Updated April 13th, 2024 at 18:28 IST

Gaurav Gill finishes Day 1 of Otago Rally in top-three

Gill and his New-Zealand-based co-driver Jared Hudson were third on the timesheets, a little over 30 seconds behind overall leader Jack Hawkeswood and 11 seconds adrift of second-placed Robbie Stokes.

Otago Rally | Image:Otago Rally
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India's fastest rally driver Gaurav Gill of JK Tyre put himself in contention for a podium finish after grabbing a top-three place at the end of the opening day of the Otago Rally in New Zealand.

Gill and his New-Zealand-based co-driver Jared Hudson were third on the timesheets, a little over 30 seconds behind overall leader Jack Hawkeswood and 11 seconds adrift of second-placed Robbie Stokes.

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Gill and Hudson were piloting 2022 APRC champion and 10-time Otago Rally winner Haydon Paddon’s Hyundai i20 N Rally2 machine.

On day one, the drivers navigated through eight special stages. Gill lost fifteen seconds on stage 5 due to an error, but the triple-APRC champion offered proof of his outright speed by winning stages 4, 7 and 8.

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"It has been a very unique experience; the super-fast stages are so distinct and varied from one another that I would describe them as extremely fast. I have never driven this fast before," said Gill, an Arjuna awardee.

"We had a pretty good start in the morning stages, and now we're trying to become better at maintaining our rhythm on the trickier parts. We are up against cars more powerful than ours. That makes a difference, and the settings are ideal for them.

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"We are happy with our performance today and will try to replicate the same tomorrow, ensuring a podium finish," he added.

The Otago Rally is amongst the most historic racing events in the world and has been held every year since 1976.

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This year, the rally has drawn a field of 117 cars, the largest in four years. A customary mix of challenging sections in the rally comprise 16 special stages.

Over 144 km of competitive stages, the contestants demonstrated their driving prowess on Saturday. On Sunday, another 130 kilometres will be driven.

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Gill is competing at the Otago Rally for the first time. He is a three-time winner of the Rally of Whangarei, which also takes place in New Zealand. 

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Published April 13th, 2024 at 18:28 IST