Gaurav Gill will be hoping for a swift change of fortune after a China Rally Longyou shakedown smash left his Team MRF Skoda Fabia Super 2000 in need of repair.
The 31-year-old is set to win the Asia-Pacific title for the first time this weekend although his 25.5-point margin over Michael Young – the only driver competing in China who can pip him to the crown – means he can’t celebrate just yet despite the performance edge his car enjoys over Young’s front-wheel-drive Toyota Vitz.
And Gill’s off on the 1.8-kilometre practice stage at the Shiyuan Motorsports Complex earlier today was a stark warning of the tough challenge that awaits on the mixed-surface event, which features 13 stages over a competitive distance of 230.92 kilometres.
“It’s a really tricky event because about 55 per cent of the rally’s stages are run on concrete,” said Team MRF Skoda boss Lane Heenan. “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. They can be quite rough and rutted as well, so the cars need to be strong enough to take that.” Gill, from India, can also help Team MRF Skoda to the APRC entrants’ prize and Skoda to the APRC manufacturers’ award.
Meanwhile, Finn Esapekka Lappi, whose own chances of the APRC drivers’ crown evaporated following a disastrous showing on Rally Hokkaido in Japan last month, will also be competing in China as back-up to Gill.
Former Production Car world champion Niall McShea will also be in action in a Fabia S2000 but the Northern Irishman won’t be eligible for APRC points. The event, which takes place in Zhejiang province in the east of China, begins with a ceremonial start at 1045 local time on Friday 1 November. The finish is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.