Noumea, May 17 (IANS): Defending champion Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) in a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 blew a 52-second lead following a damaged suspension to trail team-mate and European champion Jan Kopecky (Pavel Dresler) by over five minutes at the end of Leg 1 in the Rally of New Caledonia, the second round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship here Saturday.
Gill, winner here the previous two years and also the 2013 APRC champion, led the way at the start by opening a 30-second lead after the first Special Stage and extended it to 53 seconds after SS-6.
However, a damaged suspension saw him concede one minute, 42 seconds in SS-7 and a further four minutes in SS-8, but managed to limp back to the Service bay where the mechanics got to work and were confident that the car would be ready for the re-start on Sunday.
Heavy overnight rains led to cancellation of two Special Stages while these conditions saw as many as six retirements.
Despite the setback, Gill still enjoyed a 10-minute lead over third placed compatriot Sanjay Takale (Sean Gregory) who is driving a Subaru Impreza.
Provisional classification after Leg 1 (APRC):
Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Team MRF, Skoda S2000) 1 (01Hr, 15mins, 48.1secs); Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall (Team MRF, Skoda S2000) 2 (01:21:10.7); Sanjay Takale/Sean Gregory (Subaru Impreza) 3 (01:31:21.3); Michael Young/Malcolm Read (Cusco Racing, Proton Satria Neo) 4 (01:31:34.2).