Sukhwant Basra June 02, 2008:
The Indian battles persistent car problems but makes up seven places on final day
India’s Naren Kumar battled persistent car problems and rough terrain that saw 26 competitors out of the original 60 fall by the wayside to notch a creditable 11th place finish at his (Production World Rally Championship) PWRC debut in Greece.
In a field that featured the best in the world in the open category, Naren representing Team Sidvin, came in overall 25th. He managed this despite the BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally being his first outing at this high level and while driving a car - Subaru N 14 - that has its fair share of hassles as it made its debut into competitive driving. These are provisional results as of now but the final standing is unlikely to change.
Had his turbo not blown on Saturday and he had not lost four minutes plus in stage 12, he would have been in reaching distance of a top-10 finish. To make it to the top-5, however, he will have to improve by more than ten minutes and that is not an altogether unlikely scenario once he gets more confidence at this level and the teething troubles of the car have been worked out.
Vagaries of terrain and machine, however, are a part of rallying but what is credible is the fact that Naren hung in there while nursing his car to eke out optimum performance under the circumstances. That he did not give up till the very end is evident as he made up one place even in the final four km special spectator stage winding around the Tatoi aerodrome.
Of all the Subaru cars in the field, Naren came in second best. That should improve his stake with the manufacturer which only allowed him into the cockpit after its experts had evaluated his ability. “In our opinion, Naren has done excellent. First time with a car at this level, he has managed to keep going even when more experienced drivers have been making mistakes. The strategy for him was to experience the full rally and get as many kms as possible. His driving is very promising,” said Esko Rainer MD, Tommi Makinen Racing — the team that is backing Naren’s challenge.