Pontus Tidemand led a Team MRF 1-2 in the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in Malaysia as Indian Gaurav Gill finished second.
After retiring in Queensland rally, Gill hoped for a better result in Malaysia and the remaining rounds in the championship as he battles Tidemand for the ultimate title.
Gill partnered by Australian Glenn Macneall had a new engine fitted to his Skoda Fabia S2000 for the Malaysian round. After the Thursday run, both Gill and Tidemand were 'concerned' about the knee-high growth of grass at the rally track.
Leg 1; Tidemand leads Gill
At the end of Saturday's run in Johor Bahru, Swedish pair of Tidemand and Emil Axelsson led Gill and Macneall by 1m19:900s as Team MRF were set o finish 1-2 as things stood.
Gill, finished the day on top in the Asia Cup category, having an 11-minute lead over Cusco Racing duo of Genki Takeuchi and co-driver Naoki Kase who were in a Subaru Impreza.
In the post-lunch session, Gill and Macneall lost time as they had to deal with an errant front fender which came off and got entangled in front of the radiator leading to an overheating engine.
Both Gill and Tidemand survived a nightmarish ride through the day’s eight Special Stages which was highlighted by series of overtaking between the two as they stopped to remove grass from the front grill which as well overheated the engine.
"I have never seen anything like it in my rallying career. In Special Stage-3, for instance, I had to stop four times to remove grass from the front frill and Pontus did the same twice.
"So, we overtook each other on the Stage,” said the 33-year old Delhi-based Gill who was quickest in three of the eight Stages.
Leg 2; win for Tidemand, Gill finishes second
Tidemand notched up his third victory of the season as he finished 1m56.500s ahead of Gill on the final day of Malaysian Rally in Johor Bahru.
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.
With the win, Tidemand stretches his lead in the championship as he sits on top with 147 points while Gill a distant second with 104 points.
In the six stages on Sunday, Tidemand topped five of them as Gill only managed to take away one stage as heavy rain lashed the rally track towards the end of the event.
“Overall, it was the worst weekend of my life with all the problems we had due to grass getting into the radiator grill," said a disappointed Gill after the rally.
"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," the Indian added.
Tidemand was happy with the win and said: “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."
The championship heads to Japan for the fifth round with Rally Hokkaido on September 18-20, 2015.