Team MRF’s campaign in the New Caledonia-leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championships ended on a disappointing note on Sunday as none of their drivers lasted the full distance.
Proton Motorsports’ Australian driver Chris Atkinson won the title and his teammate Alister McRae of Great Britain finished third. The second spot went to the leg’s defending champion Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia representing Cusco Racing.
After Gaurav Gill had packed up in the 12th stage on Saturday, his Japanese teammate Katsuhiko Taguchi, who was third going into the final day of the rally, which had just six more stages left, crashed out in the first stage on Sunday morning.
He broke the sump guard and damaged the engine after his car came crashing down on a rock following a jump. He did not take any further part and with him ended Team MRF’s chances of a podium finish here.
Gill had broken his left suspension on Saturday and his crew worked overnight to get him back for Sunday’s proceedings so that he could get a shot at the three leg points provided he finished with the day’s best timings. Gill obliged, recording the fastest timings in the 14th, 16th, 17th and 18th stages.
The Indian’s task was made slightly easier by the fact that Taguchi packing up early eased much of the pressure on overnight leader Atkinson. He already had more than a minute’s lead over second-placed Rifat and the Australian took it easy. It also meant that Atkinson’s teammate McRae got elevated to the podium bracket and both the Proton cars concentrated on survi val as Gill kept clocking the best timings for his measly three points.
The rally bandwagon will now head to New Zealand for the fourth leg from July 15 to 17. Gill, who is now likely to drop from the top spot in the drivers’ championships, said, “I am confident of winning there.”