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APRC - Veiby Wins Malaysian Mud Fight

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Malaysia’s Rally of Johor Third round of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship - Race Report 

After two rounds and win a piece current APRC champion Gaurav Gill and team-mate Ole Christian Veiby started the third round in Malaysia in their MRF Skoda R5’s with just two points separating them.

Picking a likely winner of this very unique event was difficult, where Gill had the skill and previous experience of the conditions, while Veiby is amazingly quick and talented - but could the young Norwegian adapt his all-out driving style to the slippery plantation tracks?

And if one the MRF drivers should falter, their spot was likely to be taken by Finland’s Jari Ketomaa in the AP4 Mitsubishi Mirage, or even Japan’s Yuya Sumiyama in the Cusco Racing Skoda. Although it was first time in the Skoda, Sumiyama adapted quickly in testing and he was no stranger to Malaysia.

Drama on the 2nd Stage

After a night-time stage 1 super-special at Johor Circuit won by Gill, the event moved to the plantations the next day and a 31 kilometre monster stage to really test the crews.

There was action and drama right from the start, with Veiby hitting a tree 2 kilometres into the stage. “There was grass in the middle of the road, all four wheels locked up and I went sideways into a tree – after that I learned a lot!”.

Next to have a problem was Gill who also had an altercation with a tree, however his incident was way more serious as the impact bent the steering and limping to the end of stage cost the Indian driver over 6 minutes, then farther time with road penalties. “I was lucky to get back to refuel and had to do all the repairs myself, get down and dirty under the car”.

Gill’s problems dropped him to 6th overall and promoted Ketomaa into 2nd, with Sumiyama third. New Zealand Mike Young was the best of the Group N cars, 4th in the Cusco Racing Subaru.

Three Cars off in Stage 6

With no cool-suit Swedish driver Robert Blomberg was maintaining a good pace in the 2nd of the Mirages, with a 3rd Mirage driven by India’s Sanjay Takale holding 7th.

Takale was lucky to be in the event at all, as his car arrived from Mpart’s Swedish factory only a few days before the event and it was only after a mammoth build by the team that the car actually made the start-line.

Gill’s dramas continued through stages 3 and 4 “A broken alternator meant we had no demister and I went off road as I couldn’t see, then we caught Sumiyama and he didn’t see us behind - I had to give him a little bump to get past”. Nevertheless, by lunch-time service Gill was back up to 4th.

There were problems too for fellow Indian competitor PG Abilash who broke a drive-shaft on his Subaru in Stage 2, then went off on stage 3 loosing lots of time and dropping to the back of the field.

In the afternoon the rain started to fall steadily adding more moisture to the already sodden stages and making the muddy road conditions slippery as ice. Stage 6 proved to be the biggest challenge and where three drivers had problems - Blomberg the first to fall foul of the conditions, stuck in a drain near the start of the stage.