Three-time APRC champion Gaurav Gill was forced to retire from the Safari Rally Kenya with engine problems.

The Arjuna awardee fell victim to the deadly ‘Fesh Fesh’ dust that the Safari Rally is dreaded for, leading to engine damage on Friday.

The JK Tyre-backed driver Gill showed tremendous pace in the shakedown, Stage 1 and Stage 3 in WRC2 category in his Skoda Fabia R5.

Gill, returning the global stage after a gap of three years, was a strong contender for the Safari Rally podium in WRC2.

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However, the gruelling opening day led to Gill’s retiring from the rally quite unexpectedly as his Fabia came to a halt when his engine inhaled huge amounts of sand.

“Deeply gutted to have dropped out from this legendary rally. But as with all events, this was a great experience, I had the pace to match the front runners.

"I thank my sponsors for this amazing opportunity, the love and support received from the Kenyan Indian community beside well-wishers back home was overwhelming,” said Gill.