Gill Wrestles Win in 2014 Opener

Photo courtesy of Euan CameronReigning Asia Pacific Rally Champion (APRC), Gaurav Gill, took victory at the opening APRC round during the International Rally of Whangarei today, following an incredible fight-back. Gill, joined by co-driver Glenn Macneall, reduced the gap from overnight leader and Team MRF team-mate, Jan Kopecky during the morning loop of stages to move into the lead before the lunchtime service.

After 13 special stages, only 10 seconds separated the pair with one final stage to go, but Gill took advantage of his New Zealand knowledge and won the stage by just over one second, extending his winning margin to 11.9 seconds.

Gill said: “We’ve come close to winning here before but every year we’ve had some issue either technical or mechanical. But this time it was the best way to win; to come from the back, especially being down by 23 seconds and it was a massive amount of time to make up in this situation.

Photo courtesy of Euan Cameron“The most important thing is it was a level playing field for Kopecky and I. He is the European champion and I’m the defending [APRC] champion so it is good benchmark for me. Plus we had new stages [during] this rally and I had to push really hard. That’s what makes the win so much more exciting for me and the team.”

Gill’s team-mate, Jan Kopecky, said: “We are happy with the result but second is a little disappointing because of losing that winning time on only one stage. But we had a really good fight all weekend so thanks a lot to Gaurav for that because you need to be pushed by an opponent to be able to improve.”

Kopecky finished in second behind Gill, with Australian Mark Pedder of Pedders Suspension Rally Team rounding out the podium in third. “The event, and the roads, was just outstanding. Everything they say about the roads here is true and I’ve had a massive grin since Saturday morning,” said Pedder.

Photo courtesy of Euan CameronFellow Australian, Tom Wilde from Verandah Apartments Rally Team, also enjoyed his maiden APRC event, taking the two-wheel-drive win and clinching fourth overall late in the day.

“Our first time here has been brilliant. The roads are fantastic and the notes Bill [Hayes] did were great. In New Zealand, you need good notes to be fast so it’s a real credit to Bill for his hard work. But obviously there is a lot of people to thank for getting us here, especially Veranda Apartments and my crew, because I wouldn’t be able to do this without them.”

Photo courtesy of Euan CameronChinese driver, Jan Xu, finished 15.8 seconds behind Wilde on his first competitive event outside of China and says he’s very happy with the result.

Michael Young, the only local driver, finished in sixth overall behind Jan Xu but scored valuable points in his two-wheel-drive campaign, finishing second behind Wilde.
“It was great to compete at home again and overall, I’m pretty happy with how the weekend went. We’ve scored valuable points for our championship campaign because winning that is the big goal. I’ve also really enjoyed having Tom [Wilde] along for a bit of competition and I’m sure we’ll battle it out for the two-wheel-drive championship in New Caledonia.”

Photo courtesy of Euan CameronIt was also a successful event for Sanjay Takale of India, who used this event as a shakedown of his new Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza.

“I’m very very happy. We did well to adjust to the new car, the new team, and new people but Cusco made it really simple. They are very professional and have a lot of knowledge. I’m learning a lot of things and I feel like I’m part of a really good team. Now we must focus on New Caledonia and the Production Cup,” explained Takale.

The APRC now moves to New Caledonia for the second round of the championship on May 16-17, before heading to the International Rally of Queensland in June.

Results VINZ International Rally of Whangarei

1. Gaurav Gill (IND), Skoda Fabia S2000, 2hr11m39.7s
2. Jan Kopecky (CZE), Skoda Fabia S2000, +11.9s
3. Mark Pedder (AUS), Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, +8m22.6
4. Tom Wilde (AUS), Renault Clio CAMS G2, +12m38.8
5. Jun Xu (CHN), Skoda Fabia S-2000-R, +12m54.6
6. Michael Young, Proton Satria Neo, +17m53.6
7. Sanjay Takale (IND), Subaru Impreza, +22m20.3

Photos courtesy of Euan Cameron.

Kopecky Claims Early Advantage

Photo courtesy of time visitor to New Zealand, 32-year-old Jan Kopecky from the Czech Republic, has surged to the lead of the two-day VINZ International Rally of Whangarei – the opening round of the 2014 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).

Of the eight special stages contested today Kopecky and co-driver Pavel Dresler topped the time sheets on six of them, amassing a lead of 23 seconds in their MRF Tyres Skoda Fabia S2000 car.

Today’s leg of the competition used 135km of fast flowing rural roads in the Far North district – baked by continuing fine and sub-tropical weather. Bucking weather predictions for rain this weekend, dust and heavy gravel were the two varying factors facing the nine car international field – that headed a contingent of 38 New Zealand teams.

Photo courtesy of second car on the road, behind team mate and defending APRC champion Gaurav Gill, Kopecky said the emphasis was on not making mistakes.

“We are happy but we are not pushing too hard as we do not know the stages and tyres – as to how they go. So I have to find a rhythm and the speed to know how much I can push to be safe and finish. The dust was in a few places – maybe four/five places in each stage, so not a big issue,” said Kopecky.

“I have a lead but tomorrow everything could be different.”

For Gill, also in a MRF Tyres Skoda Fabia S2000, he reported a clean run of the roads – however struggled in the final long test of the day: “There was just way too much gravel and I may have been a little too conservative thinking not to overdrive it – and that’s how we lost a lot of time,” said the 32-year-old champion – who’d been previously near level pegging with his team mate and rival.

Photo courtesy of for the day and marking a return to four-wheel-drive competition, Australia’s Mark Pedder struggled with his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, finishing over four minutes behind the leaders.

Fourth was China’s Jun Xu, in a Skoda Fabia S2000 while Australia’s Tom Wilde headed the two-wheel-drive field, driving a Renault Clio.

Of the nine that started today all returned to the finish, however Japan’s Rina Ito had a minor off-road incident in the third test – rejoining to complete the day.

Sunday’s six remaining special stages take teams south of their Whangarei city base and to roads familiar to many. Departing Whangarei from 7:55am the competition is split with the morning loop of three stages repeated early in the afternoon.

Results after Leg One:
Gill/Macneall, +23.1
Pedder/Dowling, +4.50.09
Xu/Liu, +7.15.7
Wilde/Hayes, +8.11.3
Young/Kelly, +11.58.3
Takale/Gregory, +13.31.2
Masukawa/Yamagishi, +15.28.8
Ito/Santo, +57.38.1

Stages Shortened in Whangarei

Photo courtesy of Michael CampagnaLast minute adjustments to the Sunday leg of this year’s 12-13 April VINZ International Rally of Whangarei will affect two of the event’s southern roads with a minor reduction in competitive distance.

The opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, driven by VINZ (NZRC) and Top Half Rally Series (THS) has drawn entrants from northern hemisphere countries such as India, Japan, China and the Czech Republic along with southern teams from Australia and New Zealand.

Previously plotted to be contested across 241.29km of rural roads divided in to 14 ‘special stages’ where teams are timed in their cars, the distance is now 220.87km. Two of Sunday’s twice used roads have been shortened to keep competition inside the Whangarei District Council region boundary.

Reacting to the Kaipara District Council and its bureaucratic process the amendment ensures the competition isn’t restricted by roading conditions of the area.

“The only loss is a few kilometres of competition that includes the famous bridge jump at Swamp Road,” says Laurie Brenssell, chairman of the event’s organising committee.

“Out of respect to the ratepayers of that area we are shortening two of the competitive roading tests to avoid crossing in to their territory.

“We note from the Kaipara District Council meeting minutes after the event passed through the area in May last year, the resumption of routine maintenance. The earlier running of the event this year could raise potential for conflict with that schedule – resulting in the decision to avoid competition across its roads.”

The event starts in Whangarei on Friday 11 April with a driver signing and ceremonial start at the Cameron Street mall from 3:30pm. The action begins on the Saturday morning, taking teams in to the Far North district for six special stages before returning. From 7pm teams tackle the Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage – at Whangarei’s William Fraser Memorial Park. After that, and a second service break, the cars will be parked overnight before resuming competition early Sunday morning. They then return to the Quayside Town Basin for a ceremonial finish from 3pm in the afternoon.

Spectating at the rally start, finish and Quayside Town Basin service areas are free with access to rural viewing points costing just $10 per adult per day and $15 for the Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage. Children under the age of 15 are free with a paying adult and paddock parking is available at some locations for a gold coin donation.

A share of all spectator ticket revenue goes to the local community groups that help run the spectator viewing areas.

A rally map is available free to download from the event website (in the spectator info section), or it can be collected from rally headquarters at Quayside Town Basin (from 9 April) or found in the rally insert published in the Northern Advocate on 9 April. It illustrates prime spectating areas with detailed timings.

Spectators are reminded to follow the instructions of marshals and ensure they stand well clear of the road’s edge – inside the taped off viewing areas.

Further news and ticketing information can be found on the website, or follow the event on Facebook.

Information provided by the Rally Whangarei event organisers.
Rally Whangarei 2011 photos courtesy of Michael Campagna.

Competitor Update Mar 2014

Photo by Ross Hyde

VINZ International Rally of Whangarei

  • For those of you who have not yet seen it, Rally Guide 2 is now available online on the event website
  • Provision has been made for presentation of trophies to the APRC 2013 class winners in Whangarei. Details to be confirmed.

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie

  • Entry forms and Supplementary Regulations are available online on the event website
  • Accommodation booking form for Ramada Plaza is also available. Discounts are offered for bookings made before 19 April.

Look forward to seeing you all again in Whangarei in the next week or so. Any further questions or information required, please just drop me an email.

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator