Lappi Blows ‘Em Away

Photo by Ross Hyde22-year-old Finn Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm have taken out this year’s opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with a start-to-finish leading performance at the International Rally of Whangarei held this weekend 18-19 May.

Driving the MRF Tyres team Skoda Fabia S2000 Lappi extended his overnight lead to a winning margin of more than four minutes, after winning seven of the day’s eight remaining special stages.

Second was team-mate Gaurav Gill from India and co-driver Glenn Macneall while Nelson based Kiwi Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn finished third in their international specification Subaru STI.

Even though he pushed his team-mate hard, Gaurav Gill in the second MRF Tyres team Skoda was hampered by a rear differential mechanical failure during this morning’s loop of four stages.

Photo by Ross HydeContinuing with an error free run ensured the reigning Finnish rally champion was never pressured for the top spot during the afternoon’s repeat loop through the Waipu Gorge, Batley, Wairere and Cassidy road stages.

Returning to Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin for the ceremonial finish, Lappi was thrilled at taking victory on his first visit to roads so well known to his mentors in the World Rally Championship: “A very good result,” said Lappi as he arrived. “We’ve had heavy rain and it got really muddy in some places with fog as well on the Saturday. I had to focus on keeping rhythm to suit these roads but basically they were how I thought they were going to be.”

Happy to be able to match the pace of his team-mate when things ran smoothly, Gill was pleased with his overall result: “I love the roads here and I really enjoyed it this year. We went faster than last year so hopefully by next year we will be faster again and hopefully we will be aiming to win. We always love the roads in New Zealand – they teach you new things.”

Photo by Ross HydeJust outside the podium was Queensland pairing of Matt van Tuinen and co-driver Erin Kelly in a Subaru STI while Christchurch’s Josh Marston and Mal Peden finished as leading two-wheel-drive in the Ford Fiesta R2 – fifth overall.

Perth based Kiwi Michael Young, the only New Zealander registered for this year’s APRC finished third in the points, bringing the Cusco backed Toyota Vitz home in ninth place overall.

Lappi heads home with 39 points – the maximum on offer. Gill trails by nine with six rounds remaining.

Following post-event technical checks the APRC cars will be released to the teams for cleaning and packing in to shipping containers where they will be transported to the series second round: Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie 15 to 16 June.

Rally of Whangarei – Final APRC Results

1. Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm ,Skoda Fabia S2000, 2h51m18.3
2. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall, Skoda Fabia S2000 India +4m03.2
3. Ben Hunt / Tony Rawstorn, Subaru Impreza WRX New Zealand +8min34.0
4. Matt Van / Tuinen Erin Kelly, Subaru Impreza WRX Australia +12min13.2
5. Josh Marston / Malcolm Peden, Ford Fiesta R2 New Zealand +16min15.7
6. Phil Campbell / Venita Fabbro, Ford Fiesta R2 New Zealand +16min46.3
7. Bruce Fullerton / Hugh Reardon-Smith, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX Australia +28m06.9
8. Simon Knowles / Margot Knowles, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX Australia +31m43.0
9. Michael Young / Daniel Willson, Toyota Vitz RS New Zealand +34m35.5
10. Makoto Kawahara / Sae Kitagawa, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX Japan +37m08.5

Story by Lance Hastie –
Photos by Ross Hyde.

VTRacing ready for APRC

Van TuinenThe Australian rally team VTRacing is ready to open their Asia-Pacific Rally Championship campaign at the International Rally of Whangarei to be held on New Zealand’s North Island on 17-19 May.

The Brisbane-based duo of driver Matt van Tuinen and co-driver Erin Kelly will be looking to mount a strong challenge for the FIA Pacific Rally Cup, which takes in the three Pacific region events of the APRC: New Zealand, New Caledonia and Australia.

In doing so, they will be taking on the might of the factory-backed Skoda Fabia S2000 cars run by Team MRF.

But driver Matt van Tuinen is looking forward to the challenge, “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to compete on the International stage as part of an FIA Regional Rally Championship” he said.

“Looking at it realistically our car is a bit older and with it being Group N it will be a bit slower than the MRF S2000 cars, and that team has two very fast drivers with Gaurav Gill and Esapekka Lappi,”

“But the Championship rewards consistency”, he added. “We know that thanks to the hard work of our service crew we have a reliable car so the aim is to go as fast as we can and be there at the finish”.

The International Rally of Whangarei takes in roads that have previously been used as part of the World Rally Championship’s New Zealand round, renowned for their heavy camber and roller-coaster nature.

The International Rally of Whangarei also forms Round 2 of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship and the VTRacing team will be looking to build on their points tally after taking 5th at the opening round in Otago last month.

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Full-On for NZ

Bruce FullertonThe Full-On Rallysport team are off to New Zealand next week. Looking forward to their first event for 2013, Bruce Fullerton and Hugh Reardon-Smith have entered the International Rally of Whangarei, Round 1 of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The team has registered for the Pacific Cup, which comprises Rally Whangarei, Rallye New Caledonia based in Noumea and IROQ back in Queensland.

The Alliance Airlines Evo 9 has had a major refresh over summer, and is well primed for its debut on the New Zealand gravel stages.

“It’s been a while since our last event, Rally Victoria” said team principal and driver Bruce Fullerton. “We are all raring to go and really looking forward to getting started on recce next week. It’s a 3 day international event so our primary aim is to drive a fast but safe event, and have the car in good condition for New Caledonia, which runs just 4 weeks after Whangarei”.

The car and service equipment has been shipped to New Zealand by container, with service crew Rob Reddiex and Richard Harris fully involved in setting up the container, which will be the servicing “vehicle” for the event from the base at the Quayside Town Basin in the centre of Whangarei.

In the seeded list of entries, the Fullerton Financial Services Lancer is placed at car 5, along with entries from Finland, France, India, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

The team is grateful for the support from Alliance Airlines, Fullerton Financial Services and Pirelli tyres.