Quepem, July 27, 2018: With the top contenders breathing fire down each other’s neck at the ISUZU RFC India 2018, Day 5 of the week-long event saw the points-gap getting even narrower. At the time of the announcement of provisional results for Special Stages (SS) 18 to 21, veteran rallyist Jagat Nanjappa (co-driver Chetan Changappa) of Coorg retained his position at the top of the leader board with 1614 points out of 2100.
This feat included being the top performer in two of the four stages for the day, thereby securing a straight 100 points in both the stages. Defending RFC India Champion Gurmeet Virdi (co-driver Kirpal Singh Tung) from Chandigarh, who secured the second spot in the competition for the first time yesterday, also held on to his position in the points table with 1490 points. Malaysian driver Mervyn Lim (co-driver Alex Tan), who is driving for Team G.O.A. Fairmont, climbed one spot up to claim the third position with 1411 points.
Chandigarh’s Sanbir Singh Dhaliwal (co-driver Gurpartap Singh Sandhu) and RFC India debutant Chow Ujjal Namshum (co-driver Inpeng Mein) from Arunachal Pradesh ended Day 5 of India's toughest international off-road
motorsport competition at the fourth and fifth positions with 1366 and 1324 points respectively.
Jagat Nanjappa of Coorg’s V5 Offroaders said, “The competition over the last couple of days was defined by two things – participants’ luck and the mercy of the rain gods. While some people got certain stages in day time, others got to do them at night. We ourselves didn’t expect to be in the lead. It’s difficult to hold on to the ladder now that we have reached here, but we plan to somehow cling on to it.”
Nanjappa’s co-driver Chetan Changappa, who has played a pivotal role in the team's success at the competition, remarked, “The main thing about this form of sport is the trust and the co-ordination between the driver and the co-driver. We excel on both these parameters and these have always been the core strengths of our team. The plan ahead would be to stay careful, give away no penalties or DNFs (Did Not Finish remarks) and keep our vehicle safe.”
Gurmeet Virdi and co-driver Kirpal Singh Tung, who are representing Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh, were the second fastest in two of the stages for the day, because of which it seemed likely that they might narrow the points gap considerably. Unfortunately, they ended up getting a DNF in SS20, which hugely impacted their final scores for Day 5. Gurmeet Virdi said, “Yesterday’s performance substantially helped me gain some ground. The jinx that I had been carrying since day 1 was finally broken yesterday and I did some good stages. We are now trying to reduce the gap between us and the leading vehicle.
Our aim today was to not get a DNF in any stage but SS20 was a tough one and we could not finish it within the 15 minutes time limit. There are 5 more Special Stages over the next couple of days before
the competition gets over and we are going to give it our best shot.”
Gurmeet was the winner of the 2016 and 2017 editions of this mega off-road motorsport competition and if he manages to climb up to the first position over the next couple of days, this will be his third straight win at RFC India. When asked if he feels any pressure on being the defending RFC India Champion, Gurmeet replied, “There is no pressure as such. But I won’t deny that I really want to make it a hat-trick of straight wins!”
SS18 at ISUZU RFC India 2018 required the competitors to go straight from the start point; then take a right; climb up on a small incline; take a right again; then winch up; followed by a slight turn and winching down towards the finish box. In SS19, the contestants had to enter a 6-feet deep water pit; get out of it from the other side and winch-up another 6-feet tall wall, while passing through a gate; then get into a box while reversing the car; once the car was stationary, participants had to lift up the driver’s rear wheel to about one inch above the ground; take out the spare-wheel and go around the vehicle with the wheel; put the spare wheel back; lower the vehicle; secure the lift-jack; and move towards the end box
Despite being only a 20-meter long stretch, SS 20 turned out to be the most difficult stage of the day with 5 of the top ten teams in the score board getting a DNF in this Stage. It was a very technical stage requiring participants to start by traversing a series of boulders; after which they had to take a sharp U-turn and come back. SS 21 required participants to go upstream in the water stream, with all four tyres in the water; after which they had to winch up a 90 degree climb; get back into the water stream; and move towards the finish box.
RFC India debutant Chow Ujjal Namshum, who is looking to solidify his position at the points table, said, “I had no prior expectations whatsoever before the start of the competition. So, I was happy when I was at the third position, I was happy at sixth and now I am happy being at the fifth position too. However, I will try to put more effort to climb up a few more spots.”
Ujjal and co-driver Ingpeng Mein are representing Arunachal Pradesh’s Team MOCA at the competition. This is North-East India’s first ever participation at RFC India. Ujjal added, “We have travelled over 4,000kms to participate in this event and we certainly want to go back with some sort of an accolade. One of our squad’s team is already out of the competition. So my team is hoping for me to be on the podium. However, I ask them to keep their calm and just wish me well. In return I promise that I will try to do my job to the best of my capabilities.”
The day was crucial for Chandigarh’s Sanbir Singh Dhaliwal, who was sparing no effort to claim his lostglory at the top of the table. He said, “This is RFC India and the change in top ranks is all part of the game. I was doing well for the first two days and was at the top but then I had mechanical issues with my vehicle, because of which I couldn’t complete a few stages and the ranking went down subsequently. If you look at our competition, Mr. Nanjappa is a seasoned offroader while my fellow team-mate Gurmeet needs no introduction; so I understand that it will be really difficult to climb up the ladder ahead of these people.”
He further added, “Even today, I opened the SS20, which is being perceived as one of the toughest by many. My co-driver Gurpartap helped me through to the last obstacle of the stage, where I had to just winch up 10 meters to the finish box. My winch gave up at that point and I was flagged a DNF! So, I believe that it has a lot to do with luck too. Now, I have replaced my winch with due permission from the competition committee. After that, I have completed three stages, of which I was the fastest in oneand scored fairly well in the other two.”
The next set of stages, from SS 22 to SS 25, will be held tomorrow at the same location at the Green Hills Agri Farm in Maina, Quepem, after which the competition will move to the Rajiv Gandhi IT Habitat in
Dona Paula on 28th of July for the final stage and the announcement of the ISUZU RFC India 2018 Champion