Noumea (New Caledonia): Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) of Team MRF Tyres, driving a factory-supported Skoda S2000, completed an overwhelming victory in the Rally New Caledonia here Sunday by finishing 19 minutes clear of second-placed Sanjay Takale (Sean Gregory), who was in a Subaru Impreza.
With his MRF teammate Esapekki Lappi (Janne Firm) unable to start, the rally, that also doubled up as the second round of Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), was his to lose. Gill was masterful on the very slippery roads soaked by overnight rain that also led to cancellation of five Special Stages Sunday.
It left just one stage to be used thrice with just 51 km to contest. It presented a challenge for Gill not to take it too easy and lose concentration but for now the results speak for themselves.
"It was a perfect weekend for me," said Gill. "The technical problems we had with the car in New Zealand resurfaced on shakedown but fortunately Lane Heenan (Race Torque Engineering) and his mechanics found the problem so I was able to drive with confidence."
Gill also had a good word about his Skoda factory-backed S2000 car. "The Skoda and MRF rally tyres were spot on all weekend and this makes a difference because you can concentrate on your driving. Apart from my one small spin Saturday, I can say again everything was perfect," said Gill, who now leads the championship.
Unfortunately for Team MRF, young Finnish driver Lappi was unable to restart Day 2 because of chassis damage sustained Saturday. An off-road excursion ripped the right rear suspension from the car. To be sure, the very quick Finn will be back full of determination at the next round at the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia July 13-14.
For the first time ever in APRC history, drivers from India made up the first two places as Takale finished behind Gill. It was Takale`s second event in a four-wheel drive rally car and the improvement in speed was evident as the weekend progressed.
A very happy Takale said: "I cannot believe this result. I know I was getting better and the tight twisty roads suit my style of driving, amazing!"
Once again the unforgiving roads of New Caledonia took their toll with five APRC drivers failing to finish.