The Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) battle is heating up as Gaurav Gill finished the first full day of competition in the lead of Rally of New Caledonia, the second round of the championship held this weekend.
After starting the day 5.3 seconds behind his Team MRF Skoda team-mate Pontus Tidemand, Gill (India) was hoping his experience on the New Caledonian roads would pay off, and in the first stage of the morning it did.
Only 200 meters into the first stage of the day, Tidemand (Sweden) went wide on a corner puncturing the right rear tyre on his Skoda Fabia S2000. With over 15 kilometers left to run, Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson were forced to stop in the stage and change the tyre, losing over two minutes in the process.
With Gill holding a commanding lead, the Team MRF team-mates then battled it out for stage honours with both taking multiple stage victories throughout the day.
“It’s been a good day for us even though the roads have been incredibly slippery. Pontus my team-mate had some bad-luck in this morning’s first stage, however we’ve been able to maintain the gap and we head into tomorrow stages with a good lead. But it’s a long rally, with hundreds of crests and a very slippery surface, so we must be careful,” said Gill at evening service.
Tidemand said: “I started the first stage this morning and I don’t know if the car had puncture in the beginning of the stage, but in the left corner the car just stepped out wide, I don’t know why. I hit a little bank there, maybe we got the puncture there but we had to stop and change. We lost a little more than two minutes, but that’s life.”
The Skoda Team-MRF team also hold third, with local driver Jean-Louis Leyraud also having a successful day in his Skoda Fabia S2000, meaning the team hold the ultimate podium.
Leyraud, who is also leading the national event running alongside the APRC, said his focus is simply finishing on the podium and he will not worry about the two leaders.
Meanwhile local driver Eugene Creugnet holds fourth in his Mitsubishi Evolution 9, with Emmanuel Guigou leading the two-wheel-drive class in his Renault Clio R3T.
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Results after leg one (total event time):