Kottayam, Dec 17 : Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) of Team Red Rooster Racing hung on grimly to a slender lead to finish ahead of national champion Gaurav Gill (Musa Sherif) of Team MRF in the Misty Meadows Rally here Friday.
Ghosh from Kolkata, ended the day with a penalty time of 18 minutes, 02.6 seconds, while Gill whose Mitsubishi Cedia (Group N+) was down on power and torque, was on 18:03.2, ahead of two other Red Rooster entries, VR Naren Kumar (D Ramkumar) who returned 18:14.0 and Vikram Mathias (PVS Murthy) 18:14.6.
The outcome of the fifth and penultimate round of the Speed-Indian National Rally Championship is thus poised on a knife-edge with eight Stages to be run Saturday following the rescheduling of the itinerary due to fog.
"I had a good outing today, but lost some time on the steep uphill run. Although the car was otherwise excellent, it seemed to lack power and torque, but on the day's last stage, which was a downhill run, I made time," said Gill whose campaign this season is still to gather steam with a non-finish in three of the previous rounds after beginning the season on a winning note at Nashik.
In the Group N 2000cc class, rookie Sirish Chandran (Nikhil Pai) delivered a stunning performance to finish ahead of the seasoned Ovion Racing's Girijashankar (Chandramouli M) for a 15.9-second lead.
Meanwhile, Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) topped the time charts in the 1600cc class and enjoyed a 44-second lead over championship leader Shailender Hegde (Sheraz Ahmed).
Bikku Babu (Vinod N Gowda), the title contender in 1400cc class finished the day five seconds behind local entry Bonnie Thomas (Jeeva Rathinam).
The event received rave reviews from the competitors who were virtually unanimous in their view that the Rally of Kerala was the best of the INRC rounds held this season.
Echoing the competitors' opinion, Chandran said: "The Stages were just brilliant. The surface was smooth and anything but a car-breaker. The organisation too has been just about perfect, though there was not much anyone could do with regard to the rescheduling that was forced due to the fog."
Provisional positions after Leg 1:
Overall/2000cc (Group N+): Amittrajit Ghosh / Ashwin Naik (Red Rooster Racing) 1 (18mins, 02.6secs); Gaurav Gill / Musa Sherif (MRF) 2 (18:03.2); VR Naren Kumar / D Ramkumar (Red Rooster Racing) 3 (18:14.0).
2000cc (Group N): Sirish Chandran / Nikhil Pai (Pvt) 1 (19:38.1); Girijashankar Joshy / Chandramouli M (Ovion Racing) 2 (19:54.0); Sujay Suresh / Bharath SM (Ovion Racing) 3 (19:58.2).
1600cc: Rahul Kanthraj / Vivek Bhatt (Pvt) 1 (20:41.4); Shailender Hegde / Sheraz Ahmed (Pvt) 2 (21:25.2); Ranjith Gopinath / Suresh Babu (Pvt) 3 (21:57.9).
1400cc: Bonnie Thomas / Jeeva Rathinam (Pvt) 1 (20:40.7); Dr Bikku Babu / Vinod Gowda (Pvt) 2 (20:45.4); Byram Godrej / Anjay Kapadia (Pvt) 3 (21:14.3).
Rally Star Cup: Venkatapathy MR / Santosh Kumar (Pvt) 1 (21:38.0); Phalguna V Urs / Anoop Kumar (Pvt) 2 (21:43.4); Harikesav N / Somayya AG (Pvt) 3 (22:08.9).
Gypsy: Amarindar Brar / S Nilesh (Army Adventure Wing) 1 (21:45.9); Sachin Singh / Venu Ramesh Kumar (Pvt) 2 (21:51.5); Shankti Bajaj / Dharmesh Sinha (AAW) 3 (22:07.7).(IANS)