Team MRF's Gaurav Gill has set his sights on a podium finish in Brother International Rally of Whangarei, which is the opening round of the 2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
Gill is partnered at the MRF team by Australia's Chris Atkinson who has six podium finishes in the World Rally Championship to his credit and finished runner-up in last year's APRC with Proton.
Speaking to HT, Gill felt like a victory at Whangarei would be difficult as he still has much to learn about the new Skoda Fabia S2000 that the team will be using this year.
"This car is a completely different animal to the Mitsubishi we had been using till last year," said Gill. "It's a bit like driving a racing car on a rally stage."
Gill admitted that he was glad to have a car that could allow him to take the fight to last year's runaway winners Proton but felt like it would take some time for him to get fully up to speed.
"The first two rallies of the season will be all about learning the car," said Gill. "But I will of course drive hard and try to win. By the third rally of the year I should be completely ready to go on the attack."
The Fabia is built according to Super 2000 regulations, which is a departure from the Group N regulations to which the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X that the team used last year was built to.
"I have to completely unlearn what I know about driving from my time in the Mitsubishi," said Gill. "With this car you can brake really late into a corner and it responds to even the slightest movement of the steering wheel."
Atkinson said that the car was not that different from a WRC in terms of handling, but the absence of a turbocharger meant that he had to make changes to his driving style.
"There's not a lot of torque at low engine speeds in this car," said Atkinson. "So you have to stay on the throttle a lot and if you drop below 6,000 rpm you lose a lot of time in the corner."
The writer's trip has been sponsored by MRF