Malaysia APRC: Gill has task cut out in tough rally

The snub of the Arjuna Award notwithstanding, Gaurav Gill would be looking at a win in the International Rally of Johor.

Malaysia APRC: Gill has task cut out in tough rally
Gaurav Gill, Team MRF
Helmets of Ole Christian Veiby, Stig Rune Skjærmoen, Team MRF
Ole Christian Veiby, Stig Rune Skjærmoen, Skoda Fabia R5, Team MRF
Ole Christian Veiby, Skoda Fabia R5
Gaurav Gill, Stéphane Prévot, Skoda Fabia R5, Team MRF
Gaurav Gill, Stéphane Prévot, Skoda Fabia R5, Team MRF

After the shakedown was completed on the 1.58Km stage on Friday morning, the times suggested a cat and mouse game in the upcoming rally in Malaysia, the third round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

Team MRF’s Gill and his Belgian co-driver Stephane Prevot had the edge in the first two times set, while their teammates from Norway, Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune Skjarmoen, were faster later.

Gill posted a total of six times and his fifth time (1m39.0s) recorded was way faster than that of Veiby. But, with the region’s unpredictable weather and conditions, shakedown timings could mean little.

The Team MRF drivers are competing in the Skoda Fabia RC5 machines. Gill had won the first round in New Zealand, while Veiby was on top in in the second in Australia.

Veiby leads the standings with 70 points, with Gill trailing him by two points.

Veiby scored his maiden success in the World Rally Championship-2 category in Poland recently. Being the Skoda factory driver, the 21-year-old has enjoyed far more seat time than Gill, who is getting the first feel of the R5 since the Australia round in May.

The other Indian interest in the rally is former Indian National champion Abhilash PG (Musa Sherif), of R3A PGA Motorsports. He is competing in a Subaru Impreza. India’s Sanjay Takale (Noriko Takeshita, Japan) is competing in a Mitsubishi Mirage.

India’s Vivek Ponnusamy is co-driving with the legendary Malaysian Karamjit Singh in a Proton Gen 2 but in the Malaysian Rally Championship.

The heat and high humidity, besides sudden thunderstorms, have rendered the Special Stages into slush fields are to be factored in and which make the event the toughest in the championship. Both Gill and Veiby sampled the terrain during Wednesday’s test session in slippery conditions following overnight rain.

Gill said: “This is the most difficult Rally of the year, be it for man, machine or tyres. The almost 100 per cent levels of humidity and 35-degree heat takes a huge toll on the body as temperatures inside the car cabin exceeds 55-60 degrees,” he said.

“The more time I spend away from the car means I have to put in more practice because the R5 is not a regular rally car and demands respect and constant driving to keep in tune with it.

“I had a great weekend in Coimbatore recently, but this is a completely different ball game.

“Lots of rain is expected over the weekend and the weather is highly unpredictable. But I've got only one goal - to win. It's extremely important to bounce back to the top of the series,” he added.

Veiby said: “This is going to be a special rally. It’s rainy season down here and it’s said that when it’s raining, this is one of the most difficult events in the world. The surface is more or less mud and the rain makes the roads crazily slippery. I have never driven in such conditions.”

The Rally will be run over 735.66 Km of which 236.56 Km comprise 14 closed Special Stages, the first of which is scheduled for Friday night. It is a 2.64Km sprint after the ceremonial flag-off.

The APRC has been cut down by a round to five due to the cancellation of the China Rally.

 
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