Gill in sight of maiden APRC title

Longyou (China): Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) would be hoping to break a jinx at this weekend’s China Rally, the concluding round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and win the drivers’ crown besides helping his team win the manufacturers’ and team titles.

The 31-year-old Gill, has never scored a point in his previous attempts in the China Rally with three retirements, notably in 2010 when he was poised to win the championship, just as he is now, and eventually finished second in the championship behind teammate Katsu Taguchi with three points separating the two.

Delhi`s Gill currently holds a 13.5 point lead and Team MRF are also on track to win the manufacturers and teams’ cup awards. A strong finish in China could also see Gill’s Finnish teammate Esapekka Lappi (Janne Ferm) move up to second in the standings.

The race torque-prepared Skoda Fabias of Team MRF have been the cars to beat this year with Gill and Lappi winning four of the five events. Gill only has to finish the rally to secure his first APRC title while Lappi starts the rally in great form, having finished second in the S2000 category at the recent Sanremo Rally in Italy.

While Gill, winner in Japan and New Caledonia and second in the season-opener in New Zealand, has 117.5 points, Lappi is fourth in the championship with 78, behind India’s Sanjay Takale (104) and New Zealander Michael Young (92).

As in the previous years, the China Rally Longyou’s shakedown stage and stage one are all held at the Shiyuan Motorsports Complex while the special stages for Legs 1 and 2 are run through bamboo forests.

“It’s a really tricky event because about 55 percent of the rally’s stages are run on concrete. The stages tend to wind their way up mountains with twisty roads and plenty of hairpins, they then 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," Team MRF boss Lane Heenan said.

A total of 102 vehicles will take part in the 652 km race over 13 competitive stages. It is exactly the same route as in 2012.

Weather conditions for the event are expected to be fine and mild with temperatures in the 15-23 degree range. Neither of the Team MRF drivers have won the event before with this being Lappi’s first visit to the rally.

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