After starting the 2015 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) season with a dominant one-two finish in the first round — at International Rally of Whangarei, New Zealand — to take an early lead in the championship, Team MRF is looking to further consolidate their position at the top of the leaderboard as the entourage heads to the winding tracks of New Caledonia.
With three consecutive championships under its belt in as many years, the Skoda Fabias of Team MRF remain the cars to beat in this year’s championship. After one round, Team MRF sit pretty atop the table with 83 points.
Leading the charge in the second round from May 15 to 17 will be Indian ace Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glen MacNeall) with able support from talented Swede Pontus Tidemand (Emil Axelsson). Gill, who won here in 2013, is keen to up his performance.
The 2013 APRC champion has the added motivation of going one better than his teammate in the French principality, having been forced to play catch-up to Tidemand in the previous round after suffering a rear right drive shaft failure that saw him slip to fifth place in the first leg of the rally.
The Rally of New Caledonia holds special significance for India’s first and only APRC champion, who made his APRC debut in this rally in 2007.
“I have special sentiments for this rally since I made my APRC debut eight years back on these very mountain roads. I still vividly remember the excitement when I first sat in the car that day. This rally opened a completely new world for me and I am thankful to Team MRF for having faith in me,” said Gill.
The Indian driver, however, has his task cut out given that he will face the biggest challenge from Tidemand. But Gill has the advantage of experience on his side which will help him in making the right tyre choice and setup.
“Compared to my teammate, I have the experience of driving on these tracks which can turn out to be an advantage for me. The idea is to go flat out in the opening stages to open up as much lead as possible,” said Gill.
“Tidemand is a good driver and I relish the challenge of driving against a teammate who can push me. It brings out the best in me. I just hope that I don’t have to deal with any mechanical issues like it happened in the first round in New Zealand.”
The twisty mountainous tracks of New Caledonia demand technical finesse from the drivers. The rally comprises 13 stages divided in two legs including two super special stages for spectators. The drivers will cover a total competitive distance in excess of 200 km in two days on the mountain roads along the Pacific coast.
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