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Team MRF have scored the perfect result in the opening round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, with their Skoda Fabia R5s finishing first and second on the Rally of Whangarei.

The Indian / Australia pairing of Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall eventually finished the three-day event 30 seconds clear of German team-mates, Fabian Kreim and Frank Christian.

It was Gill’s second win on the New Zealand event, and the fifth year in a row that Team MRF and Race Torque have taken victory.

“It’s a great result for me and for the team. We like this rally and it always teaches you a lot, and we managed to get the desired result,” Gill said at the podium finish.

“I’m still learning the car and we haven’t quite found the perfect set-up, we still had a few small issues, but the team fixed them quickly which was great.

“And of course driving this car wasn’t very easy to start with, because I haven’t driven at all for seven months. It’s a big challenge, but I wanted to make the most of it so we took it step by step.”

The result gets Gill and Macneall off to the best start possible in their bid to win the APRC for the second time.

Kreim and Christian put in a remarkable performance and led the rally after the opening day’s stages. It was Kreim’s first rally on gravel, and in the end it was Gill’s experience that won out.

“This is great! Unbelievable!” Kreim said.

“It is a really nice feeling and I think for the first time on gravel, I found a very good speed. On the last stage it was raining a lot and very slippery on the tarmac section. But I really enjoyed it.

“The Skoda was very good. Many thanks to Team MRF for the perfect car. It worked very well and I look forward to the next event.”

Team boss, Lane Heenan, was thrilled with the result and the reliability of the new Fabia R5s.

“Gaurav has proven to be a consistent performer for us over many years, and he again delivered the goods in New Zealand,” Heenan said.

“He drove brilliantly and thoroughly deserved his victory.

“Fabian’s performance here was also quite incredible, being his first ever rally on gravel. He quickly came to grips with the car and the surface, and we expect even more speed from him as the season progresses.”

Third place in the Rally of Whangarei went to New Zealand youngster, Mike Young, in a Subaru.

The next round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is based around Australia’s Sunshine Coast at the International Rally of Queensland on June 18 and 19.

Final results, Rally of Whangarei

1. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall, Skoda Fabia R5, 2h55m50.3s
2. Fabian Kreim / Frank Christian, Skoda Fabia R5, +30.4s
3. Mike Young / Malcolm Read, Subaru WRX STI, +14m.10.0s
4. Makoto Kawahara / Osamu Yoda, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, +31m27.3s

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