Team MRF's Gaurav Gill capitalised on some sensible tyre strategy and driving and on Proton R3 Malaysia's Chris Atkinson's misfortune to go to the top of the leaderboard after 10 stages of the International Rally of Queensland, the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, on Saturday.
Gill will go into the final day with a slender 4.8-second advantage over Proton's Alister McRae with MRF's other driver and current Drivers' Championship points leader Katsuhiko Taguchi lying in fifth spot nearly four minutes behind.
The Indian, who started on a beautiful, sunny day behind Atkinson after splitting the opening two Super Special stages (on Friday) with the local favourite, opted for semi-wet tyres which stood him in good stead on the tricky and not-so-smooth patches on the course.
Realising that the Protons packed much more power than the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Xs, Gill came up with some ‘percentage' driving to oscillate between second and third places in the eight Super Stages of the day. Atkinson, who won the first four Super Stages on Saturday, crashed out after hitting a submerged rock in the eighth.
As his mishap held up the remaining drivers, the organisers had no option but to cancel the stage which would have been the longest of the rally.
However, Proton had cause for cheer as McRae took the remaining Super Stages.
It was not a great day to remember for Taguchi, who had a differential problem in the first four stages of the day.
Though it was rectified, the Japanese lost time after suffering a flat in the last stage.
Given his confidence and the way he has driven, Gill has the best chance of not only registering his second-ever win in the APRC, after the success in Indonesia in 2008, but also closing the gap on Taguchi and contributing to the possibility of Team MRF reigning in the 2010 season.
Provisional standings (after 10 stages):
1. Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) 1hour, 27 mins, 13.3 secs; 2. Alister McRae (Proton) +00:04.8; 3. Glen Raymond (Raymond) +00:40.1; 4. Brendan Reeves (Reeves) +02:06.3; 5. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Team MRF) +03:54.8.