Malaysia APRC: Veiby takes lead in difficult conditions, Gill third
Team MRF’s Ole Christian Veiby (co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmoen), from Norway, shot into the lead after the first leg of the International Rally of Johor on Saturday.
Veiby’s Indian teammate Gaurav Gill (Stephane Prevot) had a very bad day and was third in the Skoda Fabia R5. He was behind second-placed Finn Jari Ketomaa (Ville Mannisenmali), in a Mitsubishi Mirage.
Veiby’s total time was 1hr58m27.9s, with Ketomaa being 4m32.5s behind and Gill 16m49.7s adrift of the day’s leader in this third round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Malaysia.
India’s Abhilash PG (Musa Sherif) was in fourth place after leg one in a Subaru Impreza.
The drivers had to battle treacherous conditions, with the rain and resulting slush. But two-time and defending champion Gill had to counter car problems too, as he entered the rally looking for a repeat of his winning performance in the first round in New Zealand.
Gill first hit a tree stump that he described as a driving error in the first stage of the day. This bent the steering arm and later, his car ended up with an alternator problem that left him with a fogged windscreen.
Out of the seven stages that were to be run, the sixth one was cancelled.
Veiby leads Gill by two points in the championship has more or less assured himself of the title with six stages to be run on Sunday.
“It’s been a good day overall. But for sure, it was not easy as it is my first time down here,” said Veiby.
“I have never driven in such conditions. It was so slippery. I was a bit lucky in some places.
“On the first stage, I went straight into a tree and after that I used the grass to see how the grip level is. Now I know how fast I could do. In these conditions, it is so easy to make mistakes.
“We have a good gap, but can’t just roll down the stages. My aim is to try to make it to the finish, but I have to keep the pressure up. I am so lucky to be here at the finish today,” added Veiby.
Gill said: “It was not my best day. About 18 Km into the first Stage, I hit a tree stump that I didn’t see. It was a driving error and the hit bent the steering arm.
“On finishing the stage, I had to go under the car and repair the steering control arm. It cost us a lot of time. Thereafter, we made time on others in spite of the bent steering.
“Overall, we were down to seventh or eighth, but recorded some good times.
“In the day’s third stage, we had an alternator problem and caught up with Sumiyama almost immediately. He held me up for about 30 seconds before I nudged him to pass.
“But with the windscreen fogging, I had almost nil visibility and had to slow down. That again cost us time.
“Thereafter, we again made time on others, and I passed (Mike) Young on one of the stages.
“With one Stage cancelled and only short stages to be run on Sunday, I have to settle for what I have. The gap is too much to make up,” he added.
Malaysia APRC: Gill has task cut out in tough rally
Malaysia APRC: Veiby takes easy win, Gill finishes second