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After a closely fought FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), it was ŠKODA FABIA R5 driver Gaurav Gill who managed to secure his second successive APRC title, and third overall, with victory in the final round at his home rally.

Gill has won all three of his APRC titles in ŠKODA cars (a FABIA S2000 in 2013 and a FABIA R5 in 2016 and 2017). This year he was driving alongside Belgian co-driver Stéphane Prévot for the ŠKODA MRF team, who also secured the Co-Drivers’, Manufacturers’ and Teams’ Awards respectively. His FABIA R5 was prepared and run by Racetorque Engineering, which has prepared the ŠKODA MRF cars for each of last six years they have won the APRC title.

ŠKODA MRF Team at Asia-Pacific Rally Championship 2017

This season, Gill faced a stern new challenge in the form of his ŠKODA MRF teammate Ole Christian Veiby.

The APRC got underway this year in New Zealand at the International Rally Whangarei and it proved to be a fierce contest between Gill and Veiby. Veiby took an early lead in the first leg as both drivers had to contend with heavy rain that made the surfaces slippery. Conditions improved on the final day and Gill began to charge, but still had 23 seconds to make up with just three stages remaining. Then a technical issue cost Veiby time and a late arrival at a checkpoint meant a time penalty too. That gave Gill the advantage and he closed out victory by a margin of just over two minutes.

Next up was the National Capital Rally in Australia and it was a similar story again as Gill and Veiby battled at the head of the field. The lead swapped hands between the two several times but then at the evening service on day 1, Gill made some setup changes which didn’t work out. As a result, Veiby was able to widen the gap on day 2 and won his maiden APRC event, while Gill finished as runner-up.

That result put Gaurav Gill in the APRC standings behind Vieby, but he went into the next round, the International Rally of Johor in Malaysia, hoping to regain the advantage. It wasn’t to be though as an accident on special stage 2 saw him hit a tree stump and damage his steering. This cost him a lot of time and any hope of victory and although he showed admirable mechanical skills to fix the steering arm when it finally broke, it still meant he finished second once again, almost five minutes behind Veiby.

Round 4 of the APRC saw teams heading to Japan for the Rally Hokkaido with Gill knowing he needed to better Veiby’s result. And this time it was Norwegian’s turn to endure misfortune as he suffered a puncture which caused him to slide into a ditch and retire from the rally. That left the coast clear for Gill, who put in a dominant display to take overall victory by almost two and a half minutes and win the APRC standings by more than eleven minutes. That result saw him regain the lead in the Drivers’ Championship and also confirmed the ŠKODA MRF team as winners of the APRC Teams’ Award.

Gaurav Gill / Stéphane Prévot, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA Team MRF. India Rally 2017

So, going into the final round of the APRC, Gill held a slender advantage over Veiby, but would also be driving on familiar territory at his home event, the India Rally. Sadly, the titanic struggle between the two that most had hoped for wasn’t to be. Veiby suffered gearbox issues on SS2 which forced him to drive six more stages in just third gear. Gill took full advantage of his teammate’s misfortune as he delivered a faultless drive to win the rally and with it the APRC title.

Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Team MRF. APRC Coffee Day India Rally 2016

Gaurav Gill (born 1981) began his rallying career in his native India in 2006. He entered the APRC championship for the first time in 2007 and in the next few years combined APRC starts with participation in the Indian Rally Championship. In 2012, he switched to ŠKODA for the first time driving a FABIA S2000 and in 2013 he won his first APRC title. Then, in 2016 he switched to a FABIA R5 and won his second APRC title that year ahead of German Fabian Kreim. In 2017, he retained the APRC ahead of teammate Ole Christian Veiby.

Basic Facts

Birthdate: 2. 12. 1981
Birthplace: New Delhi
Nationality: Indian
The biggest successes: 2017, 2016, 2013 Asia-Pacific Rally Champion
2014 Indian Rally Champion
First rally: WIAA Rallye De Goa 2006

ŠKODA Champions 2017

Pontus Tidemand
WRC2

Gaurav Gill
APRC

Gustavo Saba
CODASUR & Paraguay

Manvir Baryan
Africa

Marijan Griebel
Europe (U28)

Jan Kopecký
Czech Republic

Kalle Rovanperä
Latvia

Roger Feghali
Lebanon

Hermen Kobus
Netherlands (ONRK)

Teemu Asunmaa
Finland

Filip Nivette
Poland

Vincent Verschueren
Belgium

Norbert Herczig
Hungary

Socratis Tsolakidis

Socratis Tsolakidis
Greece
(read on December 12)

Burak Çukurova

Burak Çukurova
Turkey
(read on December 13)

Fabian Kreim

Fabian Kreim
Germany
(read on December 14)

Simos Galatariotis

Simos Galatariotis
Cyprus
(read on December 15)