Johor Bahur, October 30: Gaurav Gill of Team MRF scripted a momentous chapter in the history of Indian motorsport by sealing the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship title with a round to spare as he won the Malaysian Rally here on Sunday. It was Gill’s second APRC crown following his success in 2013.
Having won the previous four rounds of the APRC this season, Delhi-based Gill went into the Malaysian Rally with a 42-point advantage over team-mate Fabian Kreim whose retirement yesterday due to gearbox problems effectively ended the championship battle between the two.
The 34-year old Gill, driving the MRF Skoda Fabia R5, took no chances and comfortably won the event sparing 31 minutes, 35.7 seconds to compatriot Sanjay Takale (Cusco Racing) while Kreim, who rejoined for Leg-2, finished a distant third after Michael Young who was placed second overnight crashed out.
The victory took Gill’s tally to 184 as against Kreim’s 126 for an insurmountable lead. The APRC season concludes with the India Rally in Chikkamagaluru (December 3-5).
Team MRF also clinched the APRC team championship in the wake of Gill’s clean sweep which also helped Skoda to annex the manufacturers’ title.
“While every win is special, the second title is even more so. I had no clue at the start of the season. There were so many variables, like a new car (Skoda Fabia R5) that I had not driven before and with Fabian who last week won the German championship and had more miles in the R5, as team-mate.
“Luckily, I had a perfect car and the MRF tyres worked well. Overall, I put in consistent performances through the season and I now look forward to the last round in Chikkamagaluru in December where I will be driving in front of home crowd,” said Gill who opined that he had improved tremendously over the past few years.
“Like wine, Rally drivers get better with age. Today, I am much quicker than I was in 2013, but there is more finesse to my driving,” he commented.
Mr Arun Mammen, Managing Director, MRF Ltd, said: “Congratulations to Gaurav Gill on winning the APRC title for the second time. It has been a tremendous APRC season for Team MRF and our success is another testimony to the high quality of our tyres. Overall, it has been a great team effort.”
Gill felt that the season turned decisively in his favour when he won the fourth round in Japan with a new co-driver. Belgian Stephane Prevot came in for regular co-driver Glenn Macneall who skipped the round.
“I had never sat with Stephane and that we still managed to win in Japan was a huge boost for me. I think, that was the highlight this season as far as winning the championship was concerned,” Gill said.