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India’s premier rally driver, Gaurav Gill, has dominated round two of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in New Caledonia in his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000.

Gill and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, won 11 of the 12 special stages to take victory by nearly 20 minutes, and in the process, take a commanding lead in the championship.

Their Team MRF team-mates, Finnish Champions Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm, had won the opening round of the APRC in New Zealand last month, and took the lead of the rally after stage three. However, they hit a rock on the fourth stage, tearing a wheel of the Skoda Fabia and bringing their rally to a premature end.

Rallye New Calendonia was always going to be a tough event, with three stages to be run six times each over the two days of competition.

Heavy rain on day two meant that the organisers had to cancel five of the scheduled eight stages due to safety concerns, but by that stage most of the APRC field had succumbed to the tough conditions. Only four of the original 14 APRC starters finished the rally.

“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,” Gill said at the completion of the rally.

“It was hard to under drive, which is what I was doing to get to the finish, but it’s been a good weekend for us.

“The car was perfect. We were quick from the shakedown, having come here with good confidence from New Zealand. Now we have some good points for the championship.”

It was the Indian’s second consecutive win in New Caledonia.

Lappi was disappointed with his day one retirement, and has slipped to third place in the championship, seven points behind another Indian driver, Sanjay Takale, who finished second in New Caledonia.

“We just went wide on a left hand corner on a downhill section and hit quite a big rock and the wheel went off, so we had to retire,” Lappi explained.

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, was thrilled with a second APRC victory in succession, which now sees Skoda a clear leader in the Manufacturers’ Championship.

“We always knew that the conditions were going to be tough, with only three different stages to be used on the rally,” Heenan said.

“But when the rain came it made things even more treacherous, but we’re thrilled that Gaurav was able to come away with his second win here.

“It’s disappointing that Esapekka had to retire on day one, but victory for Team MRF was the most important result, and we are in a strong position in the championship.”

Round three of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is the International Rally of Queensland, from July 12 to 14, where Team MRF will be aiming for a third consecutive victory.

Final Results – 2013 Rally New Caledonia
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

APRC pointscores

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 standings after round 2 of 7
1. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall 65.5pts;
2. Sanjay Takale / Sean Gregory 46;
3. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm 39;
4. Michael Young / Daniel Willson 24;
5. Hiroshi Asakura / Takumi Takahashi 5;

Manufacturers:
1. ŠKODA 74.5;
2. Subaru 52;
3. Mitsubishi 42.5;
4. Toyota 11.

Photos courtesy of: APSM TV (Asia Pacific Sports Media and TV)
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