Triple Victory for MRF Skoda

Gill and Lappi Shake HandsIndian star Gaurav Gill has described winning the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship* as an “amazing feeling” after he secured the coveted title spoils with second place on China Rally Longyou today (Sunday).

Driving for Team MRF ŠKODA alongside navigator Glenn Macneall, Gill finished runner-up to team-mates Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm in his Fabia Super 2000. He could have challenged for victory had he not lost approximately three minutes stopping to change a puncture on stage six.

Gill’s title triumph is the second in a row for the Race Torque Engineering-run Team MRF operation following Chris Atkinson’s success in 2012. ŠKODA has successfully defended its APRC Manufacturers’ crown, while Team MRF ŠKODA is the winner of the APRC Teams’ award ahead of Cusco Racing of Japan.

Esapekka Lappi SS5“We’re really happy,” said ŠKODA Motorsport’s Pavel Hortek. “We fulfilled what we planned to do at the beginning of the season, to win again all the championships in both categories. My thanks to the winning crew Garav Gill and Glenn Macneall. This is very important for them, especially for Gaurav who deserves very much to finally win the APRC after trying for so many years.”

Gill, 31, has enjoyed a hugely successful APRC season in 2013 with victories in New Caledonia and Japan and second-place finishes in New Zealand and China. Meanwhile, Lappi’s first place in China marked his third victory of 2013. However, non-scores in New Caledonia, Malaysia and Japan ruled him out of the title fight, although his win in China means he finishes runner-up to Gill in the final standings.

India’s Sanjay Takale, the APRC Production Cup champion, finishes third in the final table for Subaru with New Zealander Michael Young claiming an impressive fourth overall. Young is also the winner of the APRC Junior Cup driving a Toyota Vitz.

Esapekka Lappi SS7China Rally Longyou once again lived up to its reputation as one of the most challenging events on the APRC calendar. Based in the Zhejiang province in eastern China, 400 kilometres from Shanghai, the stages use a mixture of gravel and concrete roads. But with rain falling, drivers reported the concrete sections were extremely slippery. They also faced two rock-strewn mountain stages, while brake problems and a spin for Lappi on Saturday morning added to the drama.

FIA APRC RESULTS (after 13 special stages, 230.92 kilometres):
1 Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 3h01m46.9s
2 Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn Macneall (NZL) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +5m37.4s

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (after 6/6 rounds):

Gaurav Gill, 145.5
Esapekka Lappi, 117
Sanjay Takle, 104
Michael Young, 92
Hiroshi Asakura , 53

APRC Drivers’ champion: Gaurav Gill
APRC Co-drivers’ champion: Glenn Macneall
APRC Manufacturers’ champion: ŠKODA
APRC Teams’ champion: Team MRF ŠKODA
APRC Production Cup champion: Sanjay Takale
APRC Junior Cup champion: Michael Young
APRC 2WD champion: Michael Young

Gaurav Gill – 2013 Champion

Skoda Team 2013
Gaurav Gill and Glen Macneall are the 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Champions after finishing Day 1 of China Rally and taking an unbeatable lead in the championship standings.

“This is definitely the highlight of my career so far, we’ve come close on several other occasions and this year wasn’t easy either. I have to thank the team, my co-driver Glenn (Macneall), Skoda and a big thank you to MRF tyres too as they’ve stuck with me all these years and so its nice to reward them and my country”.

Gill had a trouble-free day, except for a puncture on the afternoon loop. “We stopped and changed it loosing 2-3 minutes, but the main thing is to get it the car back here”.

Gill’s team-mate Esapekka Lappi from Finland leads the event by 4 minutes. There’s still one day to go, before the finish when the MRF Skoda team can celebrate on the APRC podium, the manufacturers and team prize.

Michael Young, from New Zealand, was the only driver in with a shout of preventing Gill from taking the title, despite his front-wheel-drive Toyota Vitz giving away a stack of performance to Gill’s pacesetting Skoda Fabia Super 2000. But Young’s non-appearance means Indian driver Gill cannot be caught in the championship charge.

Team MRF: Almost There

Rally China 2013 Gaurav GillTeam MRF head into the this weekend’s China Rally Longyou perfectly placed to win all three Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) titles.

Indian driver, Gaurav Gill, currently holds a 13.5 point Drivers’ title lead in his Skoda Fabia S2000, with Skoda and Team MRF are also on track to win the Manufacturers and Teams’ Cup awards respectively.

Gill’s Finnish team-mate, Esapekka Lappi, has endured bad luck in recent rounds of the APRC, but a strong finish in China should see him move up to second in the championship race.

As they were in previous years, the China Rally Longyou’s shakedown stage and stage one are all held at the Shiyuan Motorsports Complex, while the special stages for Legs 1 and 2 are run through bamboo forests.

“It’s a really tricky event, because about 55 per cent of the rally’s stages are run on concrete,” Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, said.

“The stages tend to wind their way up mountains with twisty roads and plenty of hairpins, then they open up on the downhill sections on the other side.

Rally China 2013 Gaurav Gill“They can be quite rough and rutted as well, so the cars need to be strong enough to take that.”

The Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabias have been the cars to beat in this year’s APRC, with Gill and Lappi winning four of the five events held so far.

Gill, with Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, only has to finish the rally to secure his first APRC title, while Lappi starts the rally in great form, having finished second in the S2000 category at the recent Sanremo Rally in Italy.

“The championships are there for the taking, but we’re not getting ahead of ourselves and need to ensure we get both cars to the finish,” Heenan added.

“Tyre wear will be a critical factor over the event’s 13 stages, with the gravel tyres sure to take a pounding on the concrete sections.

“However, we’ve planned well for the final round of this year’s championship, and feel confident that we’ll be celebrating three titles on Sunday evening.”

Weather conditions for the event are expected to be fine and mild, with temperatures in the 15 to 23 degree range.

Neither of the Team MRF drivers have won the event before, with this being Lappi’s first visit to the rally.

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS after 5 of 6 rounds: 

Overall drivers:
1 Gaurav Gill 117.5;
2 Sanjay Takale 104;
3 Michael Young 92;
4 Esapekka Lappi 78;
5 Hiroshi Asakura 53

1 ŠKODA 158.5;
2 Subaru 145;
3 Mitsubishi 104.5;
4 Toyota 55;
5 PROTON 29;
6 Suzuki 24

Photos courtesy of: APSM TV (Asia Pacific Sports Media and TV)