Subaru set for India debut
A revamped FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship (INRC), without the popular Gypsy class, will be flagged-off here Saturday in the form of Karnataka 1000 that will witness the debut of a Subaru Impreza WRX STi running in a new series to be run concurrently.
A restructured INRC, reduced to just four rounds and without a title sponsor or promoter, hopes to attract new car manufacturers while facilitating introduction of more powerful cars in the FIA-approved R4 class (Group N, up to 2500cc).
As such, the FMSCI created a new series for four-wheel drive called the Indian Rally Championship (IRC) that will be run simultaneously with the INRC (up to 2000cc and up to 1600cc) besides the Junior INRC for drivers below the age of 27 who will driving the 1400cc Maruti Esteem.
However, conspicuous by their absence will be Team MRF who pulled out of the championship following the abolition of the Group N+ class at the end of the 2011 season. Thus, the rally fans will not be seeing national champion Gaurav Gill who had raised the bar with his swashbuckling driving.
While the IRC has just one entry, Zuhin (co-driver Musa Sherif) in the Subaru, the 2000cc class has 13 entries, including hot favourite Lohitt Urs (Sujith Kumar), last year's runner-up, while 14 cars in the fray in the 1600cc category and 12 in the junior INRC.
Undoubtedly, the Subaru of Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) specifications and of 2007 vintage, but in a red coloured livery as against the more familiar blue, will be the cynosure. The crew is serviced by Malaysia's MRU Motorsport, who also run four cars in the APRC.
Yet, it remains to be seen whether Zuhin will be able to drive the 290-bhp car to its optimum capability in the Special Stages located on the outskirts of the city as there are not many fast and flowing sections.
A second entry, that of veterans Samir Thapar and co-driver Koka Rao, withdrew as their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10 was not ready. The pair is expected to enter in the next round at Mysore in October.
The other three categories have many familiar crews of proven track records and that should make for some tight battles. Urs can expect tough competition from the likes of Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik), Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) and young Karna Kadur (Somonita Ghosh) in the 2000cc class.
The Special Stages, same as in the preceding years, are likely to be dry and dusty in view of scanty rainfall, but the conditions should make for a fast event.
Saturday will see three physical Special Stages being run thrice while Sunday has a Spectator Special Stage of 2.31 kms for a total of 284.63 kms of which 90.84 kms will be competitive.
Due to delays in finalising the calendar, the K1000, traditionally run in August, was shifted by a month and will be supported by India Mines Group and the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise (NICE).
The 40 vehicles took part in a ceremonial flag-off Friday evening from the NICE office on the outskirts of the city while the Special Stages will be run Saturday.