The 2014 Indian Rally Championship got off to a slow start. Despite the fact that the Rally of Maharashtra, organised by the Western India Automobile Association, is one of the best organised rallies in the country, the number of entries in the event wasn't really something to brag about. One theory about the reason for the lack of participation was that the privateers who were earlier so happy to come to rally stages in their Maruti Suzuki Esteems and Balenos were intimidated by the advent of the Volkswagen Polos - the car that is now appearing to be the de facto go to car for the rally driver. But the number of cars competing in the second round of the Indian Rally Championship went up by around 10 at the second round at Coimbatore. And the third round of the championship, the South India Rally now in its 39th edition, sees 31 competitors. Not too bad a sign.
The South India Rally will be held over three different stages, over two legs. The 'Track' stage is 9.61km long, around the Madras Motor Racing Track. The 'Aavisa Golf Club' stage is 14.05km long and the 'IVRCL' stage is 11.17km long. Each of these stages will be run twice on Saturday, July 26, 2014 along with the SSS held on the MMRT itself. The stages will then be repeated on Sunday.
A Mahindra XUV500 at Maharashtra rally
What we're particularly excited about is the fact that the South India Rally ought to see some pretty stiff competition. To begin with, Team Mahindra Adventure has a strong line up. Reigning Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Gaurav Gill (co-driven by Musa Sherif) has won the Rally of Maharashtra and the Rally of Coimbatore. Then there is 2013 Indian National Rally Championship winner Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driven by Ashwin Naik). While Ghosh finished second in the Rally of Maharashtra, Coimbatore was highly forgettable with turbo issues on both days putting an end to his rally. Ghosh will be hoping for a better showing at the stages in Chennai. Sunny Sidhu (co-driven by PVS Murthy) will also be hoping for a strong finish.
For the true rally fan, there are some interesting machines to watch out for. Samir Thapar (co-driven by GS Mann) will be down in the Mitsubishi Evo X. While the pair of them managed to put in some terrific times during the Nashik Rally, they retired. And having skipped the Rally of Coimbatore, the Evo X will be looking to make its mark in Chennai. Making his return at the Rally of Coimbatore was Abhilash PG in his Mitsubishi Evo VI. While he did well in the initial stages of the rally, even setting the fastest time in SS1, a fuel pump problem ended up putting an end to his podium chances. Chennai will also be where he will be hoping to make a mark.
There's another young rally driver that we were particularly happy to see make a return to rallying. Karna Kadur, co-driven by BS Sujith Kumar, is back in the Red Rooster liveried Mitsubishi Cedia. And there is the Dean Mascarenas, who, after sitting out the Rally of Maharashtra and DNFing in Chennai, will be hoping for a better result. There are other drivers to watch out for too - Arjun Rao Aroor, Rahul Kantharaj and Vikram Devadasan.
Rally fans will be happy to know that if you want to watch the Track stage at the South India Rally, the CCTV cameras that are set up across the track will be able to capture all the rally action over the 11km that will then be broadcast on big screens at the track live! What more could you ask for? See you at the stages then!