It’s a bit of joke, really, just that Gaurav Gill’s competitors are not laughing. The Indian driver does not drive a streetcar with the attributes that his rally machine has --- there just aren’t any four-wheel drive powerful machines like the Mitsubishi Evo X back home.
Then, he hops from a front-wheel drive car to an altogether different monster, gets barely a day’s practice and then actually places second in the overall standings of the Rally of Whangarei after the first day’s action! Eight stages comprising 143.8 kms of gravel action on Saturday saw the Indian dominating the Asia Pacific Rally Championship regulars.
Kiwi Hayden Paddon, who’s a wildcard entry for this lone APRC, has won this event twice before and he continued to display his intimate knowledge about the serpentine tracks snaking around this picturesque town with a comprehensive 1.10sec lead over Gill.
That was expected. What was surprising was that the Indian managed to be ahead of competitors who have literally grown up rallying on these tracks. Such is the stranglehold of local talent on this event that only three cars out of the top-14 have non-Kiwis in the hot seat. Gill also got the better of former WRC driver Alister McRae who is competing in a state-of-the-art rally machine --- Proton Satria Neo.
“Drifting into corners at 150kph takes a different mindset. What is frustrating is that Indian drivers just don’t have access to such cars back home. Every rally is a steep learning curve for me as I have no time to adapt to a whole new driving style (four-wheel drive) till I actually hit the competitive sections,” said Gill.
The sheer unpredictability of the sport is what makes rallying engrossing. While Gill is in a comfortable spot, 47 seconds ahead of the overall fourth placed APRC regular McRae, he can hardly hope to relax. For, one bad turn or one uncontrolled slide is all it takes to turn things around.
“The priority is to get the car home. Can’t afford to step off the gas but at the same time, it’s important to hold on to the lead and not do anything rash.” Gill is set to lead the overall standings of the championship by the end of this rally unless fortune deigns otherwise.