Guangdong (China), Nov 8 (IANS) After Friday’s spectacular SS1 start, a 2 km super-special in front of thousands of spectators, Saturday’s China Rally, the final round of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), was full of drama from the start.
Reigning champion Gaurav Gill spun out in tricky conditions after leading by over 17 seconds, giving Jan Kopecky the lead.
Steady overnight rain turned the gravel stages into slippery mud tracks as Mike Young found out in the first 500 metres of Stage 2. The New Zealander slid off the road in his two-wheel drive Proton and needed help from spectators to get going again, losing over a minute.
Further in the stage MRF Skoda driver Gill spun, losing 17 seconds, while Australia’s Mark Pedder hit a rock and punctured, losing nearly two minutes to the leaders. Taiwan’s Huilan Shen retired in her Fiat Abarth 500.
This year’s APRC champion Kopecký from the Czech Republic stayed out of trouble, winning the stage and improving his lead on Gill to 18 seconds. Gill fought back on Stages 3 and 4 with some excellent times to head into the lunch-time service-break with a seven second lead.
On the second run through, the San Men Yuan mountain stage, Pedder retired after hitting a rock and breaking a steering arm while Gill lost over 40 seconds to Kopecký after he too had problems in the stage.
But worse was to come on Stage 6 when Gill suffered the same fate as Pedder, a rock breaking a steering arm leading to instant retirement. Both drivers are expecting to re-start Sunday.
Gill was disappointed to lose out after showing some great speed.
“It is a disappointing way to end the day after being fastest for most of the stages. The conditions were really mixed so it was hard to get into a proper rhythm. Second and third stages were much better, however the conditions were difficult with so much rain. We should be able to restart Sunday, so let us see what happens.”
Untroubled Kopecký won all the remaining stages in his MRF Skoda Fabia with Japan’s Yuya Sumiyama in second and leading Asia Cup. In really tough conditions, both Kopecký and Sumiyama drove exceptionally to bring their cars back to evening service extremely dirty but undamaged.
After his earlier scare, Young is third overall and with Pedders retirement adds the 2014 Production Cup to his tally. Sunday’s stages include a total of 124 km, still a long way to go for the four remaining competitors.