Itanagar, the capital city of Arunachal Pradesh is all set to host the 2020 season of FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) with the first two rounds of the mega event scheduled to kick off in the picturesque mountain town on Wednesday.

Where Arjuna awardee and multiple national champion Gaurav Gill would be leading the JK Tyre team’s challenge in the overall category of the competition, the championship this time would also witness four drivers, including a female, from Arunachal Pradesh take part in it.

With her participation confirmed, Asha Nabam is set to become the first female driver from the north east to compete in the event.

“I am proud that I will be the first female driver from the region to take part in the championship and I hope this inspires other women to follow suit. We have a special bond with speed and adventure and I know if we do well, many more will follow us,” Asha said.

Asha, a native of Sagalee in Arunachal’s Papum Pare district has been taking part in various motorsports events in the state including the JK Tyre off-roading challenge held in Dambuk annually.

“I am lucky that the INRC this year is kicking off from Itanagar as I am familiar with this terrain. I am confident that it will keep me in good stead in the first two rounds that are scheduled to be held here,” Asha said.

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Phurpa Tsering, another participant from Arunachal said it is for the first time in his 7-year-long rallying career that he has being sponsored by a big company and that he would not have to worry about raising funds to take part in national championships.

“I am really excited as I will have ace drivers like Gaurav Gill alongside me, guiding us and giving us valuable tips,” the 31-year-old said.

Phurpa’s city mate Pem Sonam who also hopes to sparkle in the INRC 3 category, said it will be thrilling to have the entire state rooting for the locals.

Speaking of his familiarity with the rough terrain of Itanagar and the support that the local participants is likely to get, Sonam said: “I know that most of the fans here will be cheering for us and we hope that our participation in the championship will inspire many others to take up this sport.”

Though I know the terrain well, however, it does not mean much when one is against the country’s best, Sonam said.

Naku Chada, another local, yet talented participant from the state said “Arunachal Pradesh is one among the few states in the north east that has been quite active in motorsports. “

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The sport has become very popular in Arunachal due to the number of events that are organized every year, with JK Tyre at the forefront of it, he said.

The other driver to participate in the competition from Arunachal is Hage Bittu.

“We have a very strong field for the first two rounds and I am delighted that I will be competing against the very best,” he said.

All the four drivers from the state are supported by JK Tyre.

Gaurav Gill too expressed his excitement on the resumption of the sport after a long gap following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a great feeling to be behind the wheel for a competition after a long break and our team is ready to assert our supremacy once again” he said while thanking the Arunachal Pradesh government for its endless support to motorsports.

Gill along with his teammate Amittrajit Ghosh and Motorsport Club of Arunachal (MCA) president Lhakpa Tsering called on Chief Minister Pema Khandu at his office on Monday.

Presenting details of the championship, Tsering said a total of 43 racers have confirmed their participation in the ‘Rally of Arunachal-2020’, which is the first two rounds of INRC, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Tsering said the first two rounds of the event being organized in the state by the Motorsport Club of Arunachal is supported by the Tourism, Sports & Youth Affairs and Police departments besides several other organizations and volunteers.

Welcoming both Gill and Ghosh to Arunachal, Khandu expressed optimism that the event would work as a catalyst to boost tourism in the state.

“With its geographic terrains, Arunachal Pradesh has all the potential to become the next destination for adventure sports,” he said.

Congratulating the local drivers, Khandu expressed happiness that local youths, including girls are exploring new grounds to hone their talents.

He said this is proof that youths of Arunachal have all the potential to rub shoulders with the best in all fields.

Khandu would be flagging off the championship on December 16.

Itanagar will host two back-to-back rounds of the INRC between December 16-17 and December 19-20, respectively and it would be followed by the third round in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu from January 9-10 next year.

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The fourth round would be held in Hampi, Karnataka between January 23-24 and the final round will take place in Bengaluru from January 30-31, 2021.

The first two rounds Itanagar will be tarmac-based while the three rounds in South India will be held through gravel and dirt.

DAMIEN LEPCHA

Damien Lepcha is Northeast Now Correspondent in Arunachal Pradesh. He can be reached at: lepcharaul@gmail.com