Gaurav Gill holds a slim six-point lead in the drivers' championship over his Team MRF Skoda team-mate Ole Christian Veiby as they go into the fifth and final round of the FIA 2017 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) - the Coffee Day India Rally of Chikmagalur this weekend. Gill had won the last round held in Hokkaido, while Veiby had suffered due to a damaged car after a bad jump. However, the Norwegian has still managed 130 points from the previous four rounds, behind the Indian driver's 136. And this competition between team-mates could be worth watching out for as their Skoda Fabia R5 cars lead the pack, come the season finale this weekend.
As for the co-drivers' championship Gill's partner Stephane Prevot leads, with Veiby's co-driver Stig Skjarmoen placed second. Meanwhile, in the manufacturers' championship, Skoda has a clear lead followed by Mitsubishi, and Subaru in third. The rally will kick off with pre-event scrutineering on November 23, followed by a ceremonial start. The 2017 APRC final round will be held across four coffee plantations of Coffee Day Global around Chikmagalur.
Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall on their way to a historic win at the India Rally at Chikmagalur in 2016, which was also Gill's best champiosnhip season
With mountainous terrain, the average speed goes as low as 50kmph across the 502km track. Of the total, 207.54km of the course consists of 17 special stages which will be held in the coffee estates. On November 24, the shakedown, and first stewards meet will be held before the leg 1 of section 1 kicks off at 4.30 pm from Amber Valley School. This will be the short Super Special Stage (SSS) over a distance of 2.68km, where the audience will get to see the six APRC competitors in action in addition to the INRC cars that will run.
The next day, sections 2 and 3 of the first leg will be run to cover a total distance of 353.41km through Chettanahalli, Chandrapura, and Kumargode. Of the total Leg 1 distance, 161.3km consists of special stages. Leg 2 measuring a total of 166.5km, of which 64.12km are special stages, will begin early on November 26. The second leg will be run through Moodasasi, and Jagirmane before returning to the parc ferme at Coffee Day Global.
Second-placed Ole Christian Veiby with defending champion and Team MRF Skoda team-mate Gaurav Gill at a press conference for the FIA APRC Coffee Day Rally of India 2017.
This will be followed by the podium ceremony and final scrutineering, with the prize distribution for winners being held by 8 pm. Two-time APRC title holder and defending champion Gill has had a good run of the Chikmagalur track in the previous edition of the rally in 2016 and is the favourite going into the finale this weekend. However, the tiny points difference with Veiby means that the battle is very, very close. New Zealand rally driver Mike Young will also be participating in a Volkswagen Polo R2, along with PG Abhilash from Kerala, Sumit Panjabi and Sri Lankan driver Shafraz Junaid.
A total of six FIA titles will be at stake here, as well as the APRC team trophy title and the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) title. As many as 49 participants have registered for the MRF FMSCI INRC round 4 to be held here. The INRC entry list includes Amittrajit Ghosh, Arjun Rao Aroor, Rahul Kanthraj, Karna Kadur and young Dean Mascarenhas besides a clutch of home-grown talent. Toyota has also roped in their Japanese driver and co-driver combo of Akito Tachibana and Katsuhisa Idei to participate with their Toyota Etios Liva rally car.
So stay tuned to OVERDRIVE as we will be bringing you live coverage of the 2017 APRC Coffee Day India Rally of Chikmagalur. Meanwhile, to get more information on the APRC competitors, click here, and for information of the INRC entries, click here.
To read what Farooq Ahmed, the Chairman of the Meet has to say ahead of the rally, click here.