At the International Rally of Johor Team MRF ŠKODA scores third double win in a row in the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
The third round of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), International Rally of Johor in Malaysia (11–13/08/2017), was more or less decided on the second special stage. Reigning APRC champion Gaurav Gill and co-driver Stéphane Prévot (IND/BEL) of Team MRF ŠKODA hit a tree stump and bent the steering of their ŠKODA FABIA R5, losing considerable time and the chance to win. Despite sliding off twice in unpredictable road conditions as well, teammates Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune Skjaermœn (NOR/NOR) achieved the fastest stage time and took the lead from there up to the finish line. With their second win of the year the Norwegian shooting stars increased the lead in the championship standings. With only two APRC rounds to go, it looks like the next champion will be a ŠKODA driver again. Since 2012 every APRC champion was driving a ŠKODA FABIA. The Czech manufacturer is now on the route to defend the manufacturers title as well.
Changing weather, a mix of spontaneous rain showers and sunshine, made the 13 special stages (one stage had to be cancelled due to flooded roads) totally unpredictable. ŠKODA youngster Ole Christian Veiby concluded even before the start: “This is definitively one of the most difficult rallies I ever had to face.”
On the short opening show stage on Friday evening on the race track of Johor, Gaurav Gill brought his MRF ŠKODA FABIA R5 to the finish with the fastest time ahead of teammate O.C. Veiby and stormed into the lead. When the rally started proper on Saturday morning with a 32 kilometres stage on the Tai Tak palm oil plantation, the first split time showed Veiby trailing Gill by 20 seconds. “I touched a tree and later went off again slightly. Luckily we could continue. It is so difficult to judge the grip level. I have never driven under such difficult condition,” commented the Norwegian youngster. Although he lost some time, at the finish line he was fastest and took the overall lead with more than one minute ahead of Mitsubishi driver Jari Ketomaa from Finland.
What happened to the intermediate leader Gaurav Gill? Fastest halfway through the stage, he left the muddy jungle road as well. “I hit a tree stump I didn’t see. It was a pure driving error,” confessed the APRC champion. He bent a steering arm of his ŠKODA FABIA R5 and finished the stage at reduced speed. But that wasn’t the end of the story. After the stage at the refuelling point, the steering arm finally broke. Now Gill proved that he is not only a fast driver, but also a very skilful mechanic. He changed the broken part, got a road penalty for late arrival at the next time control but afterwards started his race to catch up. At the end, with a total of ten fastest times out of 13 stages, he had moved back into second position overall.
His teammate O.C. Veiby showed a stunning performance himself. With a clever and smart drive he showed, that he is not only able to drive fast but also to bring home a victory with a faultless drive.
“I am absolutely delighted with the clever performance of O.C. Veiby and the comeback of Gaurav Gill”, emphasizes ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek. “With the third double win in a row ŠKODA could increase the lead in the APRC manufacturers standings. Also our drivers are leading comfortably in the driver standings.”
Final Result APRC International Rally of Johor/Malaysia, 3rd round of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC):
1. Veiby/Skjarmœn (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA R5, + 3:02:39.1 h
2. Gill/Prévot (IND/BEL), ŠKODA FABIA R5, + 4:41.7 min
3. Ketomaa/Mannisenmäki, (FIN/FIN), Mitsubishi Mirage AP4, + 5:00.4 min
4. Blomberg/Andersson (SWE/SWE), Mitsubishi Mirage AP4, + 2:23:10.1 h
Current standings APRC after three rounds (one round cancelled):
1. Veiby (NOR), ŠKODA, 108 points
2. Gill (IND), ŠKODA, 98 points
3. Blomberg (SWE), Mitsubishi, 63 points
4. Ketomaa (FIN), Mitsubishi, 56 points
Number of the day: 3
Third double win in a row for Team MRF ŠKODA in the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
Calendar of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC):
Rally of Whangarei – New Zealand; 28/04–30/04/2017
Rally Canberra – Australia; 26/05–28/05/2017
China Rally (cancelled); 07/07–09/07/2017
Rally of Johor – Malaysia; 11/08–13/08/2017
Rally Hokkaido – Japan; 15/09–17/09/2017
Rally of India; 24/11–26/11/2017