Whangarei (New Zealand), July 3 (IANS) India’s champion driver Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall) of Team MRF Tyres took a 48-second lead at the end of Leg 1 here of the Rally of New Zealand, the third round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 10, Gill was in imperious form Saturday as he was the fastest among the APRC drivers, including team-mate and championship leader Katsu Taguchi (co-driver Chris Murphy), in six of the eight Special Stages completed Saturday.
Gill, the 29-year old from Delhi, led Alister McRae (co-driver Bill Hayes) of Proton R3 Team (Malaysia) by 48 seconds while Taguchi, struggling with engine and turbo problems, had a difficult day when he just managed to bring his Evo home.
"It’s been a good day so far. We did make a decent tyre choice in the morning, but we made some extra cuts for the afternoon because we thought it might rain.
"But it didn’t and the tyres were getting overheated and it wasn’t very easy to keep the car on the road. Anyway our priority was to get back here for the team and it’s a big championship. We did some good times in the short stages. We could do well because the tyres worked very well," said Gill, who has been having an excellent season this year, having bagged podium spots in the two earlier APRC rounds in Malaysia and Japan.
Taguchi, winner of both the rounds this year, said: "Everything is not good. There is a problem with both the engine and turbo, but we are lucky. We had spare oil in the car to get us back here. Because we have leg points for the APRC, we are safe overall. But a big day tomorrow."