Team MRF's Katsuhiko Taguchi bagged his second Asian Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) overall drivers' title despite not finishing the first leg of the APRC China Rally here on Saturday.

The 38-year-old, who last won the championship in 1999, crashed into a tree that resulted in minor injuries to co-driver Chris Murphy on his face and arm. They took no further part in the race.

With Taguchi (100 points) out of the race, it was left to teammate Gaurav Gill (97 points) to drive safely and reach his destination without much fuss and go on to clinch the first place.

In the sixth special stage, Gill's tyre got caught at the edge of the concrete, three inches above the ground, and his attempt to steer it to safety saw the steering wheel go the other way. He lost balance and hit the bridge, thereby damaging the car, his wrist and arm. Sensing the condition of the car and his position, Gill, too, decided to take no further part in the race.

With the third-placed Rifat Sungkar (co-driver Scott Beckwith) with 69 points pulling out in the sixth stage due to a drive shaft, it was confirmed that Team MRF had won the first two places.

“I am obviously upset. I had a great chance to win the first leg and possibly the title. It's my fault,” admitted Gill. Taguchi said he couldn't control the speed — 160 Km per hour — and the moment he took the turn in the concrete road, he skidded and crashed straight into the tree. As a nice gesture, Gill seeing his team-mates in a bad condition came forward to help them. In the process, he lost crucial time. “Not much damage was done to the tree. The Chinese trees are very strong,” joked Taguchi.

MRF Team Director, Lane Heenan, said “they (Gill and Taguchi) wanted to go flat out to beat each other, and were caught out. After consultations with the drivers, we have decided not to participate in the second and final leg on Sunday.”

The results (provisional): APRC standings: 1. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Chris Murphy) Team MRF, 100 pts; 2. Gaurav Gill (Glen Macneall) Team MRF, 97; 3. Rifat Sungkar (Scott Beckwith) Pertamina Team, 69.

Saturday's first leg: 1. Hiroshi Yanagisawa (Yoshimasa Nakahara), Cusco Racing, 01:59:05.9; 2. Alister McRae (Bill Hayes), Proton R3 Malaysia, 02:00:24.1; 3. Chris Atkinson (Benjamin Atkinson), Proton R3 Malaysia, 02:02:07.0.

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