Johor Bahru (Malaysia), August 13: Thanks to a stunning drive by India’s Gaurav Gill who made up a deficit of over two minutes to finish second, Team MRF delivered another 1-2 result with Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby comfortably winning the International Rally of Johor, the third round of FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, here on Sunday.
Gill, the 35-year old Delhi-based defending champion, came up with one of his finest drives ever in the Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia R5, winning all the six Special Stages on Sunday that left the connoisseurs awe-struck as he roared past overnight second-placed Finnish ace Jari Ketomaa while Veiby held on to a huge Leg-1 lead to win by over four minutes, also in a Skoda Fabia R5.
The 21-year old Veiby, Skoda’s factory-backed driver who recently topped the WRC-2 category in Poland, thus scored back-to-back win following his win in the second round in Australia after Gill had taken the season-opener in New Zealand a month earlier. The win also put helped Veiby to consolidate his championship lead over Gill.
The day that was spared of rains which had marred Saturday’s proceedings, belonged to Gill who had lost a lot of time on Saturday after a run-in with a tree stump and alternator problem as he made up the two-minute, 16-second deficit to Ketomaa over a distance of just 76 Kms and went on to beat the World Rally Championship driver by 18.8 seconds, but finished 04:41.7 adrift of Veiby.
Gill’s pace was phenomenal as he made 26 seconds on Ketomaa in the day’s first Stage (11.98Kms), 31 in each of the next two (12.21Kms and 13.93Kms) on the first loop. After service, Gill made a further 69 seconds in the second loop of the same Stages to emerge second.
“For sure, it was one of my best drives, very fast and precise. I didn’t make any mistakes. I was driving at 110 per cent which was what I always wanted do and what all the top drivers do. We had amazing speed, good pace notes and made correct tyre choice. I drove my heart out and pushed the car beyond its limit. But the small mistake I made yesterday cost me the Rally or else, we could have won.
“Starting the day, we were down by two minutes and 16 seconds to Jari. I wanted to get as close to OC (Veiby) as possible. I made most use of my experience to go past Jari who is not a slow driver and has WRC experience. Yes, it was a satisfying drive today, but not overall. I am still upset with the silly mistake I made yesterday,” said Gill who drew some consolation by topping the FIA Asia Cup category.
Veiby was pleased as punch with the win and said: “Today was all about getting through without any trouble. We didn’t want to make any stupid mistakes when we were leading by over five minutes. We had some problems with oil leak, but we had it fixed during service and got through the day. I didn’t go flat out today and tried to enjoy a bit.
“After what happened to Gill on the first Stage yesterday, we were leading the whole Rally and it was kind of boring here. In Australia, it was more fun as Gill and I kept pushing each other, changing positions up and down. But a win is a win and my target is to win the championship.
“It is good to be back in winning mode after my flip in Finland (during WRC-2 round). I just had to forget what happened and trust in yourself and the car. I prepared my mind as I knew Malaysia was a tough round. I read all about the rally, watched some videos to see what happened last year.”
FIA APRC: 1. Ole Christian Veiby / Stig Rune Skjarmoen (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (3hrs, 02mins, 39.1secs); 2. Gaurav Gill / Stephane Prevot (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (03:07:20.8); 3. Jari Ketomaa / Ville Mannisenmali (Mpart Sport, Mitsubishi Mirage) (03:07:39.5).
FIA Asia Cup: 1. Gaurav Gill / Stephane Prevot (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia R5) (03:07:20.8); 2. Michael Young / Malcolm Read (Cusco Racing, Subaru Impreza) (03:18:42.9); 3. Yuva Sumiyama / Takahiro Yasui (Cusco Racing, Skoda Fabia R5) (04:10:42.8).