Kohima, Dec 3 (IANS) Delhis Gagan Sethi, rated among the countrys top TSD rallyists, lived up to his reputation, successfully defending his JK Tyre Hornbill Rally title here on Monday.
Competing in the open category, Gagan (with navigator Sabatullah Khan) was at his sublime best, finishing the 55-km TSD rally with a mere penalty of 29 seconds to emerge victorious.
The rally, held in the backdrop of the famous Hornbill Festival, was flagged-off by multiple Indian National Rally Champion Hari Singh from Indira Gandhi Stadium.
The competitors traversed through rocky terrains on the outskirts of Kohima to reach the finish line in Kisama Village.
They had to negotiate a total of 7 surprise time controls.
Gagan, who teamed up with Sabatullah for the first time, conceded that the victory was indeed very special as it was his wedding anniversary. He promptly dedicated the win to his wife.
“It was a difficult rally and I was facing a lot of problems with the car. But my navigator was brilliant and he helped us cruise past the field to claim the title,” Gagan said after the rally.
“Even though we were driving together for the first time, we hit it off instantly and our co-ordination was really very great,” he added.
The second place was taken by Bijo Awom and Chandrasekhar (1:44 minutes penalty) while Tali Akang and Nirav Mehta finished third with a penalty of 2:05 minutes.
Nagaland Chief minister Neiphiu Riphu called the event a grand success and vowed to make it even bigger in the years to come.
“I am really thankful to JK Tyres for their support in promoting motorsports in the country. The CMD of the company Raghupati Singhania reposed his faith in us and we shall walk together to make Nagaland the new motorsports hub of the country,” Mr. Riphu said.
In the North East class, Alex Suohu and Akhrielie Vizo took the first place with a penalty of 9:44 minutes. Thezakkielie Zuyie (co-driver Moamarimsong) with a total penalty of 10.5 minutes finished second while Anguzo Sekhose and Mengu Yhome (00:12:29 minutes) claimed the third.
Held on the third day of the Hornbill Festival, the drivers enjoyed the rare honour of zipping past colourfully clad locals, who cheered them all through the route. Various
tribes from the state, including AO, Angami, Lotha, Sumi, Kachari, Yimchunger, Sangtam and Chang, added a festive look to the entire rally.
A few of the competitors couldn’t help but slow down to relish traditional dances and music even as the rally was heating up. There were unique horticulture shows too along the way, with exotic flowers enchanting foreigners and Indians alike who have turned up in huge numbers.