For Gaurav Gill, the exotic locale of New Caledonia serves as one of the toughest and longest courses (over 250km). But, the Team MRF driver seems to be doing just fine as he notched up the overall second spot after completing nine stages on Day Two.
The Delhi driver with navigator Glenn MacNeall has managed to complete 13 stages with 01:54:19.3 on the clock, just a minute behind teammate and current leader Chris Atkinson (01:53:37.9). Both MRF teammates are driving the Skoda Fabia S2000. Friday's leader, PG Andersson of Proton Motorsports, dropped to an overall fifth with 02:09:16 after suffering engine problems. He will have to race the final stages on Sunday with the troublesome engine as teams are allowed only one per race.
As Gill pointed out, driving a left-hand car can be difficult and takes time to get used to. "It's a great feeling to be able to match up with the rest of the drivers who rally far more than I do," he had earlier said.
After all, he topped five stages, four in succession, rallying in Noumea's southern province. He picked up pace after suffering power steering problems in the first three stages on Saturday.
"You'd be silly pushing with a lead like that. So I drove at a pace that was safe. In this rally you're always going to have one or two problems. It wasn't easy; there was rain around and it was like driving on ice. Luckily, we had a good lead over Anderson, thanks to his problems," said Atkinson after the race. "To have an MRF one-two feels great. Of course, we are hoping for a good finish but anything can happen in this rally as it's going to be very difficult on Sunday." The Australian with co-driver Stephane Prevot had won the APRC opener at Whangarei last month while teammate Gill had finished third.
Standings after Day 2
1. Chris Atkinson 1:53:37.9s
2. Gaurav Gill 1:54:19.3
3. Alain Dalstein 2:04:20.3
The writer's trip has been sponsored by MRF.