Off-roader Virdi maintains lead in Rainforest Challenge

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Quepem (Goa), July 28 (IANS) Defending champion Gurmeet Virdi (co-driver Kirpal Singh Tung) of Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh maintained their top spot with 1,307 points out of 1,800 at the end of the fourth day of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) India-leg off-road motorsport event here on Friday.

Virdi though cannot breathe easy as he is closely followed by Team BODA’s (Bangalore Offroad Drivers Association) Siddartha Santosh (co-driver Prithviraj AC) with 1,306 points, trailing Virdi by a point.

Veteran rallyist Jagat Nanjappa (co-driver Chetan Changappa) of Coorg-based Team V5 Offroaders remained third with 1267 points.

Local participant Cedrick Jordan DaSilva (co-driver Dushyant Khosla) was at fourth position with 1,193 points while Malaysian driver Merwyn Lim (co-driver Tan Choon Hong) of Mumbai’s Team Fairmont has climbed up the ladder to claim the fifth slot with 1,095 points.

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The fourth day saw three stages, running live with the teams having to deal with sporadic rain besides technical challenges to stay afloat. With underfoot conditions turning into soft clay due to downpour, it was difficult for drivers to scale heights and also maintain balance while crossing streams.

The co-drivers had to be deft in winching tasks as some saw their winches being snapped due to loose soil.

Stage 16 had them gradually ascend a craggy terrain to hit an eight-foot tall cliff and winch out of it to move anti-clockwise towards the finish box through a series of irregular rocks and boulders.

Stage 17 again saw the 38 participating teams winching out of a perpendicular obstacle followed by a sharp left turn and a narrow U-turn before touching the finish rope.

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The last stage of the day, 18, had vehicles going in a sharp right to descend in a water stream and ascend out of it on a rugged terrain to go through a narrow gate towards a steep decline back into the stream.

“Yesterday was not so good for us, we messed up the first stage we went in (stage 10) because of sleep deprivation and unnecessary aggression,” second-placed Santosh later told reporters.”This is the closest competition I can recall in ages and you can expect the points table to jumble up even till the last day of the event.”

He added, “Everyone around is catching up really fast so there is no longer a buffer for mistakes. Anybody who does that will be replaced immediately in the table. From this point onwards, we need to put our best foot forward.”

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