Pontus Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson led a 1-2 finish for Team MRF as the Swedes swept to their third win of the season by claiming the title in the Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, here on Sunday.
The 24-year old Tidemand, driving the Skoda Fabia S2000, finished one minute, 56.5 seconds ahead of team-mate, India’s Gaurav Gill (co-driver Glenn Macneall).
Gill comfortably won the first round of Asia Cup, sparing over 19 minutes to Fan Fan (Junwei Fang) from China who drove the Mitsubishi Evo EX for South-East Motor team.
Tidemand, making his APRC debut, had triumphed in Australia and New Zealand, and the win on Sunday took his tally to 147 points while 33-year old Delhi-based Gill, winner of the first round in New Caledonia, moved to 104.
With just two more rounds of APRC to be run in Japan (Sept 18-20) and China () and a maximum of 78 points on offer, Tidemand has taken a stranglehold on the championship leaving Gill a mathematical chance of claiming the title he had won in 2013.
Leading by 01:19.9 overnight, Tidemand kept the throttle down on Sunday when six more Stages were run over much shorter distance than on Saturday as the Swede was quickest in five loops while Gill, driving in heavy rains, took the last Stage of the day.
“I had a good day today and absolutely no problems with the car. I was new to these conditions and it was very challenging. But I am happy that I survived and brought the car home safely.
“We have two more rounds in Japan and China, and I looking forward to it. Like I said, all this is new to me, but I want to do well,” said Tidemand.
An obviously disappointed Gill, winner here last year, had problems with the rear differential of his Skoda Fabia S2000 besides overheating and loss of grip.
“The rear differential stopped working during the first loop and there was no grip. So, I couldn’t drive normally. Then we had heavy rains during the second loop, but we were quicker in the last Stage.
“Overall, it was the worst weekend of my life with all the problems we had due to grass getting into the radiator grill and all that. I now look forward to the remaining two rounds,” said Gill who did not participate in the conventional champagne ceremony as a mark of respect for Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India president Bharath Raj who passed away in Bengaluru .
MRF team boss Lane Heenan said: “It was very tough on the cars, but we are happy that both Tidemand and Gill finished. I think it was after very long time that both MRF cars finished here in Malaysia.”
Provisional classification (after Leg-2):
Asia-Pacific Rally Championship: Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia S2000) 1 (03hrs, 05mins, 11.5secs); Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia S2000) 2 ().
Asia Cup (Round-1): Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall (Team MRF, Skoda Fabia S2000) 1 (); Fan Fan / Junwei Fang (South-East Motor, Evo EX) 2 ( ); Genki Takeuchi / Naoki Kase (Cusco Racing, Subaru Impreza) 3 ( ).
Image-1: Pontus Tidemand (right) and co-driver Emil Axelsson of Team MRF celebrate their victory in the Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, in Johor Bahru on Sunday.
Image-2: Pontus Tidemand (extreme right) and co-driver Emil Axelsson, winners of the Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, in Johor Bahru on Sunday, pose with second-placed team-mates Gaurav Gill (second from left) and his co-driver Glenn Macneall (extreme left).
Image-3: Pontus Tidemand of Team MRF in action on Sunday on way to winning the Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, in Johor Bahru on Sunday.
Image-4: Gaurav Gill of Team MRF at full throttle while finishing second in the Malaysian Rally, the fourth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, in Johor Bahru on Sunday.