Gill Claims New Caledonia

The island of New Caledonia may be known as a pacific holiday destination, but for the drivers and teams in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s round 2 held on the island over the weekend this was no picnic.

Rally of New Caledonia proved to be one of the toughest and roughest in the six event series and only eight competitors made the finishline.

Initially the event was led by Proton’s Per Gunnar Andersson but the Swedish driver dropped time on Saturday morning with electrical problems caused by one of the many deep water-crossings. The Proton’s engine gradually lost more power through the day and team changed the head gasket at final service. Andersson set out on Sunday morning to at least get back on the podium, but his bid for points lasted only 6 kilometres before the engine stopped once again, this time with terminal damage.

Australian Chris Atkinson took over top spot in his MRF Skoda and drove at a blistering pace through the rough and very slippery southern red roads, to hold a lead of nearly two minutes on his team-mate Gaurav Gill. But the lead was to change again when Atkinson lost time when his Fabia stopped in the middle of a stage on the final morning. Again it seems the damage was caused by a water crossing.

Atkinson did get going again but only after Gill passed him in the stage and took over the lead. With the gap between them nearly 5 minutes and the next surviving competitor Brian Green over 10 minutes further back, there was no point in risking any further damage.

Gill and Atkinson drove the remaining stages in safe-mode to ensure an MRF One-two, “I’d really like to thank the team for this one, it was due to them we could keep going. Everyone had issues and I’m sorry for what happened to Chris but the main thing is that it’s still a one-two finish for MRF and the whole team can celebrate”, said a very happy Gill at the finish line.

In third spot was New Zealander Brian Green in his Mitsubishi Lancer, the kiwi also claiming top place in the New Caledonian championship. Fourth and top two-wheel drive competitor was French driver Emmanuel Guigou in a Renault R3.

Behind there was carnage. Last year’s APRC champion Alistair McRae went out on the first day after ripping off a wheel part-way through stage 2, while local driver Jean-Louis Leyruad retired his Citroen after a water-crossing. To further prove how difficult the event was only eight competitors completed the whole event.

Rally New Caledonia 2012 was an event where the mechanics and technicians really made the difference, keeping the cars going in impossible conditions. Sometimes working in thick mud and other times work in the blazing heat – its thanks to these guys that the drivers can then go out and push their cars to the limit.

The next in event in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is the Rally of Queensland on May 25 – 27th.


Atko Claims Opener for MRF

Chris Atkinson has taken back-to-back victories at Brother International Rally of Whangarei with a 28.1 second winning margin over fellow Asia Pacific Rally Championship contender Per-Gunnar Andersson as the two-day event wrapped up.

Atkinson, an Australian, piloted a Skoda Fabia S2000 car in his and the car’s first event with Team MRF from India. Last year Atkinson won the event in a Proton Satria Neo S2000 car – the car now driven by Andersson.

Third overall and third APRC finisher was Atkinson’s team-mate Indian Gaurav Gill in a similar MRF-backed Skoda.

Of his overall and APRC victory, Atkinson said: “It’s been a great weekend. The team have been amazing. The car, the tyres, everything worked really well. It was always going to be tough being up against the factory Proton team. The MRF team came along with a brand new car and straight out of the box we were on the pace and were able to control the rally, which is great. I was just driving to beat PG; that is all I was worried about, the APRC points, and while we could have gone a bit faster in places but we were trying to judge our speed and not try doing anything we didn’t have to.

Swedish driver P-G Andersson has rallied on some of the roads used in this event when they were part of Rally New Zealand, but this was his first run in the Whangarei event. The Proton driver said: “Chris has done a great job today after being first on the road, to have the pace he has. We’ve been trying to catch up as much as we could but we couldn’t do it just by driving; he had to make a mistake, have a puncture or something else. We were trying to keep the pressure on and enjoy those roads best I could – it was great fun. There are some issues we have to clarify but we’ve moved forward with the car and I think we will be stronger for the next rally. But we have really enjoyed it.”

Karamjit Singh won the APRC two-wheel drive category driving a Proton Satria Neo even though the multiple rally champion was in some pain throughout the event after having surgery to his back only a week ago. “Really pleased to get maximum points as it wasn’t easy with the pain. It starts off our campaign in the best possible way” said Singh at the finish.

The Junior catergory was won by New Zealander Michael Young, even though the young Kiwi had a huge scare in the final stages. “We came over a crest in 4th gear, totally too fast for the next corner. We spun around and somehow we didn’t hit anything. We were so lucky!!” a relieved Young said at the finish. Second in the catergory was Kenneth Koh from Malaysia, both Juniors driving Proton Satria Neo 1.6’s.

2012 Brother International Rally of Whangarei
1 – Chris Atkinson/Stephene Prevot, Australia, Skoda Fabia S2000 (APRC)
2 – Per-Gunnar Andersson/Emil Axelsson, Sweden, Proton Satria Fabia S2000 (APRC), +28.1
3 – Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall, India, Skoda Fabia S2000 (APRC), +2:35.8
4 – Alister McRae/Bill Hayes, Great Britain, Proton Satria Neo (APRC), +3:37.6
5 – Matt Jansen/Jason Farmer, Christchurch, Subaru STI (NZRC), +4:47.7
6 – Emma Gilmour/Anthony McLoughlin, Dunedin, Subaru STI (NZRC), +5:34.0
7 – Kingsley Thompson/John Allen, Kerikeri, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO (NZRC) 10, +6:35.8
8 – Brian Green/Fleur Pedersen, Palmerston North, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10 (NZRC), +14:19.0
9 – Josh Marston/Patrick Malley, Christchurch, Ford Fiesta (NZRC), +18:10.4
10 – Jean-Louis Leyraud/Philippe Delrieu, New Caledonia, Citroen DS3, +19:07.7

Photos and story courtesy of www.aprc.tv.