Team MRF's Arjun Balu won the battle of the 2000cc Mitsubishi Cedias against teammate and current hotshot rally driver Gaurav Gill, finishing an amazing six seconds faster over the 3 km super special stage at the Amber Valley Residential School.
The close finish provided the Coffee Day Championship Rally, the second round of the MAI's Indian National Rally Championship, which was flagged of from the ABC Trading Company, Chikmagalur on Friday, a blazing start.
In his first drive in the Cedia along with co-driver Kumar Ramaswamy, Balu powered his through the twists and straights, clocking 3 minutes and 22 seconds, six seconds ahead of Gill and Moosa Sherif, who stopped the clock at 3.28.
Slipping in between the two was Lohit Urs and co-driver Jaidas Menon of Team MRF, also making their debut, in a 1600cc Ford Fiesta. They finished in 3.27.
The other two cars in the Team MRF stable, the Maruti Balenos, driven by Philippos Mathai (Ashwin Naik) and Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Kumar) were relatively slower, clocking 3.35 and 3.37 respectively.
In the 1400 cc, defending National champion Girijashankar Joshy (Srikanth G.M) clocked 3.41 seconds, a second ahead of Prithvi Dominic (Jeevarathinam).
37 cars took the starter's flag for the Super Special Stage at the picturesque Amber Valley School in the coffee capital of the country and barring Chetan Shivram (Shiva Prakash) whose steering hub broke, all completed the fast and twisting stage with good timings.
Overall: Arjun Balu/Kumar Ramaswamy (Team MRF, 2000cc Cedia) 3.22 mins; Lohit Urs/Jaidas Menon (Team MRF, 1600cc Fiesta) 3.27; Gaurav Gill/Moosa Sherif (Team MRF, 2000cc Cedia) 3.28; Philippos Mathai.Ashwin Naik (Team MRF, 1600cc Baleno) 3.35; Arjunrao Aroor/Satish Kumar (Team MRF, 1600cc Baleno) 3.37.
1600cc: Philippos Mathai.Ashwin Naik (Team MRF, Baleno) 3.35; Arjunrao Aroor/Satish Kumar (Team MRF, Baleno) 3.37; B. S Pruthvi/Sunil Shetty (Baleno) 3.42.
1400cc: Girijashankar Joshy/Srikanth G.M (Esteem) 3.41; Prithvi Dominic/Jeevarathinam (Esteem) 3.42; Amitrajit Ghosh/Sourabh Chaudhary (Esteem) 3.46.
Rally Star Cup: Mazdayar Vatcha/Kaushik Sinde (Esteem) 3.42; Abhijeet Pai/Prajval Pai (Esteem) 3.47; Deepak Paul/Srikarunya S (Esteem) 3.49.
Gypsy Cup: Suresh Rana/Harpreet Bawa 3.42; Surendra Babu/Sheraz Ahmed 3.56; Kamaljit Virdi/Manoj Kumar 4.38.