The 2018 MRF FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship is set for an exciting winner-takes-all finish, with Kerala’s iconic Popular Rally, the fifth and final round of the championship, emerging as the stage for the grand showdown.
Mahindra Adventure’s two-time INRC champion Amittrajit Ghosh comes into the last round with the highest points (79) but will still start behind his teammate and three-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill due to the N-1 rule.
Gill, in fact, will not only begin on pole position but also as the favourite, given his aggressive style of driving. He has 62 points while Ghosh, with 61 points after the N-1 factor, will be right in his tail.
Ghosh, the European Rally Championship driver, will also fancy his chances, especially two very good rounds in the INRC.
Both will, however, be wary of Arka Motorsports’ Karna Kadur, who is not too far behind with 55 points after the N-1 factor. The former INRC champion is competing in the INRC 2 category but has shown the speed and desire to topple his fancied opponents. He can take his second title if he wins the Popular Rally and Gill finishes third or lower.
The rally was flagged off by Shri. K. Padmakumar, IPS, Hon. Transport Commissioner, Govt. of Kerala, from Hotel Le Meridien, Kochi, today. It will unfold in 9 special stages on the smooth tarmac in the Mundakkayam-Kuttikanam sector in Idukki district on Saturday. Two more special stages will follow on Sunday, after which the rally drivers will head to Ernakulam for a Super Special Stage (SSS), at HMT Colony Road, Kalamassery.
The trophy presentation to the winners of the Popular Rally 2018 and the champagne shower will be held at the SSS venue itself. The official podium ceremony will be held at Le Meridien later in the evening, before invited guests.
“We have had a very good championship this year, with intense competition in all the key categories,” the promoter of the championship, RRPM’s Arindam Ghosh, said. “We are set for an exciting finish and I wish all the competitors a grand run,” he added.
“I thank title sponsor MRF Tyres, main associate Mahindra Adventure and associates York & Arka Motorsports,” Arindam said, expressing his gratitude for their three-year association.
Kerala is hosting the INRC for the first time since 2010 which is doubling up as the Popular Rally. It is in its 24th edition, having made a grand comeback last year after running it successfully for 22 years before a brief hiatus.
“Popular Rally is a matter of great pride for us. We have created a great legacy and are determined to take it to greater heights,” John K. Paul, MD of the organisers Popular Vehicles & Services Ltd, said.
Most of the country’s other top drivers, including Dean Mascarenhas, Vikram Rao and Rahul Kanthraj, will line up to get their hands on the silverware in various categories as the curtain comes down on the 2018 MRF FMSCI INRC.
Kerala will be well represented too, led by Dr Bikku Babu, the National Autocross Champion, along with the rising stars and INRC regulars like Younus Ilyas, Jacob K J, Fabid Ahmer, Nibu Sayed and Noufal Sayed.
For the first time in India, a Mobile App on Popular Rally will be launched to provide all rally related news, events, programme schedules etc. Developed by Appzoc, it can be downloaded free from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store and also through QR code scanning.
Standings for the key categories:
INRC Overall: Gaurav Gill / Musa Sheriff (Mahindra Adventure) 62 points; Amittrajit Ghosh / Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure) 61 points; Karna Kadur / Nikhil V Pai (Arka Motorsports) 55 points
INRC 1: Gaurav Gill / Musa Sheriff (Mahindra Adventure) 62 points; Amittrajit Ghosh / Ashwin Naik (Mahindra Adventure) 61 points;
INRC 2: Karna Kadur / Nikhil V Pai (Arka Motorsports); Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Y Bhatt (Arka Motorsports); Jacob K.J / Shrikanth Gowda (Arka Motorsports)
INRC 3: Aroor Vikram Rao / Somayya A.G (Falkon Motorsports); Dean Mascarenhas / Shruptha Padival (Chettinad Racing); Suhem Kabir / Jeevarahinam (Team Champions)