With the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship already wrapped up, the Coffee Day India Rally at Chikmagalur was meant to be a showcase of the APRC class cars, in particular Team MRF Skoda's two R5 Fabias of reigning champion Gaurav Gill and German rally champion Fabian Kreim.
The 24-year-old Kreim is a newbie at rallying on gravel and his inexperience has shown this year as the far more experienced - and still super fast - 35-year-old Gill has handily beaten him in the five rallies prior to the APRC season finale in India.
It became all the more apparent as Kreim crashed his car within two kilometers of the start of the third stage today as the first leg of the rally commenced today after the shakedown and super special stage yesterday. Hitting a large stone on a left-handed corner led to an instant retirement.
“We came over a crest and into a left-hander and I think I was carrying too much speed into the corner and crashed into the stone," said Kreim. "It's Unfortunate, but that is the nature of motorsport and I will be driving tomorrow and hope to score some leg points.”
Gill - despite the obvious advantage of not having to compete with Kreim - didn't back off too much. “We had no problems with our car as such," said Gill. "The speeds were quite slow due to the nature of the route, but still it was quite challenging.
"Though we have a good lead, the R5 is built for speed and I have to be in my rhythm. So, there is nothing like easing off. May be, I can drive 97 per cent instead of 100.”
Cusco Racing's Yuyo Sumiyama as well as Phalguna Urs also retired from the APRC class as the 'Rally of a thousand corners' lived up to the level of difficulty predicted by Gill yesterday. Ten retirements from the INRC and IRC classes took the tally of retirements to 13 as the entry list of 51 crews got whittled down over the course of the 13 special stages today that totaled to a timed distance of 161.30kms.
The other Cusco Racing Subaru WRX STi of Mike Young was second behind Gill but his car was suffering a lack of power.
With Sumiyama and Urs retiring, Sanjay Takale was placed third in the APRC class.
PROVISIONAL RESULTS (after Leg-1):
1. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall (Team MRF) 02hrs. 42mins. 32.8secs
2. Mike Young / Malcolm Read (Cusco Racing) 02:50:06.4
3. Sanjay Takale / Noriko Takeshita (Cusco Racing) 03:00:06.5