Hokkaido: A clutch problem when firmly in the lead forced Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) of Team MRF to retire in the Hokkaido Rally that also doubled up as the fifth round of the Asia Pacific Rally championship.
The retirement in Sunday`s race notwithstanding, Team MRF are set to take the major prizes in the 2012 championship with Gill`s team-mate, Chris Atkinson, having all but secured this year`s drivers` title, despite missing the Hokkaido Rally.
The Delhi-based Indian champion Gill went into the final day of the Hokkaido Rally with a 49.6 second lead over Subaru driver Toshi Arai, and after three of the day`s eight stages, he had increased that advantage to 52.7 seconds.
"Gaurav had a good morning, but after he left the lunch time service, the clutch seals leaked and he had no clutch," Team MRF manager Lane Heenan said.
"The following stage start was uphill and despite trying everything, he couldn`t get the car to start on the starter motor. It`s very disappointing as they had to withdraw from the rally, the car was push started and then driven back to service."
It was another disappointment for Gill who has not had a lot of luck during the 2012 season, despite showing incredible speed and setting many fastest stage times.
"Gaurav has done an awesome job all season, but has not had the full reward he deserves," Heenan added.
Atkinson missed the Hokkaido Rally in favour of driving a MINI World Rally Car in Wales Rally GB, but will return for the championship decider in China.
Atkinson currently leads the title race by 35 points, with 39 on offer in China. The Australian looks all but assured of his first Asia-Pacific Rally Championship crown.
In the teams championship, MRF are also set to take victory with a large points gap over their nearest rivals, Proton Motorsports.
The Hokkaido Rally was won by local hero, Toshi Arai, driving a Subaru, while both the factory Protons of Alister McRae and Juha Salo retired on the final day.
The final round of the 2012 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is in China from October 26 to 28.