Indian driver Gaurav Gill is one step closer to clinching the 2013 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title after taking a dominant victory on this weekend’s Rally Hokkaido at the wheel of his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000. Title rival and team-mate Esapekka Lappi was forced to retire for the third time this season when suspension failure on his Fabia thwarted his charge.
"“It’s been a really tough weekend – a very long, hard rally and it’s not been easy at all so we’re relieved to win today. We started off with a good battle with Lappi but then he had some problems so we were left with the advantage", said Gill.
Forming the penultimate round of this year’s Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Rally Hokkaido is synonymous with fast and often narrow gravel roads. The stages caught out a number of drivers over the course of a three-day event based in and around the rally base of Obihiro.
Lappi was the first APRC driver to fall foul of the tough Japanese tests when he incurred suspension damage on Saturday’s ninth test. With the Finn unable to restart on day two, Gill began Sunday’s stages with a comfortable lead. The Team MRF driver adopted a cautious driving approach in order to secure crucial championship points and now leads the overall standings.
"Today we had to play smart, keep out of trouble and thankfully it paid off in the end. We were cruising this morning but I think we actually drove too slowly - these cars can be more difficult to drive when you’re not on the limit because there isn’t much traction so we needed to up the pace to ensure we finished with no dramas", he further commented.
"We’re just happy to have made it to the end in one piece and with more points for the championship.”
Further down the field, MRU Motorsports driver Sanjay Takale was keen to make amends for a mistake on the previous round in Malaysia and leave Japan with as many APRC points as possible. The strategy paid off as the Indian drove a mature rally in his Subaru Impreza to finish second placed of the APRC competitors.
FIA APRC RESULTS (after 18 special stages, 232 kilometres):
1 Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn MacNeall (NZL) ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 2h26m26.2s
2 Yuya Sumiyama (JPN)/Naoki Kase (JPN) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +5m53.3s*
3. Shuhei Muta (JPN)/Takahiro Yasui (JPN) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +10m07.5s*
4 Sanjay Takle (JPN)/Sean Gregory (MYS) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +30m24.6s
5 Michael Young (NZL)/Malcolm Read (NZL) Toyota Vitz +31m58.8s