V R Naren Kumar (co-driver V Ram Kumar) of team MRF swept to his eighth straight victory when he clinched the overall title in the Power MAI Challenge Rally in Chandigarh on Sunday, finishing over a minute ahead of team mate Vikram Mathias (co-driver Sujith Kumar).
The event was the fourth round of the MAI Indian National Rally Championship.
Naren, the 29-year old from Coimbatore and the reigning National champion, had time to admire the scenic surroundings on Sunday after overnight leader Karandip Singh (co-driver Jaidas Menon), also of Team MRF, suffered a 40-feet roll on Special Stage-10 following brake failure and retired.
"Since I led Mathias by over two minutes, I eased off totally and did not take any risks. But I was determined to make up the 13 seconds and our approach was to go absolutely flat out and make at least three to four seconds on each of the Stages today. But once Karandeep was out of the rally, we decided to take it easy and finish the event," said Naren, who, in fact, had made three seconds on Karandeep after the first stage on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Mathias, after failing to finish the Chikmagalur and Nashik rounds of the INRC and skipping the Kochi leg, did well to pick up his first points of the season.
"I am happy with our performance in this event and it was a relief to finish after a string of DNFs [did not finishes]," said Mathias.
Karandeep, 29, from Chandigarh, looked certain to clinch the title last night when he established a 13-second lead over Naren.
"We were doing about 100 kmph on a downhill stretch in SS-10 when the brake tube cut leading to loss of fluid. There was nothing I could do and we crashed down a 40-foot drop," said a disappointed Karandeep, who was looking to score a win on home territory.
In fact, Naren and Mathias were the only two from Team MRF to complete the rally as former National champion N Leelakrishnan (co-driver Farooq Ahmed) pulled out today with mechanical problems to join team-mate Arjun Balu (co-driver Kumar Ramaswamy) on the sidelines.
Finishing third overall were veterans Samir Thapar and co-driver Gurvinder Singh Mann, both making a comeback after several years, in a Maruti Esteem, ahead of championship leader in the 1400cc category, Lohit Urs (co-driver MK Bopanna).
Overall: 1. Team MRF 1 (VR Naren Kumar/V Ram Kumar) 1hr,43mins, 46secs; 2. Team MRF (Vikram Mathias/Sujith Kumar) 1:44:02; 3. Samir Thapar/GS Mann (1:46:25;) 4. Lohit v Urs/ MK Bopanna 1:47:31; 5. Jiby Maliakkal/Nikhil Pai (Gulf Oil) 1:51:43; 6. Rajiv Suri/ Rajeev Mehta 1:58:22.
1600cc (Honda City V-Tec): 1. Naren Kumar/ Ram Kumar, 2. Mathias/Sujith Kumar, 3. Maliakkal/Pai.
1400cc (Maruti Esteem): 1. Thapar/Mann, 2. Urs/Bopanna.
Rally Star Cup: 1. S Ram Prashanth/ Thiru Murthy (1:51:18); 2. Ranjith Ballal/ Shanmuga (1:51:41); 3. Yogeshwar Gill/Harkanwal Cheema (2:05:23).