After falling 33 seconds behind new Team MRF Skoda teammate Ole Christian Veiby at the end of the opening leg of the first round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, defending champion Gaurav Gill successfully managed to overturn the defecit to win the Rally Whangharei in New Zealand by over two minutes from the Norwegian.
With issues on his Skoda Fabia R5's dampers on the opening leg as well as having to clear the road for the following cars, Gill and his Belgian co-driver Stephane Prevot fell behind Veiby and co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmonen.
But with the mechanical issues addressed and the Norwegian having to clear the surface today, the shoe was on the other foot and the defending APRC champion duly capitalized to get his title defense off to the best start possible.
“We are here to win. Being professionals - we are always wanting to win although it is important to make sure we do it at the right time and right place in the championship,” said Gill at the finish.
“This has been a good rally. Very very difficult for me and while OC (Ole Christian) has been driving very well the incident today pushed him back, after we had some issues yesterday that pushed us back. So, I guess that is part and parcel of the sport. Our other most important thing is to have both cars sitting one and two for the MRF team.”
Current WRC-2 participant and winner Jari Ketomaa was on course for third place but was forced to retire after the opening stage due to an engine failure on his Mitsubishi Mirage.
The local brother-sister pairing of Matt and Nicole Summerfield inherited the final podium place.