Nashik, June 10: The Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra, organised by the Western India Sports Association (WISA) and to be run here June 11-14, will herald a new season in the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship with promise of exciting action.
Heading the 27-car field is the Mahindra Adventure team trio of reigning national champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif), Sunny Sidhu (PV Srinivas Murthy) and Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik), all driving Mahindra XUV 500.
Joining the threesome in the top-end IRC class are JCT Rallying's Samir Thapar (Gurinder Singh Mann) in a Mitsubishi Evo X and Lohitt Urs (Srikant Gowda), who is returning to the National Championship after sitting out the 2014 season in a Mitsubishi Evo VIII.
Also in the fray is last year's champion in the IRC 2000cc class Bengaluru-based Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) of Team Yokohama in a Mitsubishi Cedia, teammate Karna Kadur (M. Chandrasekar) in the 1600cc category apart from Adith KC (Harish KN), the 2014 winner in the FMSCI 1600 Cup.
The Volkswagen Polo has a strong presence with 11 cars on the grid. Among the ones to be watched are Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish Rajagopal), who have entered in the 2000cc class, and the precocious talent from Mangaluru, Dean Mascarenhas (Shanmugha SN) in the 1600cc category.
The 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Champion and fresh from winning the APRC Rally of New Caledonia last month, Gill said: "It is going to be an exciting and challenging year. Both Mahindra and MRF, our tyre suppliers, have put in a lot of effort and our cars are well prepared.
"As for the Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra, it is going to be very challenging since the Evos are more powerful, especially on tarmac. But then, I am all pumped up and up for the challenge."
Speaking of his return to national rallying, Mysuru-based Urs said: "I spent the whole of last year building my own set up. I am competing this season solely to build a platform by bringing in the four-wheel drive car. I hope to expand in the future so that young drivers get an opportunity."
Kanthraj, who is teaming up with Bhatt for the 16th season, said: "We did a lot of work on my last year's Cedia and hopefully, we will do better this season. Obviously, we are all pretty excited and are looking forward to the new season."
The Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra is the second round of the FMSCI Indian Rally Championship, but effectively the season opener as the first round which was to be run in Goa in May was cancelled due to unavoidable circumstances.
The only tarmac event of the season, the Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra will cover a total distance of 471 km of which 116.46 km form the competitive section.
After Thursday's flag-off, action shifts to the three Special Stages located about 68 km from the city. Two loops of the Special Stages will be run on Friday and a third on Saturday, before the cars return to the city for the Spectator Special Stage at the Dadasaheb Phalke Smarak.
The Spectator Special Stage of 2.03 km, will be run once on Saturday evening and twice on Sunday before the Mahindra Adventure Rally of Maharashtra concludes with podium and champagne ceremony.