Kopecky First APRC Win After Protest

Jan Kopecky, Photo by Geoff RiderCzech Republic driver, Jan Kopecky, has won a rain-shortened Rally of New Caledonia, round two of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, after quickly coming to grips with the event on his first visit.

His Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 team-mate, Gaurav Gill, finished in second place after an altercation with a tree on the first day dropped him from the lead.

Kopecky and co-driver, Pavel Dresler, the reigining European Rally Champions, eventually finished the rally six minutes and 12 seconds clear of the Indian/Australian combination of Gill and Glenn Macneall. The two pairings are now equal on points after two rounds of the championship.

“There was no pressure (on the second day) and I was relaxed in the car,” Kopecky said. “There was one stage in the north I enjoyed and each time I was able to go quicker than Gaurav, so it was good for us.”

“We are now on equal points with Gaurav, and that’s good for the championship. If you have a close battle from the start it’s always better. Next is Australia… I’ve never been there, so a new country, a new rally and we are looking forward to it.”

Despite his problems in New Caledonia, Gill is confident that he can bounce back in Australia and take his second victory of the season.

“We had a good lead and a healthy margin, but unfortunately we got caught out by the conditions yesterday, and found a tree on the exit of a corner,” Gill said.

“It wasn’t so good for the car and we bent a suspension arm. Glenn and I had to do some repairs and we drove the last stage very conservatively.’

Jan Kopecky, Photo by apsm.tvGill was fastest on day two, giving him as many championship points as he could have hoped for after day one. “We’re happy to finish ….. it’s the best I could have done,” he said.

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, said that the conditions were challenging, to say the least. “When there are stages being cancelled because of the weather you know that just getting to the finish is going to be difficult,” Heenan said.

“On some sections the conditions were treacherous, so to get both cars to the finish and on the podium is a great result for us. Jan did a brilliant job on his first trip to New Caledonia, and the win will give him even more confidence heading to the Rally of Queensland next month.

“Gaurav looked to be on track for another win, but the conditions caught him out on the first day and he dropped time after hitting a tree.

“He recovered well, though, and second place has kept him right in the championship running,” he said.

Third of the APRC registered drivers to finish was New Zealand’s Mike Young, who took the lead in both the APRC’s two-wheel drive and Production Car championship after Australians Mark Pedder and Tom Wilde had off-road excursions.

However, there were aspects of the event that didn’t please Heenan, including when both his drivers were initially penalised for not starting one of the stages as per the event itinerary.

“One stage was meant to be used six times, but was cancelled on three ocassions because of the conditions,” Heenan said.

“When our cars arrived there for SS13 they were convinced it would again be cancelled. They asked the conditions of the stage and handed their time card to the control official. They were not given a start time on their card and the stage was delayed.

“The Clerk of the Course penalised both cars for delaying the start and gave us a 33 minute penalty. That relegated Jan to second and Gaurav to third, but after a trip to the Steward’s meeting the penalty was changed and we were reinstated into first and second places.”

After the cancellation of so many stages, Heenan believes that there are now question marks over whether the event should remain in the APRC.

“Over the past years in New Caledonia there have been many stages cancelled, to the point we struggle to get 50% of the rally complete.

“I think it’s about time we gave another event a chance in the championship,” he added.

The next rally on the APRC calendar is the third round of the season, and the final Pacific Cup event, the International Rally of Queensland in Australia.

Story: Team Release. Photos by apsm.tv and Geoff Ridder.


Young Survives French Rain

Michael Young, by Geoff RidderKiwi rally driver, Michael Young, had a clean sweep of results during his first visit to the tropical island of New Caledonia, the second round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, finishing third overall moving him to first place in both the two-wheel-drive and production cup classes.

After vowing to drive to survive, the New Zealander kept true to his word and brought his Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo home in one piece with the help of compatriot Malcolm Read [co-driver].

“It was such a tough rally we’re happy to get third, it’s so hard on the car the main thing is surviving it was so slippery, we’re just happy to make to the end. It was big bag of points for us and that’s what the championships all about, scoring every time,” explained Young.

Day one was real a mixture of conditions, sometimes dry with billowing dust and within a few kilometres, changing to pouring tropical rain. Two of Young’s closest rivals crashed off on the super slippery roads, while he and team-mate Sanjay Takale kept their Cusco cars on the roads to complete the first day.

Michael Young, by apsm.tvThe harsh weather conditions continued on day two, which saw the cancellation of several stages and Young says it was the right call as the two-wheel-drives would have struggled to get through.

“The safety cars couldn’t get through, so there is no way we would have got through in a two-wheel-drive. While it’s a real shame to lose stages, the right call was made for safety reasons, and it didn’t really affect us too much,” said Young.

In the end, Young finished 25 seconds behind current APRC champion Gaurav Gill, and six minutes behind eventual rally winner Jan Kopecký after the Team MRF Skoda duo were handed down penalties by event officials.

As an added bonus the 21-year old collected valuable points for his Pacific Cup fight which finishes at the next APRC round in Australia. Young says he is particularly interested in winning the Pacific Cup after winning the other Asia Cup title last year.

The next rally on the APRC calendar is the third round of the season, and the final Pacific Cup event, at the International Rally of Queensland in Australia. Based out of the Sunshine Coast town of Caloundra, it sees crews compete across the typically fast, tree-lined roads typical of eastern Australia.

Young’s APRC campaign is supported by Cusco, Dunlop, YodaRallying, OMP, CRC Speedshow, Club Cadet and Sommet Sports.

Story: Team Release. Photos by apsm.tv and Geoff Ridder.


Tough Test for Wilde

Tom Wilde, by apsm.tvRound two of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonia, has served as a massive learning curve for WA rally driver Tom Wilde.

“Wow, what a rally,” Wilde said after finishing the event, which was held near Noumea on the tropical island of New Caledonia, 1500kms east of Brisbane.

Heavy rain across the weekend caused several stages to be cancelled. Those that were run were particularly challenging for competitors, especially first timers like Wilde.

“I’ve never driven on anything as slippery,” the Verandah Apartments Rally Team driver said. “There are so many different surfaces and it’s very difficult to read.”

Wilde’s Renault Clio fell victim to the slippy roads on the second last stage of Leg One.

“Unfortunately, I had a low-speed spin on a very slippery corner and hit a rock which damaged the power steering pulley,” he explained. “We limped to the end of that stage but, of course, the alternator is on the same belt so the car ran out of power.”

Tom Wilde, by apsm.tvWilde and co-driver Bill Hayes turned to bush mechanic techniques in an attempt to temporarily fix the problem. They used shoelaces and cable ties to run the alternator, but to no avail. The pair was forced to retire for the day.

The Verandah Apartments Rally Team service crew worked to fix the problem overnight and, although they would not be eligible for an outright result, Wilde and Hayes restarted in Leg Two of the event in an attempt to earn bonus championship points.

In Leg Two, which was cut from eight stages to four because of wet weather, the boys finished fourth overall and second APRC competitors.

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonia was the second international outing for Wilde who last month finished fastest two-wheel drive and fourth outright in New Zealand’s Rally of Whangarei.

The next APRC event is round three, the International Rally of Queensland, from June 20 to 22. It’s a rally Wilde has competed in twice before, including last year when he finished second in the Australian Rally Championship section.

Story: Team Release. Photos by apsm.tv.


Tough Test in New Caledonia

Jan Kopecky - New Caledonia 2014The top two drivers competing in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) drivers’ championship are tied on equal points, despite being penalised by event officials at the finish line, following a challenging weekend at the second round held at New Caledonia.

Jan Kopecký, the current European Rally Champion from Czech Republic driving a Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000, finished 6 minutes and 12 seconds ahead of team-mate Gaurav Gill, who encountered troubles late on day one.

Kopecky says: “There was no pressure and I was relaxed in the car, there was one stage in the North I enjoyed and each time I was able to go quicker than Gaurav, so it was good for us.”

“We are now on equal points with Gaurav, and that’s good for championship. If you have a close battle from the start it’s always better. Next is Australia… I’ve never been there, so a new country, a new rally and we are looking forward to it.”

Meanwhile, reigning APRC Champion Gill remains optimistic about the championship battle this year and is now looking forward to the International Rally of Queensland, where he hopes his experience will again pay off against his main-rival and team-mate.

“We had a good lead and a healthy margin but unfortunately we got caught out by the conditions yesterday, and found a tree on the exit of a corner. It wasn’t so good for the car and we bent a suspension arm. Glenn [Macneall, co-driver] and I had to do some repairs and we drove the last stage very conservatively. We’re happy to finish the day yesterday, plus finish today fastest of the day, meaning maximum points in the kitty; it’s the best I could have done.”

Next on the leader-board, Kiwi driver Michael Young consolidated his championship chances in his Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo by finishing third with his rivals retiring due to mechanical failures or off-road excursions.

“It was such a tough rally we’re happy to get third, it’s so hard on the car the main thing is surviving it was so slippery, we’re just happy to make to the end. It was big bag of points for us and that’s what the championships all about, scoring every time,” explained Young.

Young now leads the Production Cup title over Mark Pedder who retired after an off-road excursion in his Pedders Suspension Mitsubishi Evolution, and Sanjay Takale who went out with engine failure on Day 2 in his Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza.

In a double-win, Young also overtook Australian Tom Wilde for the two-wheel-drive lead, after Wilde went off in the slippery conditions, and then later retired alternator problems in his Verandah Apartments Renault Clio. The two-wheel-drive battle will resume in Australia; Wilde’s ‘home’ rally.

In an interesting twist, torrential rain forced the cancellation of several stages during two days with road conditions being described as treacherous; but it ultimately did not affect the results of the APRC crews.

The next rally on the APRC calendar is the third round of the season, and the final Pacific Cup event, at the International Rally of Queensland in Australia. Based out of the Sunshine Coast town of Caloundra, it sees crews compete across the typically fast, tree-lined roads typical of eastern Australia.
Rallye New Caledonia 2014 Results.
1. KOPECKY Jan – DRESLER Pavel, SKODA FABIA S2000, 02:16:40,4
2. GILL Gaurav – MACNEALL Glenn, SKODA FABIA S2000l + 00:06:12,8
3. YOUNG Michael – READ Malcolm, PROTON SATRIA NEO , +0:00:25,1

Story and photos courtesy of Brian Young – www.apsm.tv


Kopecky Leads New Caledonia

Photo by Brian Young - www.apsm.tvRallye New Caledonia is an event where anything can happen – and always does!

Weather and road conditions played their part today, with several drivers running into problems on incredibly slippery roads. MRF Skoda driver Jan Kopecky leads the Rally Of New Caledonia after Day 1.

“We have a lead of two or three minutes, it should be enough but in the rally anything can happen”.

Team-mate Gaurav Gill is second but is lucky to be still in the event after hitting a tree on stage seven while leading. “Just so disappointed. We were comfortably in the lead, not pushing. I guess bad luck. Bad judgement”.

Photo by Brian Young - www.apsm.tvNew Zealander Mike Young leads APRC 2WD after Tom Wilde retired with alternator problems, while Sanjay Takale is 12 seconds in front of Young and leads Production Cup.

New Caledonia first-timers Mark Pedder and Tom Wilde will both restart the event tomorrow, after retirements today on stages 2 and 7 respectively.

Rallye New Caledonia 2014 – Leg 1 Results (Provisional).
1. Jan Kopecky (CZE), Skoda Fabia S2000, 01:15:48.1
2. Gaurav Gill (IND), Skoda Fabia S2000, 1:21:10.7
3. Sanjay Takale (IND), Subaru Impreza, 1:31:21.3
4. Michael Young, Proton Satria Neo, 01:31:32.2

Story and photos by Brian Young – www.apsm.tv


New Caledonia Offers New Challenge

Photo by apsm.tvThe second round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) is set to get under way tomorrow on the tropical island of New Caledonia, where current championship leader, Gaurav Gill, is one of the few drivers who has experience on the challenging island roads.

With the roads around rally-base Noumea described as tricky, slippery, and potentially championship-damaging, Gill in his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 and countryman Sanjay Takale are at an instant advantage, with other championship contenders only competing at this rally for the first time.

Gill says: “there is a good feeling with the car right now and that’s important, as I haven’t driven the car since New Zealand. But here the roads are really rough so you’re always trying to push harder, and find the perfect grip, every corner is different here so it’s a really unique rally. I’m looking forward to the weekend now.”

Photo by apsm.tvTakale, in a Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza, echoes Gill’s thoughts but adds the roads are more suited to his driving style.

“I think they [the roads] are better than last year. Some improvements like new fences in places and the roads have been rolled smooth. Other than some patchy grass in the first stage, the rest looks the same. So the roads suit my style and it’s been a lucky place for me in the past,” said Takale.

Meanwhile, APRC newcomer and current European Rally Champion, Jan Kopecky, heads to the island for the first time in his Team MRF Skoda S2000 but says he’s looking forward to the new challenge ahead of him.

Kopecky says: “I’m very happy to be here, the country is very nice. I think the stages will be more difficult to go through [than New Zealand] and I think it’s a matter of surviving. I have to say, it’s completely different to Europe.”

“It’s more a less, not about fighting, it’s more about surviving. Sometimes I think we’ll just be spectating in the car you know, we’ll just be going where the car wants to go in these very slippy conditions.”

Joining Kopecký as New Caledonia rookies, are Australian drivers; Mark Pedder and Tom Wilde, along with Kiwi driver, Michael Young, who are gearing up to go head-to-head again in New Caledonia but with Young vowing to take the gentle, consistent approach.

“It’s going to be quite tough for everyone as there’s not a lot of room for error. If you go slightly too wide, its either a tree, a hole or a rock to hit, so the notes are about driving tidy. While the roads are quite dry and grippy with the road tyres on at the moment, they’ve been rolled and are very hard and smooth. That means if it gets wet, the top layer of the road will be really slippery,” explained Young piloting his Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo.

The Rallye New Caledonia will be held over a total distance of nearly 700 kilometres, of which 235km of that is competitive. Competitors will tackle 17 stages, the longest being the 17.10km ‘Paita’ test, which will be run three times. The rally is run north of the city of Noumea, with road conditions traditionally proving challenging, particularly if the weather is wet.