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Top Indian driver Gaurav Gill has made it two different winners from two rounds of the 2013 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with a dominant display on Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie this weekend.

Gill, who was also the winner on the South Pacific island last season, reached the finish in the capital Noumea on Sunday afternoon with a comfortable margin over countryman Sanjay Takale. Australia’s Simon Knowles finished third following a close battle between the pair.

Meanwhile, Esapekka Lappi, who led the APRC standings on the back of his first place on the season-opening International Rally of Whangarei last month, crashed out on the fourth stage and loses the title initiative to Gill, his Team MRF ŠKODA team-mate, as a result.

Lappi wasn’t the only APRC contender to suffer in the slippery conditions on day one: Matt van Tuinen retired after being injured in a heavy landing over a large jump on stage two. He will have surgery on his back this week and will be out of action for at least two months. Fellow Australian Bruce Fullerton also faltered over the jump with the damage to his Mitsubishi Lancer’s engine forcing him out close to the completion of the first leg.

Co-driven by Glenn Macneall, Gill registered his intent with the fastest time through stage one. He repeated the feat on the following test only for an off-road moment on stage three to cost him vital time as he attempted to select reverse gear in his Fabia Super 2000. That turned an advantage of 14s into a deficit to Lappi of 15s starting stage four.

But Lappi’s lead wasn’t too last. In a fifth-gear downhill section, the 22-year-old’s car pitched sideways into a large rock and the damage was too great for him to continue.

However, there were no such problems for the impressive Gill, who started the final day with a comfortable margin, which he preserved until the finish as heavy rain forced organisers to axe five of the day’s planned eight stages.

Behind Gill, APRC Production Cup winner Takale’s second place for India is understood to be the first time that two drivers from that country have climbed the podium on an FIA international event. For Knowles, an APRC Pacific Cup entrant, the result puts him second place in the category points, 27.5 adrift of Gill. Pacific Cup contender Claude Clavel’s challenge ended on stage two when he tore a wheel off his Lancer striking a tree stump.

Although he wasn’t eligible for APRC points, Emmanuel Guigou’s second place overall in a Renault Clio R3 marked a significant result for the French manufacturer on what became a rally of attrition amid challenging weather conditions.

Australia is next for the APRC contenders with the International Rally of Queensland taking place from July 12-14 when more thrilling action is expected.

WHAT THEY SAID:
Gaurav Gill (India), first position: “The final day was obviously a short day but it was still good miles although the heavy overnight rain meant it was slippery in the morning. It was hard to underdrive, which is what I was doing to get to the finish but it’s been a good weekend for us. We were quick from the shakedown having come here with good confidence from New Zealand. Now we have some good points for the championship.”

Sanjay Takale (India), second position: “I am very proud to stand next to Gaurav on the podium. I love these roads and I am well used to slippery conditions from rallying in Malaysia. I am very happy because it’s only my second event in four-wheel drive.”

Simon Knowles (Australia), third position: “That was a hoot! Sanjay had us and did a better drive all weekend so deserved to finish ahead of me. It was a top weekend, really, really good and hats off to the organisers. They had the elements thrown at them and they handled it.”

RESULTS (after 17 special stages, 236.59 kilometres):
1 Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn Macneall (NZL) ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 1h57m12.3s
2 Sanjay Takale (IND)/Sean Gregory (MYS) Subaru Impreza WRX STI +19m36.0s
3 Simon Knowles (AUS)/Margot Knowles (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +22m10.7s

FIA APRC Production Cup: Sanjay Takale (IND)/Sean Gregory (MYS) Subaru Impreza WRX STI
FIA APRC Team Trophy: Team MRF ŠKODA
FIA Pacific Cup winner: Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn Macneall (NZL)
FIA APRC Junior Cup: This event not part of the FIA APRC Junior Cup

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (full standings at www.fiaaprc.com):
Overall drivers: 1 Gill 65.5pts; 2 Takale 46; 3 Esapekka Lappi 39; 4 Michael Young 24; 5 Hiroshi Asakura 5; Overall co-drivers: 1 Macneall 65.5; 2 Gregory 46; 3 Janne Ferm 39; 5 Daniel Wilson 24; 5 Takumi Takahashi 5. Manufacturers: 1 ŠKODA 74.5; 2 Subaru 52; 3 Mitsubishi 42.5; 4 Toyota 11. Subject to results being confirmed by the event stewards
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