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Team MRF’s Veiby surges ahead; Gill placed third

Johor Bahru (Malaysia), August 12: Ole Christian Veiby of Team MRF survived treacherous conditions and rode his luck to take a seemingly winning lead in the International Rally of Johor, the third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, here on Saturday while defending champion and team-mate Gaurav Gill was a distant third following a string of mishaps.

Veiby, the 21-year old from Norway, driving the Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia R5, finished the day marked by incessant rains which rendered the terrain into a virtual skating rink and led to cancellation of a Stage, four minutes, 32.5 seconds ahead of Finland pair of Jari Ketomaa and co-driver in a Mitsubishi Mirage.

For Delhi-based Gill, 35, it was a wretched outing as he first clipped a tree stump due to “purely a driving error” as he put it in the day’s first Special Stage leading to a bent steering arm and later in the day, suffered alternator problem which fogged the windscreen.

These mishaps cost him precious time, yet, he came up with a superb drive to make about five places, overtaking two cars on different Stages in the process to finish the day third, some 12 minutes behind Ketomaa,

Veiby, who leads Gill by two points in the championship standings, has all but clinched the title here with just two loops of three short Special 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. 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 do mistakes.

“We have a good gap, but can’t just roll down the Stages tomorrow. 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,” said Veiby.

Looking back on his day, Gill said: “Obviously it was not my best day. About 18 Kms into the first Stage, I hit a tree stump which I didn’t see. It was purely a driving error. It 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 had some good times. In the day’s third Stage, we had alternator problem and almost immediately, caught up with Sumiyama who 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 which again cost us time. So, one drama after another!

“Thereafter, we again made time on others, and I passed Young on one of the Stages and we are now placed third, but with one Stage cancelled today and only short Stages to be run tomorrow, I have to settle for what I have. The gap is too much to make up.”

Classification after Leg-1 (Provisional):

FIA APRC: 1. Ole Christian Veiby / Stig Rune Skjarmoen (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (1hr, 58mins, 27.9secs); 2. Jari Ketomaa / Ville Mannisenmali (Mpart Sport, Mitsubishi Mirage) (02:03:00.4); 3. Gaurav Gill / Stephane Prevot (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (02:15:17.6).

Asia Cup: 1. Gaurav Gill / Stephane Prevot (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (02:15:17.6); 2. Michael Young / Malcolm Read (Cusco Racing, Subaru Impreza) (02:18:19.5); 3. Yuva Sumiyama / Takahiro Yasui (Cusco Racing, Skoda Fabia R5) (03:13:44.6)

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