Gaurav Gill and Pontus Tidemand resume rivalry in Malaysian Rally Championships
Johor, Malaysia, August 13: India’s top rally driver, Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glen MacNeal) and his Team MRF Skoda team-mate, Pontus Tidemand (co-driver Emil Axelsson), are set to face new challenges in the Malaysian Rally at the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
The Southern Malaysian province of Johor, which connects the mainland to Singapore, will host the rally amidst tropical forests and rubber plantations from August 14-16. The Malaysian Rally marks the Asian leg of the championship after the Pacific rounds, which concluded with the International Rally of Queensland in Australia.
Tropical conditions, with temperatures in the low 30s and high humidity of 60-80 percent in addition to torrential showers, will pose plenty of challenges for the drivers.
Dehydration leading to loss of concentration and cramps are real dangers that drivers will have to deal with over the course of the championship. Drivers tend to lose 3-4 kg of body weight during the course of the rally.
“Getting a grip on the conditions is the key in Malaysia. It’s a very demanding rally because of the heat and humidity. It’s easy to lose concentration on the narrow tracks through the forests and plantations. And when it rains over here it really pours. The tyre choice is also critical because the conditions keep changing,” said Gill.
The Indian driver’s championship bid suffered a setback in the International Rally of Queensland when the engine of his Skoda Fabia S 2000 blew on the second day while leading the rally over his Swedish team-mate.
Gill is keen to return to the top step of the podium in Malaysia. He goes into this round of championship on the back of his experience and familiarity of the conditions in this tropical country. Winning in Malaysia last year, he has finished second four times.
For Tidemand, it will be the first time out in this part of the world. Coming from much cooler and drier conditions in Europe, he will need to acclimatise quickly to the heat and humidity. The Swede goes into this round with a healthy lead over Gill who had a DNF in Australia. But as he has shown, he can adapt very quickly to alien conditions.
For this rally, Gill’s MRF Skoda Fabia S 2000 has got a new engine after the previous one suffered terminal damage in Australia. “It’s important for me to win over here to keep Pontus in sight after my setback in Australia. I have the experience of driving and winning in Malaysia. I am looking forward to resume our fight. Pontus is a very good driver and he has shown that he can adapt to the local conditions very quickly,” said Gill.
The Malaysian Rally comprises 14 stages over two legs, covering a total competitive distance of 226.56km of special stages.
For this year’s event, the second and the ninth stages are new additions and they will be run twice. The first leg of the rally will consist of eight stages, covering a distance of 160.64 km, while the second leg that will be run on Sunday will cover a distance of 65.92 km spread over six stages.
The Malaysian Rally will get underway with a 2.14km shakedown on Friday.