April 13, Whangarei, New Zealand: Reigning APRC Champion and Team MRF Skoda driver Gaurav Gill made a stunning comeback to beat overnight leader and team-mate Jan Kopecký win the VINZ International Rally of Whangarei. The opening round of the 2014 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) saw Gill and co-driver Glenn Macneall overcome a 23 second deficit to win comfortably in their MRF Tyres ŠKODA Fabia S2000 car.
India’s Gaurav Gill and Australian based co-driver Glenn Macneall clean swept today’s six special stages concluding the 2014 VINZ International Rally of Whangarei - snatching victory from overnight leader and team mate Jan Kopecký.
The opening round of the 2014 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) saw competitors head south for today’s six remaining special stages – to roads more familiar to Gill. Starting behind Kopecký for the day of double run stages, Gill was in a closely fought battle for stage honours, until the 32-year-old found advantage on the 27.43km Springfield test. Pulling out a time 25 seconds faster than his rival was all Gill needed to put his MRF Tyres team mate behind him for the run to the finish. Defending the gain second time round, Gill added a further 1.1 seconds to win by a competitive 11.9 seconds after 220.87km of competition.
Gaurav Gill was ecstatic to win his first ever rally in Whangarei after missing out in the last couple of years. He commented, “We’ve come close to winning here before but every year we’ve had some issue either technical or mechanical. This time it was the best way to win – to come from the back, especially being down by 23 seconds – it was a massive amount of time to make up in this situation. The most important thing is it was a level playing field for Kopecký and I. He is the European champion and I’m the defending champion so he is good benchmark for me. Plus we had new stages this rally and I had to push really hard – that’s what makes the win so much more exciting for me and the team.”
In the sister MRF Tyres ŠKODA Fabia S2000 car Czech Republic based Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler took consolation in his placing. The first time the 32-year-old has been to New Zealand, it was also his first time in the car and using the Indian manufactured tyres.
Jan Kopecky was happy to finish in second in his first race for the team. He said, “We had a really good fight all weekend so thanks a lot to Gaurav for that because you need to be pushed by an opponent to be able to improve. I don’t have so much experience at these gravel rallies and it being the first time for me to compete so far away from home so we are happy with the result,”.
International teams will now be spending much of the evening cleaning and packing their cars and equipment for shipping to the series second round. Held in five weeks’ time at the Pacific island location of New Caledonia it uses 15 special stages situated between capital city Noumea and the international airport location of Tontoua.
1. Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall - 2:11:39.7
2. Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler - 2:11:51.7
3. Mark Pedder/Claire Dowling - 2:20:02.3