He had said it was going to be a lottery. In the end, Gaurav Gill hit the progressive jackpot.
On a blissful Sunday afternoon on a horse track seven thousand miles from home, the MRF driver galloped to a sensational win in the 2012 APRC Rally of New Caledonia.
If Proton's P.G. Anderson had pulled up lame on the previous day, it was MRF teammate Chris Atkinson's turn to stumble this time.
Gill, who overcame troubles of his own on all three days, ultimately reaped the rewards of his persistence and speed, taking victory by close to five minutes. Atkinson, despite losing a lot of time on the day's second stage, eventually finished second to hand MRF a fine 1-2. Kiwi real-estate tycoon Brian Green finished third.
The result put Atkinson at the top of the championship standings with Gill second. The third round of the APRC is the Rally of Queensland next month.
“It makes me proud as an Indian that I can match and beat guys like this. This win has helped prove the point that we guys can defeat the rest, with 25 per cent of their infrastructure and experience,” Gill said afterwards.
Although this was his fourth APRC win, it was the most special one, he said, “because I was up against the best drivers in the world.
The rally's reputation of being the hardest on the calendar for the cars grew manifold as it claimed more on the day, leaving only four finishers.
“That just shows how good a job our team has done,” Gill said. “The track was slippery and there were rocks but the tyres performed brilliantly.”
Gill was 41.4 seconds behind overnight leader Atkinson at the start but moved ahead on the day's second stage, when both Skoda Fabias encountered difficulties.
Gill's rear suspension gave out, but he managed to nurse it to the service park. Atkinson wasn't so lucky.
The Australian's car developed an electrical snag and wouldn't start easily; it cost him close to seven minutes. With both Protons out of contention for the points, the MRFs had no need to push themselves from there on in.
They maintained a safe pace, into the concluding stage at the Nouméa hippodrome, and onto the podium.
The results (provisional classification after 19 stages):
1. Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) 2:52:35.9s; 2. Chris Atkinson (Team MRF) 2:57:28.1; 3. Brian Green 3:08:21.6; 4. Emmanuel Guigou 3:15:27.9.