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Multiple INRC and APRC champion, Gaurav Gill managed his best times in 15 of 17 stages before an unfortunate retirement.
The Turkish rally is quite literally the toughest round on the WRC calendar thanks to the super-harsh terrain all throughout the 17 stages. Over the weekend the rally drivers had to cover a total of 310km, most of which were on gravel with a few of them running on concrete tiles and tarmac. Ott Tanak and Jan Kopecky are the defending victors at the Turkish rally. JK Racing backed rally pilot, Gaurav Gill along with his co-driver Glenn Macneall were ready for yet another WRC2 season, but this time as a registered driver in the series. He was piloting an all-new M-SportFord Fiesta R5 which he was unable to test due to lack of time before the shakedown.
The duo was in top form, and were determined to cruise through the stages with the best times. Gill’s campaign opened on Thursday itself, as he clocked the fastest around the shakedown stage. If all went well, Gill would be contesting with not just the WRC2 drivers but the WRC drivers as well. In Friday’s super special stage, Gill finished fourth with a time of 2:12.1 minutes, 3.9 seconds behind SSS winner Kajetan Kajetanowicz. In the second stage, Gill’s car spun-out mid-way through the stage and also developed a puncture later in the stage. However, he still managed a very competitive fourth place finish in his class with a time of 21:57.2 minutes.
Placed third after SS2, it looked like that the three-time APRC champion would close the gap in the next stage but bad luck followed him again in the form of another a flat tyre after he hit a hole and lost out on precious time and pace to end the stage with a time of 55:00.7minutes. The JK Racing duo finished fifth in the fourth stage but lost valuable time in the fifth stage after he suffered a front-left suspension damage only 4.5km into SS5.
"It was just bad luck. We had a mechanical failure and our lower arm joint under braking snapped. The car did not face any damage but we were lucky that the malfunction did not happen in the corner as that would have seen us slide down the hill," Gaurav sighed after the fifth stage.
Gill with co-driver Glenn Macneall finished the 12 stages in 3:51:39.2 hours to earn a podium finish in WRC2. He is placed 17th despite driving a totally new car with barely any testing time in it. Starting the day from the 10th position, Gaurav got off to a slow start, taking 27:33.5 minutes to finish the 33-km long eighth stage. Hence finishing 5th fastest in WRC2. Once he felt comfortable in the car, he began to push and took just 7.28.3 minutes in SS9, posting the third fastest time. Even in the tenth stage he set the third fastest time of 7.51.6.
As the day progressed, the three-time APRC champion was his groove, coming up with yet another impressive performance in SS11, setting the third fastest time (27.56.5 minutes) for the third consecutive time. In the 8.75km long 12th stage, he took 8.49.5minutes with a seized damper. In the penultimate stage with a strong finish beckoning him, disaster struck: the transmission of the car seized and ground him to a halt. The car locked up completely and could not even be pushed into neutral, killing all chances of recouping and making up in the final stretch of the WRC.
“It was one of the toughest weekends, rather toughest rallies of my life. Right from the beginning, it was difficult to get into a good rhythm because the rally was so slow and twisty, with so many huge rocks and boulders around,” Gaurav said.