Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby has extended his lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship after driving his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 to victory in Malaysia.
Hot, humid and muddy conditions greeted Veiby and his Indian team-mate, Gaurav Gill, as they both battled for their second win of the season.
Gill won the opening super special stage of the rally on Friday evening, but on the event’s second stage both he and Veiby slid off the road into trees.
Unfortunately for Gill, the damage to his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 was greater than for his team-mate, and he dropped to sixth place.
While Veiby made amends and consolidated a lead he would hold until the end of the event’s second day, Gill was forced to push hard in his bid to recover to his eventual second place.
Veiby’s victory puts him 10 points clear of Gill in the fight for the title. The APRC rookie has now won two events to his team-mate’s one, with two events still to come.
“It feels good to be at the end of this rally as it was so tough, with very slippy and challenging conditions,” Veiby said.
“It has been one of the most tricky rallies I’ve ever done – to win it feels amazing!”
For the reigning champion, it was a case of what might have been. He was the star of the rally after his early problems, and only managed to move into second place on the final stage.
He was catching the Mitsubishi of Jari Ketomaa at an incredible rate of two seconds per kilometre in incredibly tricky conditions.
“I’m really disappointed with the small mistake I made on day 1, as this could have been our rally, but I’m still learning I guess – we all learn,” the two-time APRC champion said.
“But good times overall, both days. We showed good speed and it’s good for the team to finish one and two – at least we’re right there for the points.
“Of course, we’ve still got two rounds to go and anything can happen. OC drove well, he has good speed – it’s exciting to be in the championship with him.”
Temperatures of up to 40 degrees and humidity around 80 per cent made conditions in Malaysia stifling not only for competitors, but for the team mechanics as well.
“It’s always an extremely challenging and draining event for everyone, and this year was certainly no exception,” Team MRF boss Lane Heenan said.
“The event is always a battle of attrition, both on and off the stages, and full credit to all the Team MRF squad for producing another superb 1-2 result.
“This sets us up perfectly for the remaining two rounds, where OC and Gaurav will battle it out for championship honours.”
The fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is the Rally of Hokkaido in Japan from September 15-16, before the series finale in India in November.
2017 Rally of Johor – final results
1. OC Veiby / S. Skjarmoen, Skoda Fabia R5, 3h02m39.1s
2. G. Gill / S. Prevot, Skoda Fabia R5, +4m41.7s
3. J. Ketomaa / V. Mannisenmaki, Mitsubishi Mirage, +5m00.4s
4. R. Bloomberg / L. Andersson, Mitsubishi Mirage, +2h23m10.1s
APRC points after 3 of 5 rounds:
1. Ole Christan Veiby, 108 points
2. Gaurav Gill, 98
3. Jari Ketomaa, 56
4. Robert Bloomberg, 50
5. P.G. Abhilash, 25