Indian 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.
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 following three days of thrilling action. He could have challenged for victory had he not lost some three minutes stopping to change a puncture on stage six. The 31-year-old also completed the final four kilometres of the event in front-wheel drive following a rare propshaft failure caused by the demanding conditions.
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.
“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 Gaurav 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 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.
China 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.
WHAT THEY SAID:
Guarav Gill (India), FIA APRC champion*: “It’s an amazing feeling and the biggest triumph of my career. We have been trying to make this happen for a few years but we’ve always had some issue or another every time. But this year has been good, the perfect year. We’ve had great support from ŠKODA, our MRF team and the perfect tyres that MRF made for us. I’m really happy, not just for me, it’s for the whole team and back home I’m sure even for our country.”
Esapekka Lappi (Finland), China Rally Longyou winner: “It was not an easy rally because the gravel became soft and muddy when it started to rain and on the concrete there was not so good grip. It’s a shame I couldn’t fight for the drivers’ championship but at least ŠKODA won the manufacturers’ title and MRF the teams’ title. The aim here was to get both cars to the finish and secure every title possible and we’ve done that so it’s a great job
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
PROVISIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (after 6/6 rounds, full standings at www.fiaaprc.com):
Overall drivers: 1 Gill 145.5pts; 2 Lappi 117; 3 Sanjay Takale 104; 4 Michael Young 92; 5 Hiroshi Asakura 53
Overall co-drivers: 1 Macneall 145.5pts; 2 Ferm 117; 3 Sean Gregory 104; 4 Malcolm Read 64; 5 Takumi Takahashi 30; 6 Daniel Willson 28; 7 Osamu Yoda 23
Manufacturers: 1 ŠKODA 197.5pts; 2 Subaru 145; 3 Mitsubishi 104.5; 4 Toyota 55; 5 PROTON 29; 6 Suzuki 24
ROLL OF HONOUR
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Drivers: Gaurav Gill (India)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Co-drivers: Glenn Macneall (New Zealand)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Cup for Manufacturers: ŠKODA
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Production Cup for Drivers: Sanjay Takale (India)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Production Cup for Co-drivers: Sean Gregory (Malaysia)
FIA Asia Cup for Drivers: To be decided on the Thailand Rally
FIA Asia Cup for Co-drivers: To be decided on the Thailand Rally
FIA Pacific Cup for Drivers: Simon Knowles (Australia)
FIA Pacific Cup for Co-drivers: Margot Knowles (Australia)
FIA Asia-Pacific Junior Cup for Drivers: Michael Young (New Zealand)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Cup for Drivers – 2WD: Michael Young (New Zealand)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Cup for Co-drivers – 2WD: Malcolm Read (New Zealand)
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Teams’ Trophy: Team MRF ŠKODA
NEXT EVENT: Thailand Rally, December 5-7 (FIA Asia Cup only)