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Team MRF drivers Gaurav Gill and Esapekka Lappi are separated by just half a point after four rounds of the 2013 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

The Skoda Fabia S2000 drivers had a difficult time in the Malaysian Rally last weekend, but still lead the championship, while Skoda (Manufacturers) and Team MRF (Teams’ Trophy) are still out in front of their respective categories.

Following wins in the first three rounds of the APRC in New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia, Lappi and Gill were looking for another victory in the hot and humid tropical forests of Malaysia.

Gill, from India, had contested the event on several occasions and was the pre-event favourite, but he slid into a bank on stage four, putting him out of action for the remainder of the day.

Finnish star, Lappi, took over the lead briefly, but an overheating engine soon put paid to his rally.

Gill returned to the event on day two, setting a string of fastest stage times and getting maximum series points for the day, which puts him half a point clear of Lappi in the overall standings.

“It was another learning curve for us,” Gill said.

“The gap between Lappi and I is now really close, but Japan is next and I really like that event. We should be able to push there.”

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, was disappointed not to win a fourth straight rally, but said there were some positives to come out of the event, including the championship lead.

“Lappi’s engine overheated on day one and he was unable to continue,” Heenan said.

“Reconnaissance was in convoy at 30km/h, which we believe was a factor in a slightly wrong pacenote for Gill, that caused him to go off the road on Leg 1.

“Restarting enabled him to pick up the maximum points for Leg 2, and salvage something from the weekend.

“With two rounds still to come we’re still well placed in all championship categories heading to Japan, an event which should be easier on cars and drivers.”

The Malaysian Rally was won by young New Zealand driver, Michael Young (Toyota Vitz RS) – the only APRC driver to finish both days of tough competition.

The next round of the APRC is the Hokkaido Rally in Japan from September 27-29.

2013 APRC pointscore after 4 of 6 rounds
Overall drivers:
1 Gaurav Gill 78.5;
2 Esapekka Lappi 78pts;
3 Sanjay Takale 75;
4 Young 66;
5 Hiroshi Asakura 33.

Overall co-drivers:
1 Glenn Macneall 78.5;
2 Janne Ferm 78;
3 Sean Gregory 75;
4 Malcolm Read 38;
5 Daniel Willson 28;

Manufacturers:
1 ŠKODA 120.5;
2 Subaru 114;
3 Mitsubishi 88.5;
4 Toyota 41;
5 Suzuki 24;
6 PROTON 21.

Teams’ Trophy
1 Team MRF 156.5 pts;
2 Cusco Racing 122 pts.

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