Johor Bahru, October 28: With the onset of monsoon in this region, Team MRF’s Gaurav Gill, who needs a win here in the Malaysian Rally to seal the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship title, cautioned that the weather could hold the key to the outcome and “fireworks” of a different kind can be expected this Diwali weekend.
The two-day Rally commencing tomorrow, is the fifth and penultimate round of the FIA APRC and Gill, having won the previous four rallies, is poised to annex the title that he had last won in 2013. The sixth and concluding round will be held in Chikkamagaluru, India, on Dec 3-5.
Delhi-based Gill, speaking at the pre-event press conference here today to the accompaniment of thunder and heavy rains, opined that the wet weather will put to test the durability of both crews and their cars over the next two days.
Thursday’s mandatory reconnaissance run was all but a washout as portions of some Special Stages in the nearby palm oil plantations turned into mini rivers and unmotorable.
“Diwali is a big festival for us back home in India, but for me, the fireworks can wait until the Rally is over on Sunday afternoon. I wish everyone a happy and safe Diwali, and a prosperous year ahead,” said Gill who, like his team-mate Fabian Kreim of Germany, is driving the MRF Skoda Fabia
R5.On a more serious note, Gill, who leads Kreim by 42 points in the Championship,said :
“It is going to be very tricky and difficult going since lots of rain is forecast for this weekend. So, it is not about just speed. We have to be careful.
“We have made a few changes to the car. After the Rally Hokkaido in Japan, we changed the engine and it still needs to be run in some more. We did some testing here on Wednesday and then today’s Shakedown, but we are settling in nicely.”
Kreim, fresh from winning the German championship last weekend, was as cautious and agreed that the Rally will not be so much about speed as driving sensibly.
“I have a very good feeling about our car after the test and we hope we can be as quick as Gaurav. Our car is better than what it was in the previous round in Japan. It is hot and the humidity is quite high. It is a different rally than all other APRC rounds and I think, it will be very challenging,” said Kreim.
The 24-year old German was quicker than Gill in this morning’s Shakedown, but the Indian shrugged it off saying he opted to eschew risks. “I was more intent on spending as much time in the car as possible and did not really push or take risks ahead of the Rally,” said Gill.
The Rally comprises 14 Special Stages of 225.82 Kms to be run on Saturday and Sunday after tonight’s ceremonial flag-off in the city.