Kochi, Dec 13 (PTI) The 2018 MRF Indian National Rally Championship is set for an exciting winner-takes-all finish, with Kerala's iconic Popular Rally, the fifth and final round of the championship, emerging as the stage for the grand showdown.

Mahindra Adventure's two-time INRC champion Amittrajit Ghosh comes into the last round with the highest points (79) but will still start behind his teammate and three-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill due to the N-1 rule.

Gill, in fact, will not only begin on pole position but also as the favourite, given his aggressive style of driving. He has 62 points while Ghosh, with 61 points after the N-1 factor, will be right in his tail.

Ghosh, the European Rally Championship driver, will also fancy his chances, especially two very good rounds in the INRC.

Both will, however, be wary of Arka Motorsports' Karna Kadur, who is not too far behind with 55 points after the N-1 factor. The former INRC champion is competing in the INRC 2 category but has shown the speed and desire to topple his fancied opponents. He can take his second title if he wins the Popular Rally and Gill finishes third or lower.

The rally was flagged off by K Padmakumar, Transport Commissioner, Govt. of Kerala, from Hotel Le Meridien, Kochi, Thursday.

It will unfold in nine special stages on the smooth tarmac in the Mundakkayam-Kuttikanam sector in Idukki district on Saturday. Two more special stages will follow on Sunday, after which the rally drivers will head to Ernakulam for a Super Special Stage (SSS), at HMT Colony Road, Kalamassery.

The trophy presentation to the winners of the Popular Rally 2018 and the champagne shower will be held at the SSS venue itself. The official podium ceremony will be held at Le Meridien later in the evening, before invited guests.

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