Caloundra (Australia), June 21 (IANS) Team MRF driver Pontus Tidemand (co-driver Emil Alexsson) won Round 3 of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) after team-mate Gaurav Gill (Glenn Macneall) of India was forced to retire from the International Rally of Queensland here on Sunday.
The drivers had an intense weekend-long battle and were pushing each other to the limit before Gill suffered a puncture and then an engine failure to bring his rally to an end.
Tidemand, piloting a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, fought with Gill all weekend with the duo creating some of the closest stage battles in the APRC. But the intense competition came to an abrupt end in Stage 16 when Gill, also in a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, encountered engine troubles forcing him into retirement.
Tidemand said: “It was a good fight and it’s a shame it ended in retirement [for Gill]. But for sure, it’s good for the championship and I have learned a lot on this rally, because it’s been a new surface. So for me, it’s been really good.
“Also the team has done a fantastic job with the car. It has worked really well. Gaurav is driving really well, it’s been a great event, and I have enjoyed being here in Australia.”
Gill, while clearly disappointed at his retirement after leading the rally for so long, congratulated his team-mate and vowed to fight back at the next APRC round in Malaysia.
Gill said: “It was a great weekend. Unfortunately, we had to retire in this way but I am glad that I have learned a lot fighting this weekend with Pontus [Tidemand]. I thank him for the battle because it is really good to drive on the limit on every corner, on every stage through the weekend.A That is a great feeling.”
Just before the midday service after Stage 12 Gill and Tidemand sat equal on stage wins, taking six each, before Tidemand slowly slipped away as Gill punctured in Stage 15 followed by his subsequent retirement.
The next rally on the APRC calendar is the Malaysian Rally, held on the 14 to 16 of August, near Johor Bahru in southern Malaysia.