The Indian National Rally Championship appears to have an international look this season and many new features have come in but the sport’s giant, Team MRF, is not likely to compete in the series this year.

“No, we are not competing this time,” said Gaurav Gill, MRF’s National rally champion, from New Delhi, on Thursday evening.

Gill’s navigator, Musa Sherif also confirmed that MRF had told its drivers and navigators that the team would not run in the national championship this season.

The FMSCI has removed the glamorous Group N+, the modified cars category which featured biggies like MRF, from this season’s national championship and this is the reason behind the team’s pull-out, said Gill.

“The FMSCI’s thinking is all wrong, it is not taking the sport forward,” said Gill.

“The sport needs modified cars and professional drivers and teams like MRF to move forward, to bring in spectators. Technically, modified cars are a lot faster than the standard Group N cars because they have almost double the horse power, 200 hp compared to the Group N’s 120 hp cars.”

The sport could also be a lot quieter under the new rules.

“The Group N cars won’t look spectacular, they won’t make any sound, it will be boring to drive them,” said the aggressive driver who has won a few events in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have Group N cars…let them have it but let them have other classes too. How can the standard of driving go up, if the quality doesn’t go up.”

Meanwhile Soman Joseph, who is in charge of motor sport at MRF, said the tyre giant has not made up its mind regarding its participation in this year’s four-round national championship which kicks off in Bangalore later this month.

“We’ve not finalised it yet,” said Soman. “But Gaurav Gill will not be doing the opening round because he’s going for the APRC rally (Asia Pacific event in Japan).”

He said the team would finalise its plans over the next few days.

A couple of years ago, Team MRF had four cars in the INRC. MRF has also been the most dominant team in the championship with its star drivers like N. Leelakrishnan, V.R. Naren Kumar and of course, Gill.

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