Whangarei (New Zealand): Team MRF achieved a 1-2 finish here Sunday with Esapekka Lappi and Gaurav Gill finishing in that order in the International Rally of Whangarei that also doubled up as the first round of the 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Visiting New Zealand for their first time, 22-year-old Finn Esapekka Lappi (co-driver Janne Ferm) led from start-to-finish driving the Skoda Fabia S2000.
Lappi extended his overnight lead to a winning margin of four minutes, 03.2 seconds after winning seven of the day`s eight remaining special stages.
Indian champion Gill (Glenn Macneall), also in a Skoda Fabia S2000, was hampered by a rear differential mechanical failure during Sunday`s loop of four stages while Lappi had a trouble-free run. Local challenger Ben Hunt (Tony Rawstorn) in a Subaru Impreza WRX was a distant third.
Lappi said: ‘A very good result. We`ve had heavy rain and it got really muddy in some places with fog as well on Saturday. I had to focus on keeping rhythm to suit these roads, but basically they were how I thought they were going to be.’
Happy to be able to match the pace of his team-mate when things ran smoothly, Gill was pleased with his overall result and said: ‘I love the roads here and I really enjoyed it this year. We went faster than last year, so hopefully by next year, we will be faster again and we will be aiming to win.’
Lappi came away with the maximum 39 points while Gill was nine adrift and would be looking to consolidate their positions in the second round that will be held in New Caledonia on June 15-16.