After powering his way to the top spot in the Asian World Rally rankings last month, Indian rally ace Gaurav Gill showcased that it was no mere fluke by winning the APRC Rally of Hokkaido and setting up a three-way fight for the driver title which is now slated to go down to the wire at the final round in China in November.
Gill's MRF teammate Katsu Taguchi enjoyed a slender 8-second advantage on Gill at the end of day one but was slapped with a 30-second penalty for a late check-in after the final stage of day, handing the lead to Gill who was thus bestowed with a 22-second cushion for day two. However, it wasn't easy cruising as the duo had to contend with Alister McRae hunting them down in the agile Proton S2000.
Having led the rally after the first loop earlier, the Scotsman's hopes of a win evaporated with a puncture later in the day, while his teammate Chris Atkinson's blown engine proceeded to bury the last of Proton's challenge.
Day two saw Gill driving sensibly, pacing his teammate while not giving too much time away with Alister McRae on a fiery charge. The Proton driver managed to close down the gap significantly but ran out of stage time on the shorter leg 2, and ultimately settled for third behind the MRF duo.
McRae now leads the title standings going into the final round, two points ahead of his Proton team-mate Chris Atkinson while Gill in third is a considerable distance behind. The Indian will have to win the China round outright while hoping for misfortune to befall the Protons to have a shot at the title.