There was not much to stop Team MRF’s Ole Christian Veiby (co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmoen) from winning the International Rally of Johor (Malaysia) on Sunday.
The Norwegian driver won his second successive round of the 2017 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with a total time of 3hr2m39.1s after the completion of 14 Special Stages.
Veiby had won the second round in Australia after teammate Gaurav Gill had won the opening one in New Zealand. The Skoda factory driver had recently topped the WRC 2 in Poland. This helped him strengthen his championship position as well.
Indian Gill (Stephane Prevot, Belgium) finished 4m41.7s behind Veiby. It was a dramatic fightback from Gill, considering he had a minor incident in the first leg and suffered other car problems as well. He won all the stages on Sunday in the Skoda Fabia R5 car.
Third was Finn Jari Ketomaa (Ville Mannisenmali), 5m0.4s adrift of the winner. He is driving the Mitsubishi Mirage car for Mpart Sport.
Thanks to a rain-free day, Gill took on the challenge and sizzled, beating the World Rally Championship competitor by 18.8 seconds in the second leg.
Gill made 26 seconds on Ketomaa in the day’s first Stage (11.98Km), 31 in each of the next two (12.21Km and 13.93Km) on the first loop. After service, Gill made a further 69 seconds in the second loop of the same Stages to emerge second.
“It was one of my best drives, very fast and precise. I didn’t make any mistakes. I was driving at 110 per cent and that is what I always wanted to do and what all the top drivers do,” he said.
“We had amazing speed, good pace notes and made correct tyre choice. I drove my heart out and pushed the car beyond its limit. But the small mistake I made on Saturday cost me the Rally or else, we could have won.
“Starting the day, we were down by 2m16s to Jari. I wanted to get as close to OC (Veiby) as possible. I made most use of my experience to go past Jari who is not a slow driver and has WRC experience.
“Yes, it was a satisfying drive, but not overall. I am still upset with the silly mistake I made on Saturday,” said Gill, who drew some consolation by topping the FIA Asia Cup category.
Veiby said: “Today was all about getting through without any trouble. We didn’t want to make any stupid mistakes when we were leading by over five minutes.
“We had an oil leak, but it was fixed during service and we got through the day. I didn’t go flat out today and tried to enjoy a bit.
“After what happened to Gill on the first Stage on Saturday, we were leading the whole Rally and it was kind of boring here.
“In Australia, it was more fun as Gill and I kept pushing each other, changing positions up and down. But a win is a win and my target is to win the championship.
“It is good to be back in winning mode after my flip in Finland (during the WRC2 round). I just had to forget what happened and trust in yourself and the car.
“I prepared my mind as I knew Malaysia was a tough round. I read all about the rally, watched some videos to see what happened last year,” he added.