Coimbatore, July 22 (IANS) The 2016 season of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship for four-wheelers opens here on Sunday with the MRF Rally of Coimbatore that is being presented in a highly compact avatar with 38 entries in the fray.

Saturday afternoon is set aside for a shakedown run in the city to help the competitors check out their rally vehicles and the following morning, they head to the two Special Stages of LMW (13.90 kilometres) and Premier (10.95 kilometres) located some 40 km away and which will be run thrice each.

The rally will herald a new season with MRF Tyres as the title sponsor while Kolkata-based Ramakrishna Race Performance Management (RRPM) Ltd are the promoters of the 2016 championship. Pilcon, Polaris, and Mahindra Adventure are the associate sponsors.

Undoubtedly, much of the attention will be on Mahindra Adventure team’s Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif), the 2013 FIA Asia-Pacific champion who heads the field in the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) class. Gill has been in top form this season having scored back-to-back wins in APRC rounds of New Zealand and Australia, albeit in a factory-supported MRF Skoda Fabia R5.

In the MRF Rally of Coimbatore, Gill will be piloting the Mahindra XUV 500 as also his team-mates Amittrajit Ghosh (Ashwin Naik) and Sunny Sidhu (PV Srinivas Murthy) with Mysuru’s Phalguna Urs (Anoop Kumar) in a Volkswagen Polo completing the foursome in this category.

Further down the grid, the two Team Yokohama India 2K entries of Rahul Kanthraj (Vivek Bhatt) in a Mitsubishi Cedia and Karna Kadur (Nikhil Pai) driving the VW Polo are expected to dominate the IRC 2000 class. Young guns Dean Mascarenhas (Shanmugha SN) and Adith KC (Harish KN), both in the VW Polo, could pose a threat to the Yokohama duo.

The FMSCI Cup class has 14 contenders and going by experience, competition should be the fiercest in this class that is brimming with young talent.

Heading the IRC class are veterans Samir Thapar and his co-driver Gurinder Singh Mann of Team JCT Rallying in a Mitsubishi Evo X besides PG Abhilash (Srikanth Gowda) in Evo VII, Arjun Rao Aroor (Satish K Rajagopal) in Volkswagen Polo R2, and SNAP Racing’s Mohammed Kasim (Sanath G) in Mitsubishi Cedia.

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