Pragathi Gowda, lone Indian to make Stage-3 cut, Aussie Jaidyn Gluskie quickest overall

Chennai, Oct 11 (Representative) Bengaluru’s Pragathi Gowda kept Indian hopesalive in the FIA Rally Star Asia-Pacific Final as she qualified for Stage-3of the competition at the Madras International Circuit, here on Tuesday. Australia’s Jaidyn Gluskie was overall the quickest with a blistering bestlap of 01min, 34.08secs over a 1,300-metre course. The 25-year old Pragathi, who clocked a best lap of 01:41.96, was among12 qualifiers for the final round which will be run on Wednesday when the Asia-Pacific champion is decided. “I am extremely happy to qualify for tomorrow’s Stage-3. The conditionsin the afternoon when I drove were much better than in the morning andI was able to perform well. Yesterday was my first experience driving a Cross Car, but now, I am a little more comfortable with it and happy forthe opportunity to compete at this competition,” said Pragathi. Earlier, six other Indians – Harkrishan Wadia, Arnav Pratap Singh, TarushiVikram, Vedant Jouhari, Jasmehar Jubbal and Jeremy Miller–were knockedout.

Of the lot, Wadia, the quickest Indian yesterday, was distinctly unlucky tomiss the qualification for Stage-3 as he was docked a two-second penaltyfor knocking down a couple of marker cones in his second timed-lap whichput him third in the group, just one second behind Sri Lanka’s Eshan Pieris. “In the first timed-lap, the gear slipped into neutral and I lost time. In mysecond outing, I think I knocked down a couple of marker cones. Butoverall, it was a good experience,” said a disappointed Harkrishan. As in the case of Wadia, much was expected of Arnav Pratap Singh whohad fared well in Stage-1 yesterday, but a couple of driving errors duringthe timed runs today cost the Delhi driver.

The 25 contestants in Stage-2 today were divided into five groups of fiveeach. The two quickest in each group advanced to Stage-3. They werejoined by two others who topped a modified version of Nacon’s WRC 9game in the Digital Challenge, open to the drivers eliminated after Stage-2. The conditions, following overnight rain, were tricky. The slush caughtout many drivers, especially those starting down the order. The mudthrown up by the early cars rendered the terrain, which was a mix oftarmac and dirt, slippery, putting a premium on car control. The terrainimproved considerably later in the day under bright sunshine and thedrivers were able to clock faster times.The winners of the Asia-Pacific region will be announced tomorrowafter all the drivers have been interviewed by the four-member Jurycomprising FIA Rally Director Andrew Wheatley (Chairman), PernillaSolberg, Maciej Woda and Guy Botterill (Driver Advisor).