Predictions can go awry, weather-wise and otherwise. That's exactly what happened on the opening day of the Rally of Whangarei, the third leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, here on Saturday.

A clear blue sky greeted the drivers instead of the expected rain. It also turned out to be a glorious day under the sunshine for Team MRF's Gaurav Gill, and not for Katsuhiko Taguchi or the Proton cars as anticipated.

In an event regularly dominated by the Kiwis, the 28-year-old Indian produced a consistent and commanding performance to lay second overall. Displaying admirable control on the challenging terrain, Gill pushed Kiwi Hayden Paddon, the leader, all the way before signing off in style by topping the eighth and final stage of the day.

Choosing a medium compound tyre helped Gill start on a bright note and sustain the momentum throughout.

A blown engine and turbo blew away the chances of current drivers' leader Taguchi, who was looking for a hat-trick. To make matters worse, the Japanese was penalised for coming out late from the service park after attending to his engine and was lying seventh.

Provisional standings (after day one): 1. Hayden Paddon (Team Hayden Paddon) 1:24.02.7, 2. Gaurav Gill (Team MRF) +1:10.8 seconds, 3. Alister McRae +47.2, 4. Dean Sumner (ITM Rally Team) +48, 5. Sloan Cox (Taslo Engineering) +3:05.7, 6. Rifat Sungkar (Pertamina) +2:29.4, 7. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Team MRF) +1:42.5.

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