After keeping at the heel of Proton Motorsports' Chris Atkinson through Day One, Team MRF's Indian driver Gaurav Gill increased the momentum as he rallied towards a possible Malaysian leg win to kick-start his Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) season with panache on the final day.
Despite his spirited attempt, the 29-year-old finished a minute and 36 seconds behind Atkinson to clinch the runner-up spot amidst a considerable crowd, which assembled despite acute humidity and intermittent showers.
Atkinson, who led Gill by a minute and forty seconds at the conclusion of eight stages on Saturday, had an early scare on Day Two when he blew a front tire on his Proton Satria Neo S2000 during the 9th stage at the Tai Tak Courthouse.
Gill capitalized to marginally cut down the Australian's lead but conceded the advantage with a poor 6th spot finish in 11th stage at the Tai Tak Mawai, the only blemish through the remaining seven stages on Sunday.
"A win would've been ideal but I am satisfied with the result. My car was the fastest in the category (Group N) and it was always unlikely for us to edge the Protons," said Gill whose teammate and last year's APRC title winner Katsu Taguchi failed to make a mark this time around after a flurry of mistakes in the early stages left him contesting for leg points.
Gill added that he was surprised by how well the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 had negotiated Johor's arduous terrain. "The car had no issues. The understeer on the first day was addressed and the crew changed the springs in the suspension which allowed the car to give MRF a fighting chance."
With the first of six legs completed, both Atkinson and Gill stated that the result here was a confidence booster ahead of Australia, which is scheduled to start on May 13.