The big 'if' of machine matching human drive continued to haunt Gaurav Gill's challenge in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. A broken gearbox early Sunday meant he finished a low 17th overall. That was a humungous 23 minutes and 43 seconds behind the winner Kiwi Hayden Paddon.
After eight stages of Day One, Gill trailed Paddon by a minute and ten seconds. Such was the nature of his car's mechanical problems, that eight more stages left him nowhere in the reckoning. This is the second time in as many APRC rallies this year that there has been a disconnect between the ask and the car's ability to comply.
Usually in such circumstances it would be possible to speculate if the driver is punishing the machine beyond its tolerance levels.
Except that Team MRF has computerised feedback mapping each touch of brake, each nudge of gear and all nuances that illustrate the driver-car interface. The mechanics can't find any fault with his driving style. "The main gear shaft broke today. It's got nothing to do with the driver," said team engineer Lane Heenan.
"I am beginning to feel I am jinxed. To compensate for lack of access to such cars in India, I push myself harder and follow the advise of more experienced people to the T," said Gill. "Then, this happens and I am left clueless and plain angry at my helplessness."
Sticking to the plan of bringing the car home and garnering crucial APRC driver championship points, Gill drove in seventh in the day's opening stage though he was already having gearbox issues. Thereafter, he was stuck in second with the car refusing to shift up or down whereby reducing his top-speed to 75kph on sections where others were touching 200kph.
While Team MRF has protested as to why a wild card entry like Paddon, Gill is set to take away at least five for his second place on Saturday.