Team MRF’s Guarav Gill is closing in on his first Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title after a convincing victory in Japan’s Hokkaido Rally, round five of the series.
Driving his Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia S2000, the Indian and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, won the two-day event by nearly six minutes and now leads the championship by 13.5 points with one round to come. It was the pairing’s second victory of the 2013 season.
The second Team MRF Skoda, driven by the Finnish pair of Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm, have dropped to fourth in the title race after retiring on the first day with suspension failure.
“It was a really tough weekend – a very long, hard rally and it’s not been easy at all, so we’re relieved to win,” Gill said at the finish. “We started off with a good battle with Esapekka Lappi, but then he had some problems so we were left with the advantage. On the last day we had to play smart, keep out of trouble and thankfully it paid off in the end. “We were cruising on the last day, but I think we actually drove too slowly – these cars can be more difficult to drive when you’re not on the limit because there isn’t much traction, so we needed to up the pace to ensure we finished with no dramas. “We’re just happy to have made it to the end in one piece and with more points for the championship.”
Team MRF team manager, Lane Heenan, was pleased that the team have extended their lead in the APRC title race on an event that is synonymous with fast and often narrow gravel roads. “Gill drove a very mature rally in Japan and used his experience from past years to push hard when he needed to,” Heenan said. “As usual, with three passes over the stages the roads got very rutted and rough. “Esapekka lost some time after a precautionary gearbox change at the second service on day one, then pushed had to catch Gill until he had a suspension failure, which was probably due to the rough roads. “He did not restart leg two and Gill cruised though the day to win and get maximum points. “
Team MRF are now in a dominant position in the APRC, leading the Drivers, Manufacturers and Teams Trophy pointscores with just the China Rally (November 2-3) still to come.
Hokkaido Rally, Final Results:
1 Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn Macneall (NZL) ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 2h26m26.2s
2 Yuya Sumiyama (JPN)/Naoki Kase (JPN) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +5m53.3s
3 Shuhei Muta (JPN)/Takahiro Yasui (JPN) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +10m07.5s
4 Sanjay Takle (JPN)/Sean Gregory (MYS) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +30m24.6s
5 Michael Young (NZL)/Malcolm Read (NZL) Toyota Vitz +31m58.8s
FIA APRC Team Trophy: Team MRF ŠKODA CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS after 5/6 rounds:
Overall drivers: 1 Gaurav Gill 117.5; 2 Sanjay Takale 104; 3 Michael Young 92; 4 Esapekka Lappi 78; 5 Hiroshi Asakura 53
Overall co-drivers: 1 Glenn Macneall 117.5; 2 Sean Gregory 104; 3 Janne Ferm 78; 4 Malcolm Read 64; 5 Takumi Takahashi 30; 6 Daniel Willson 28; 7 Osamu Yoda 23
Manufacturers: 1 ŠKODA 158.5; 2 Subaru 145; 3 Mitsubishi 104.5; 4 Toyota 55; 5 PROTON 29; 6 Suzuki 24
NEXT ROUND: China Rally, November 2-3
Photos courtesy of: APSM TV (Mitsuru Kotake and Asia Pacific Sports Media and TV)