The small village of Kethanur located some 40 km away from Coimbatore, in Tamil Nadu, is known for its windmills. Coimbatore, situated along the banks of river Noyyal, is surrounded by mountains. The city receives plenty of winds through the Palghat gap in the Western Ghats leading to windmill farming here.
Besides these windmills, the hamlet attracts a fleet of motorsport lovers every year as it stages one leg of the FMSCI’s Indian National Rally Championship.
This year’s championship kicked off at Coimbatore as 39 cars took part in the first of the five legged championship.
It was a fascinating sight as the giant wings of the windmills rotated in the background as the four-wheelers zipped past them raising a dust storm.
After an intense battle over 200km which included almost 75km of special stages, it was Team Mahindra Adventure which finished 1-2 on the podium. While Kolkata boy Amittrajit Ghosh and co-driver Ashwin Naik claimed the title in the INRC category with an overall time of 1:03:14.9 seconds, their teammates Sunny Sidhu and (co-driver) PV Srinivas Murthy came second in 1:03:59.3s.
The cars ran two Special Stages of 13.90 and 10.95 km thrice each.
However, Team Mahindra Adventure’s dream of sweeping the podium suffered an early jolt when their star driver Gaurav Gill and (co-driver) Musa Shariff were out of the rally even before the start of the stages. The front left suspension of current Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) leader broke down forcing them to retire.
Ghosh, who finished third in the British Rally Championship recently, adjusted well to the conditions and the vehicle after arriving in the country from London only a week before the event.
However, he too had his share of problems but managed to romp home quite easily. “I damaged the rear right arm suspension early on at the stages. But the team mechanics did well to bring it back to a workable condition. But later on I found my clutch was slipping. But as I took an early lead, I decided to play safe and just take the car home,” Ghosh stated after the podium ceremony.
The former national racing and rally champion managed a handsome 40 seconds lead over teammate Sunny Sidhu at the end of first stage of the rally. He extended it to a more than 52 second lead, as he recorded better timing in all the stages. That he was forced to slow down a bit to save the vehicle was evident from the fact that only in the last stage did Sidhu managed to pull it back a bit. But in the end that was not enough to dislodge Ghosh from the top.
Sidhu too overcame a clutch problem to push Ghosh in the end. “My clutch was slipping after the second stage and we dropped down to third position. But we rectified the fault and got back to our position,” he stated.
Dean Mascarenhas and co-driver SN Shanmuga, who ended third (1:04:23.3) in the category was declared winners in the INRC 2000cc category.
With former Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan and former national rally champion Naren Kumar hailing from here, Coimbatore is often known as the motorsport city of India. It lived up to that reputation as a handsome number of people lined up at the various spectators’ points along the rally’s special stages and cheered the drivers all through.
In another first, Kolkata-based Ramakrishna Race Performance Management (RRPM) Ltd, the promoters of the championship organised an event called Shakedown where all the top drivers took celebrities and media representatives for a 2 km run in their rally cars giving them a first-hand experience of real action.