Gill cruises to victory in Rally of New Caledonia
Noumea (New Caledonia), May 17 (IANS) Indian driver Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glen MacNeall) cruised to a comfortable win in the Rally of New Caledonia, the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) here on Sunday.
With a comfortable overnight lead of one minute and 56.1 seconds, the Team MRF Skoda driver claimed his first win of the 2015 season with a total time of two hours, 29 minutes and 16.4 seconds after 16 stages over a total competitive distance of 253 km. Gill finished 39.6 seconds ahead of team-mate Pontus Tidemand (Emil Axelsson), who clocked 2:29.56.
On the concluding day, Tidemand won all the seven tests to cut into Gill's overall lead but the 2013 APRC champion had banked enough time on the second day to remain ahead of the former Junior World Rally Champion. Local driver Jean-Louis Leyraud (Scott Beckwith) finished third in 2:35.39, completing a podium lockout by Team MRF Skoda drivers.
While Tidemand aimed to bag the maximum number of fastest stage times to collect bonus points after suffering a setback on the third stage following a puncture on Saturday, Gill eschewed all risks and chose to look at the bigger picture of an outright win -- his third here since his APRC debut in the same event in 2007.
Though, Tidemand won 13 of 16 stages compared to Gill's fastest times in three, the two-minute advantage in the third stage proved decisive at the end.
"Right from the start of the day our plan was to eliminate any risk and keep Pontus in sight. The stages were very difficult and extremely slippery. It was easy to make mistakes and lose the rally. We had a lot of pace left in the car but chose to cut back and aim for an overall win. After the initial problems before the shakedown, it turned out to be a perfect weekend for us," said Gill.
The victory is even more significant for the Indian since it comes in the same week of being nominated for the prestigious Arjuna award by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI).
"This win is even sweeter since I came to know about my nomination for the Arjuna Award just a day before the rally started. I am happy that I have justified the faith of those who deemed it fit to nominate me for the awards," said Gill.
With Gill and Tidemand taking a win apiece in the first two rounds of APRC, stakes are evenly poised for the Rally of Queensland, Australia, to be held from June 19 to 21.