Whangarei (New Zealand), April 27: Taking to the brand new Skoda Fabia R5 like duck to water, Gaurav Gill sent out strong signals to his rivals by topping the unofficial time charts during a three-hour test session ahead of the International Rally of Whangarei, here on Wednesday. The event which is also the first round of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, will be run this weekend.
Spearheading Team MRF-SKODA challenge, 34-year old Delhi-based Gill with Aussie Glenn Macneall in the co-driver’s seat, clocked a blistering one minute, 4 seconds over the 2.4 Kms long gravel test strip with average speed of 134 Kmph, well ahead of his new team-mate, Germany’s Fabian Kreim (co-driver Frank Christian).
Driving the 1.6 litre, turbo-charged (with restrictor) R5 for the first time, Gill, the 2013 APRC champion, covered about 50 Kms through the three-hour session and expressed satisfaction at the car set-up and also the MRF tyres.
“It was a good outing today. It took me a while go get used to the highly responsive car which I am driving for the first time. I had to make a few changes in the way I drove, especially in terms of being more aggressive through the corners so as to work the chassis and the grip to their optimum level.
“The tyres too were excellent and afforded good grip. I had to be more precise in the R5 than in the S2000. The R5 responds well, and with the right kind of a set-up, it is a great car to drive,” said Gill, winner here in 2014.
Meanwhile, 23-year old Kreim, who has had more experience in the R5, having participated in the 2015 German championship for Team Skoda, was still to fully come to grips with the unfamiliar gravel surface, driving last year’s championship winning car of Swede Pontus Tidemand.
“The German championship is a fully tarmac series and so, I am driving on the gravel surface for the first time. I had to make changes in my driving style with so much of sideways movement through the corners, but it was fun today. I am happy with the MRF tyres which offered a lot of traction and mid-corner grip,” said Kreim.
“Testing on Wednesday went really well, with drivers completing around 50kms. The engine is very good and for their first run in the car, both drivers were extremely happy and made only small changes to the set-up,” said Lane Heenan of Race Torque Engineering which prepares both the MRF-SKODA cars.
The International Rally of Whangarei, considered to be one of the quickest on the APRC circuit with its fast straights and flowing corners, will commencewith ceremonial start followed by Special Stages on Saturday and , totaling about 275 Kms.