The much awaited battle
between Gaurav Gill and his MRF Tyres team-mate Pontus Tidemand of Sweden
fizzled out as the Indian ace retired at the end of the day’s first Special
Stage with a mechanical problem in the Rally Hokkaido, the fifth and
penultimate round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in Obihiro, Japan
on September 19, 2015.
With Gill and his Aussie
co-driver Glenn Macneall packing up early in the day, championship leader
Tidemand, along with his compatriot and partner Emil Axelsson, secured a
sizeable lead which if they nurse to the finish of the event on September 20
evening, will ensure the Swedes the APRC title on debut with a round to spare.
Continuous rains through the
day added to the drama which began to unfold when 33-year old Delhi-based
Gill’s Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000 suffered a front drive-shaft
problem during the transport run from Obihiro to the start of the day’s first
Gill, the 2013 APRC champion,
still managed to finish the 4.63 Kms long Rikubetsu Stage, albeit over a minute
behind Tidemand as the car had lost much of its drive leading to his
retirement, his second of the season which he highlighted with a win in New
Caledonia Rally, but had a non-finish in Australia.
“I drove to the start of the
day’s first Stage and that was when I realised that there was a problem with
the car. The front drive-shaft had broken and there was no drive in the car,
but I managed to finish the Stage before pulling out.
“Obviously, I am extremely
disappointed as I was looking forward to the event and hoping to win to stay in
the Championship,” said Gill who was trailing Tidemand by 43 points at the
start of the Rally Hokkaido and hence needed all the points to stay in the
In sharp contrast, 24-year old
Tidemand, winner of three rounds this season, enjoyed another dream run in his
Skoda S2000 despite the driving rains that rendered the conditions treacherous
with the gravel surface of the Stages turning slushy and slippery.
“I quite enjoyed the Stages
though the conditions were a bit tricky. At some places, the car tended to
aquaplane and so I had to be a bit careful. With my team-mate Gill not in the
running, my intention is to finish the event. Obviously, I will not be pushing
as hard now,” said Tidemand.
The Swede has a healthy a lead
of four minutes, 48.6 seconds over New Zealand’s Michael Young and Malcolm Read
of Cusco Racing who pushed his Subaru Impreza as hard as he could after losing
time early in the day due to electrical problems.
The Rally Hokkaido concludes
on September 20 when the remaining 10 Special Stages will be run with more
rains on the cards.
(after Leg-1, APRC):
Pontus Tidemand / Emil
Axelsson (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia S2000) 1 (01hr, 33mins, 32.9secs); Michael
Young / Malcolm Read (Cusco Racing, Subaru Impreza WRX STi) 2 (01:38:21.5).
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