" IRC 2000cc: Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Cedia) 1 (01:09:00.7); Prithvi Dominic / Ravindra MS (Cedia) 2 (01:09:58.2); Sumit Panjabi / Venu Ramesh Kumar (Cedia) 3 (01:10:43.7) "
Chennai, July 26 - Old-timers Samir Thapar (50) and co-driver Gurinder Mann (49), in a Mitsubishi Evo X, showed they still have plenty left in the tank as they took a near-winning lead in Overall classification at the end of the first leg in the AVT Premium South India Rally, the third round of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, here Saturday.

The JCT Rallying team tandem took full advantage of the fast and flowing Special Stages that suited their powerful Evo, especially on the straight and led championship leader and 2013 Asia Pacific Champion Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) of Team Mahindra Adventure by over a minute

Thapar, who last won a National championship event in 1997 at the Karnataka 1000 Rally, was the quickest on all the six Special Stages and the Spectator Special Stage and said he would play it safe on Sunday when the three Special Stages would be run.

Third Overall was PG Abhilash (Kumar Ramasway) of Team R3A PGA Motorsport in a Mitsubishi Evo 6, some 27 seconds adrift of Gill (Team Mahindra Adventure).

The day witnessed a big crash as Gill's team-mate and 2013 INRC champion Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) rolled his XUV 500 on SS-5 going into a sequence of corners. Also retiring was the third Mahindra entry Karna Kadur (PVS Murthy) after hitting a rock on SS-2.

We drove hard today on all the Stages. The second and third Stages were tight and slippery, but we did not back off though it was challenging to drive hard.

After a long time, we got a car that we wanted. In Nashik (first round) we had lots of problems and I missed the second round in Coimbatore as I was out of the country. But today, everything came together and it was fun, said Thapar.

Gill, winner of the previous two rounds of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, was not surprised to be beaten and said: Like I said yesterday, the Stages are fast with lots of straights where the Evo with more power and being lighter had an advantage. But I thought Sammy (Thapar) drove brilliantly and I am not surprised that he made so much time on us.

In the IRC 2000cc class, Bangalore's Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) of Team Yokohama was ahead of Prithvi Dominic (Ravindra MS) by some 57 seconds.

The IRC 1600cc class was poised for a tight finish after Vikram Devadasen (Srikant Gowda) of Team Yokohama made time over Arjun Rao (Satish Rajagopal) in the Spectator Special Stage that was run in heavy rain to turn a slender deficit into an eight-second lead.

Provisional classifications (after Leg 1):

IRC Overall: Samir Thapar / Gurinder Mann (JCT Rally, Evo X) 1 (1hr, 04mins, 21.5secs); Gaurav Gill / Musa Sherif (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 2 (01:06:07.8); Abhilash PG / Kumar Ramaswamy (REA PGA Motorsport, Evo 6) 3 (01:06:35.2)

IRC 2000cc: Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Team Yokohama, Cedia) 1 (01:09:00.7); Prithvi Dominic / Ravindra MS (Cedia) 2 (01:09:58.2); Sumit Panjabi / Venu Ramesh Kumar (Cedia) 3 (01:10:43.7)

FMSCI 1600cc: Raghunandan B / Suraj K (Honda City V-Tec) 1 (01:10:16.8); Adith KC / Harish KN (Honda City V-Tec) 2 (01:11:28.8); Aeman Khadri / Sagar M (Baleno) 3 (01:12.41.9)


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