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Indian driver Gaurav Gill has claimed his first Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title, and become the first Indian ever to win an FIA championship, after finishing second in the final event of the 2013 season, the China Rally Longyou.

Driving for Team MRF, the Skoda Fabia S2000 driver, with Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall, finished the final event in second place, behind their Finnish team-mates, Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm.

It capped off a near perfect season for Team MRF, who won five of the six APRC rounds throughout the season and totally dominated the championship.

For Skoda and Perth-based Race Torque Engineering, who prepare the Team MRF cars, it was their second consecutive APRC title, after Australian Chris Atkinson took victory in 2012.

Thirty-one year-old Gill has contested the APRC on many occasions, but this is his first championship title.

He could have challenged for the China Rally victory had it not been for a puncture on the sixth competitive stage, which cost him three minutes.

“It’s an amazing feeling and the biggest triumph of my career,” Gill said at the finish.

“We have been trying to make this happen for a few years, but we've always had some issue or another every time. But this year has been good, the perfect year.

“We've had great support from Škoda, our MRF team and the perfect tyres that MRF made for us. I'm really happy, not just for me, it’s for the whole team and back home, I'm sure, even for our country.”

China Rally Longyou once again lived up to its reputation as one of the most challenging events on the APRC calendar. Based 400 kilometres from Shanghai, the stages used a mixture of gravel and concrete roads. But with rain falling, drivers reported the concrete sections were extremely slippery. They also faced two rock-strewn mountain stages.

“It was not an easy rally because the gravel became soft and muddy when it started to rain, and on the concrete there was not so good grip,” event winner Lappi reported.

“It’s a shame I couldn’t fight for the drivers’ championship, but at least Škoda won the manufacturers’ title and MRF the teams’ title. The aim here was to get both cars to the finish and secure every title possible, and we’ve done that so it’s a great job.”

Team MRF, winners of the 2013 APRCSkoda Motorsport boss, Pavel Hortek, was also thrilled with the success of Team MRF in 2013.

“We’re really happy. We fulfilled what we planned to do at the beginning of the season, to win again all the championships in both categories,” he said.

“My thanks to the winning crew, Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall. This is very important for them, especially for Gaurav who deserves very much to finally win the APRC after trying for so many years.”

In winning the 2013 APRC, Gill took victories in the New Calendonian and Japanese rounds of the championship, while finishing second in New Zealand and China. Lappi, in his first APRC campaign, won three times, in China, New Zealand and Australia, but non-finishes in the other three events put him out of the championship running.

“It’s been a fantastic season for the whole team,” Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, said.

“We’ve had good support from Skodaa, and once again the Skoda Fabia S2000 has been the stand-out car in the championship. Gill and Lappi have done a tremendous job to ensure that we have won back-to-back APRC titles.

“We’ve made very few technical changes to the cars throughout the season, highlighting just how good a package the Skoda Fabia is, and we’re thrilled to finish the championship with a 1-2 result.

“We hope to continue our partnership with Skoda in 2014 as we push for our third Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title in a row.”

China Rally Longyou results (after 13 special stages, 230.92 kilometres):

1. Esapekka Lappi (FIN)/Janne Ferm (FIN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 3h01m46.9s 

2. Gaurav Gill (IND)/Glenn Macneall (NZL) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +5m37.4s

PROVISIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (after 6 of 6 rounds):

Overall drivers:

1 Gill 145.5pts;
2 Lappi 117;
3 Sanjay Takale 104;
4 Michael Young 92;
5 Hiroshi Asakura 53

Overall co-drivers:
1 Macneall 145.5pts;
2 Ferm 117;
3 Sean Gregory 104;
4 Malcolm Read 64;
5 Takumi Takahashi 30;

Manufacturers:
1 ŠKODA 197.5pts;
2 Subaru 145;
3 Mitsubishi 104.5;
4 Toyota 55;
5 PROTON 29;
6 Suzuki 24

ROLL OF HONOUR


FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Drivers: Gaurav Gill (India) 


FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Co-drivers: Glenn Macneall (New Zealand) 


FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Cup for Manufacturers: ŠKODA 


FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Teams’ Trophy: Team MRF ŠKODA

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