There is palpable excitement and expectations of high-octane action as the 46th South India Rally, the first round of the Fmsci Indian National Rally Championship 2023, gets underway here on Friday, with a massive field of 63 entries.
The three-day event, being organised by the Madras Motor Sports Club that is celebrating its 70th anniversary, and will be run concurrently with the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (Asia Rally Cup) which has attracted 15 entries, including the Toyota Rally team from Thailand.
Reigning National champion from Bengaluru, Karna Kadur and co-driver Nikhil Pai, who also won last year’s Asia Rally Cup round here, will be headlining both INRC and APRC fields in an Arka Motorsports-prepared Volkswagen Polo.
Seven-time National champion and winner of three APRC titles Gaurav Gill, with a new co-driver, Aniruddha Rangnekar, is piloting an imported Subaru Impreza, and as such, will contest only the Asia Rally Cup, as also the Thai pair of Mana Pornsiricherd (co-driver Meenil Thanyaphat), in an APRC-spec Toyota C-HR machine.
The APRC field also includes a lone female driver, Nikeetaa Takkale from Pune, the niece of former APRC Production Cars champion, Sanjay Takale, with Venu Ramesh Kumar in the co-driver’s seat.
The INRC entry list, across Overall, INRC-2, INRC-3, INRC-4 and Junior INRC categories besides the non-championship Gypsy and SUV Challenge, is rich in talent with a mix of seasoned campaigners and hungry young guns.
Of interest is the return of former National champion, UK-based Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) to the rallying circuit after a season’s break. Ghosh has entered both Asia Cup and INRC, driving a Mahindra XUV 300. Also on the comeback trail is US-based Dr Bikku Babu (co-driver Milen George Cherian), better known as “Doctor Speed”.
The Rally action commences on Friday afternoon with two loops of cross-over Super Special Stage where two cars race each other on parallel tracks, the first of its kind in the history of INRC. The entrants will then contest a tarmac Super Special Stage and two runs in the forward direction of the MIC and Aavisa Special Stages on Saturday, and in reverse direction on Sunday.
Welcoming the participants, Premnath K. of Blueband Sports said: “It is an encouraging sign that the INRC has received so many entries representing the cream of rallying talent from across the country. This year’s INRC has a ‘Go Green’ theme as Blueband Sports and we will be running seven rounds across India besides taking up various other initiatives to make INRC bigger, better and more attractive to both competitors and the audience.”
Vicky Chandhok, President of FIA APRC Working Group, and Vice-President of MMSC said: “That the Asia Cup has attracted 15 entries is a huge step forward for this regional championship which hopefully will continue to grow in popularity as it also puts aspirants on the path to realising their bigger international goals. As for the INRC, we at MMSC have not spared any effort to provide a safe, enjoyable and exciting event. The Special Stages are a good mix of fast and technical sections that will test the machines and driving skills.”