Hokkaido, 17 Sept 2017: India’s Gaurav Gill has won the 2017 Rally of Hokkaido in his MRF Team Skoda and moved into the lead of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship points, ahead of the final round in India, late November.
There was high drama on the first morning when four of Gill’s main rivals retired on Stage 3, including his MRF team-mate Ole Christian Veiby from Norway.
Gill though completed both days with no problems and prior to celebrating on the finish podium said ” Its been a perfect weekend, getting maximum points. Most importantly I’m back in the championship and the last round is in India, my home country. Japan as always is difficult with such high speeds and rough roads, however we had the perfect tyre choice and the perfect car from our team MRF Skoda. Would have been good to have OC in the fight but unfortunately he went off yesterday – we had a great weekend, overall very satisfying.
Arriving in Hokkaido Veiby led the championship points but his off road excursion on Day 1 means the title will now be decided in India, “Saturday was a big disappointment we had some problems with a damper, after that we went a little bit off and we got stuck. Today was really good and I think we got some good points. The championship is still on and its going to be a very exciting rally in India”, said Veiby at final service.
Behind, it was Mpart’s Robert Blomberg (co-driver Lars Andersson) in the Mitsubishi Mirage taking his first podium of the seasom, finishing 11m41.4s aloof Gill.
The Swedish driver inherited second after Cusco Racing’s Yuyi Sumiyama (co-driver co-driver Takahiro Yasui) in the Skoda R5 was forced to retire in SS12 due to mechanical issues.
Third in the APRC class went to Fuyuhiko Takahashi (co-driver Mitsuo Nakamura) in the Subaru Impreza. He was fourth overall in Rally Hokkaido, which was run alongside the Japanese Rally Championship.
Returning after Leg 1 retirements were MRF Skoda’s Ole Christian Veiby (co-driver Stig Skjarmoen) in his Skoda R5 and Mpart Sport’s Sanjay Takale (co-driver Noriko Takeshita) in his Mitsubishi Mirage in Leg 2.
The duo had a huge gap to bridge down with the leaders. In the end, Takale finished fourth, while Veiby was fifth in the APRC class – the latter also managing to eke out two stage wins (SS13 & SS15). They were 15th and 16th overall respectively.
The title fight goes into the final rally of the 2017 season, with the Rally of India to be held during the November 24-26 weekend