Team MRF's national champion, Gaurav Gill, showed his class with a brilliant drive on the hilly tea estates here as he raced to the lead in the Misty Meadows Rally of Kerala, the fifth round of the Speed Indian National Rally Championship, on Saturday evening.
With a 25-second advantage over Red Rooster Racings's overnight leader Amittrajit Ghosh, Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) is now sitting pretty after the second leg in the three-day event.
The 29-year-old from Delhi now has to just take his Mitsubishi Cedia safely through Sunday's 3.28-km super special stage at Kuttikanam — the final stage has been shifted from Kottayam — to lay his hands on the overall title in the rally organised by Pas-Sear Adventures.
Amittrajit Ghosh (co-driver Ashwin Naik) began the day on the right note, clocking the fastest time in the day's first stage, but a determined Gill, who failed to finish the last three events, dominated after that to notch up best times in five of the day's eight stages.
Ghosh is in the second spot, while his Red Rooster teammates Naren Kumar (Ram Kumar) and Vikram Mathias (P.V. Srinivas Murthy), both former national champions, occupy the third and fourth positions.
There was some setback for Kerala with two of its leading lights, Bikku Babu and Bonnie Thomas, dropping out in the 1400cc event.
Provisional results after second day:
Overall & 2000 cc N+ class: 1. Gaurav Gill & Musa Sherif (Team MRF) 1 hour 13 minutes 37.4 secs; 2. Amittrajit Ghosh & Ashwin Naik (Red Rooster Racing) 1:14:02.4 secs; 3. Naren Kumar & D. Ram Kumar (Red Rooster Racing) 1:14: 47.6 secs.
2000cc N class: 1. Girijashankar Joshy & M. Chandramouli (Team Ovion) 1:20: 42.4; 2. Sujay Suresh & S.M. Bharath 1: 20: 43.5; 3. Sirish Chandran & Nikhil Pai (Team Overdrive) 1:25:51.3.
1600cc class: 1. Rahul Kantharaj & Vivek Y. Bhat (Privateer) 1: 25: 45.4; 2. Shailendra Hegde & Shiraj Ahmed 1:29: 06.2; 3. Ranjit Gopinath & Suresh Babu 1:31: 28.5.
1400cc class: 1. Byram Godrej & Anjay Kapadia 1:27:28.2; 2. C.G. Balram & C.G. Raghuram 1: 34:20.6; 3. Aniruddha Ranganathan & Halley Prabhakar 1: 43: 09.7.
Rally Star Cup: 1. M.R. Venkatapathy & S. Santosh Kumar 1: 27: 49.4; 2. Phalguna V. Urs & Anoop Kumar 1:28:04.6; 3. N. Harikeshav & A.G. Somayya 1:37: 08.4.
Gypsy class: 1. Amrinder Brar & Nilesh (AAW) 1: 29: 13.9; 2. Shakti Bajaj & Dharmesh Sinha (AAW) 1:38: 03.0; 3. Elias Thomas Paarel & Thomas Phillip 1: 39: 59.8.