Coimbatore, July 20 (IANS) On a day that witnessed nine retirements, Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) of Mahindra Adventure, in an XUV 500 and reigning national champion Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) were poised to achieve a hat-trick of wins at the end of Leg 1 of the Rally of Coimbatore here Saturday.
Gill, participating in the SUV class, topped the time charts clocking one hour, five minutes and 13.4 seconds after leader Samir Thapar (Vivek Ponnusamy) of JCT Rallying were docked a road penalty of two minutes that pushed him to second place but still led the top-end IRC class ahead of Malaysian Karamjit Singh (Jagdev Singh).
Thapar, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, had clocked 01:04.24.9, but after completing the day's last stage, suffered a gearbox linkage problem that took 13 minutes to be repaired, incurring him a road penalty of two minutes, 10 seconds.
Third quickest was former World Rally champion Karamjit Singh of team Slideways Industries' Volkswagen Polo, clocking 01:06:58.0 while Ghosh, driving a Group N Mitsubishi Cedia was fourth in 01:06:53.1 but clear leader in the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC).
"We had some problem in the third stage but after completing the last stage we had this linkage problem that was eventually set right but cost us 13 minutes which translated into a road penalty of two minutes, 10 seconds. We had a good outing today, though we suffered a bit from overheating. I had to back off to preserve the car. The MRF tyres also played a big part in our performance," said Ponnusamy.
"Our car too has improved since the first round in Chennai as we have more torque," said Gill, who won outright the previous two rounds in Chennai and Nashik.
Ghosh, also set for a hat-trick of wins this season in INRC, said: "We had a clear run and I chose to preserve the car and on the second loop, I really backed off. Being a Group N-spec car, we obviously cannot compare with the XUV or the Evo."
Karamjit, while stating that the VW Polo has been improving, said it still lacked traction and also was down on power but despite these niggling issues, the car performed quite well.
"We are still in the development stage and the car is basically stock-centred but I am sure with some work on the car, it will improve and we will be able to perform better in the other two rounds of the championship," said Karamjit, who being a foreigner is not entitled for championship points though competing in the top-end IRC class.
Among the retirements were two Slideways Industries entries, former national champion Vikram Mathias (Chandramouli) and Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai), both driving the VW Polo.
Meanwhile, Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal), in a VW Polo, led the 1600cc class as did Suhem M.K. (Jeevarathinam) in the Junior INRC, both enjoying a sizeable lead and poised to win Sunday when one more loop of the two Special Stages and the Super Special Stage will be run.
Provisional classification (Leg 1):
INRC Overall/2000cc (Group N): Amittrajit Ghosh/Ashwin Naik (Mitsubishi Cedia) 1 (1hr, 6mins,53.1secs); Vikram Devadasen/Srikanth Gowda (Cedia) 2 (01:08:28.6); Phalguna Urs/Anoop Kumar D.S. (Cedia) 3 (01:09:26.9).
INRC 1600cc: Arjun Rao/Satish Rajagopal (VW Polo) 1 (01:10:15.1); Byram Godrej/Prajwal Pai (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 2 (01:11:31.6); Shahid Khan/Dhananjaya B. (Maruti Esteem) 3 (01:19:11.0).
Junior INRC: Suhem M.K./J. Jeevarathinam (Maruti Baleno) 1 (01:12:08.7); Asad Khan/Zayne Asrar (Maruti Esteem) 2 (01:13:08.4); Adith K.C./Robinson Rajkumar (Maruti Esteem) 3 (01:15:08.4).
SUV NRC: Gaurav Gill/Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 1 (01:05:13.4); Lohitt Urs/Bonnie Thomas (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 2 (01:08:23.3); Sunny Sidhu/P.V. Srinivasa Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 3 (01:16:29.5).
IRC: Samir Thapar/Vivek Ponnusamy (JCT Rallying, Mitsubishi EvoX) 1 (01:06:34.9); Karamjit Singh/Jagdev Singh (Slideways Industries, VW Polo) 2 (01:06:58.0); Sumit Punjabi/Chetan Shivram (Mitsubishi Cedia) 3 (01:17:22.1).