (02:00:40.7); Hrishikesh Thackersey / Ninad Mirajgaonkar (VW Polo) 3 (02:05:40.0).

JINRC: Rohan Pawar / Arjun Mehta (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 2 (02:05:21.2); Dhruva C / Roopesh BC (Maruti Esteem) 2 (02:06:36.6); Ashika Menezes / Lokesh Gowda (Maruti Esteem) 3 (02:16:08.4).

SUV NRC: Sunny Sidhu / PVS Murthy (Mahindra Adventure Rally, XUV 500) 1 (01:56:13.7); Lohitt Urs / Bonnie Thomas (Mahindra Adventure Rally, XUV 500) 2 (02:01:08.9).

IRC: Sumit Panjabi / Venu Ramesh Kumar (Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (02:08:13.7); Shyam Chellappan / Sob George (Maruti Baleno) 2 (02:23:39.2).

New: Vikram Mathias / Vivek Ponnusamy (Team Jungle Hut, Volkswagen Polo TDI) 02:04:19.9.