Ajrun Balu and co-driver Kumar Ramaswamy of Team MRF, driving a Honda City V-Tec, expectedly won the overall title, sparing over four minutes to their nearest rival as the Rallye de Goa, the fifth round of the MAI-Indian National Rally Championship, concluded in Panaji, Goa, on Sunday.
Coming in second was R Karthikeyan and co-driver G Satish in a Maruti Esteem, who also topped the INRC 1400cc category, ahead of Team Novva, comprising Rahul Kantharaj and Vivek Bhatt.
Fourth overall were the Gulf Oil-sponsored pair of Jiby Maliakkal and co-driver Nikhil Pai in a Honda City. After their off-road excursion on Saturday, when they lost a lot of time, Jiby could not make up the deficit and had to be content to just finish the event that was contested by eight cars, all of which made it to the finish on Sunday afternoon.
"It was nice to win my first event since the India Rally last year, but it would have been more satisfying had my team mates too taken part," said Balu soon after, spraying champagne over his co-driver at the parc ferme.
Balu was referring to the absence of reigning National champion V R Naren Kumar, Karandip Singh, Narayanaswamy Leelakrishnan and Vikram Mathias, all of Team MRF, who could not take the start on Saturday as their Honda City cars did not arrive at the venue in time.
Nevertheless, Balu had to contend with a problematic clutch that he said considerably cut into his time.
"On the uphill sections, especially, I was struggling to go quicker, and had my team-mates taken part, I doubt I would have won. But of course, it is still nice to taste success," said Balu who had led the field overnight by over three minutes.
Balu thus moved to second position on the Championship leader board, behind Naren
Kumar and ahead of Karandip Singh. However, Naren still enjoys a 28-point lead with two more rounds left in the championship.
The competition in the 1400cc, however, hotted up after today's results as Kantharaj overtook leader Lohit V Urs who too failed to take the start on Saturday. Kantharaj has 43 points to Lohit's 40, while Karthikeyan is within striking distance of the two front-runners with a tally of 39 points.
Meanwhile, the collegian from Manipal, Arjun Rao Aroor and co-driver Moosa Sherif comfortably won the Rally Star Cup category, 49 seconds in front of Prithveen, a post-graduate student from Chennai, and co-driver PVS Murthy.
Provisional final classifications:
INRC Overall: Team MRF (Arjun Balu/Kumar Ramaswamy) 1 (1 hr, 14 mins, 25 secs); R
Karthikeyan/G Sathish 2 (1:19:02); Team Movva (Rahul Kantharaj/Vivek Bhatt) 3 (1:19:08); Jiby Maliakkal/Nikhil Pai 4 (1:28:45).
INRC 1400cc: Karthikeyan/Sathish 1; Kantharaj/Bhatt 2.
Rally Star Cup: Team Mandovi (Arjun Rao Aroor/Moosa Sherif) 1 (1:19:23); Prithveen/PVS Murthy 2 (1:20:12); Ranjith Ballal/Shanmuga 3 (1:22:10); S Ram Prasanth/Thiru Murthy 4 (1:22:15).