Gaurav Gill has added a third FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title to his list of honours after the promise of a straight fight with his Skoda MRF teammate Ole Christian Veiby evapourated following gearbox trouble for the Norwegian on the first special stage of the Coffee Day India Rally.
An incident where the Race Torque team - that prepares and maintains the Fabia R5 cars for Skoda MRF - suspected a piece of the broken front differential going into and destroying the gearbox, ended Veiby's challenge to Gill who entered the final round of the 2017 APRC season six points ahead in the championship standings.
It robbed the eager fans of the kind of close battles that Gill and Veiby had been involved in over the course of the year and switched Gill's focus to keeping his potent rally car on the road on the tight and technical stages that amounted to a total of 207kms.
For Gill, however, it did not dampen his mood in having bested a factory Skoda driver who - at 21 years of age - is already a winner in the FIA WRC-2 category and is tipped to be a star of the future. Much like Finland's Esapekka Lappi who was 22-years-old when Gill won his first APRC crown in 2013. Lappi is now a factory Toyota driver in WRC and has scored an overall win in this year's Rally Finland.
"I feel like this year's title win was definitely tougher than last year's," said Gill. "It was a lot like 2013 in that Ole and me had some very close battles like I did with Lappi.
"However Lappi was more prone to making mistakes than Ole and that's what I feel made winning this year's title a lot tougher. It also is very satisfying for me given that I am beating the best young talents from Europe in a car that they are a lot more familiar with given how many rallies they take part in and how much testing they do.
"It is a good advertisment for Indian motorsport when people can see how we can find success despite limited preparation."
Gill and co-driver Stephane Prevot's final winning margin was 17 minutes and 38.4 seconds over Veiby and co-driver Stig Skjarmoen with Sri Lanka's Sharfaz Junaid and co-driver Akhry Ameer a further 33 minutes behind in the provisional classification in their Volkswagen Polo.
The much anticipated outing for Mike Young and co-driver Michael Read in Volkswagen Motorsport India's (VWMI) R2-spec Polo was compromised after a going over a rock caused damage to the fuel tank. However, VWMI head Sirish Vissa was encouraged by both the times Young was able to set when the car was running and the feedback for its development.
"I wish we could have made it to the podium but I was very happy with the speed we were able to get out of the car," Vissa told autoX. "The R2 regulations are comparitively a lot easier for a manufacturer to prepare their cars to and I hope this leads to other car companies in India taking a chance to compete as well."