Whangarei (New Zealand), Apr 28 (PTI) India’s Gaurav Gill of Team MRF Tyres, the defending champion, set the early pace with a scorching night run of the Super Special Stage at the International Rally of Whangarei, the first round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship here.
He led team-mate Ole Christian Veiby by 2.5 seconds.
Gill and co-driver Stephane Prevot came up with an imperious drive during the two loops of the 1km long Super Special Stage that was also used for the morning’s shakedown, where APRC debutant Veiby was the quickest.
However, in the night run, it was Gill all the way as he took one minute, 49.2 seconds, while Veiby clocked 01:51.7, well clear of third placed Jan Ketomaa (Ville Mannisenmaki) of Mpart Sport (01:52.9).
After the shakedown session, Gill expressed satisfaction and shrugged off Veiby being quicker than him, albeit by five-tenths of a second.
High on confidence going into the new APRC season having dominated last year when he won all six rounds of the championship, Gill said: “I am hoping it would rain tomorrow, not much, but just enough so that it will help us.
“Our MRF tyres have been working well and a bit of rain will be to our advantage,” added Gill during the pre-event press conference that followed the shakedown session.
The region experienced mild showers in the afternoon, but the skies cleared by the time the Super Special Stage commenced after the ceremonial flag-off.
With a cushion of 2.5 seconds, Gill hopes to build on the early momentum tomorrow when the rally moves north to run two loops of four Special Stages.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.