Young Claims Another APRC Title

Mike Young Rally HokkaidoNew Zealand rally driver, Michael Young, managed to wrap up the 2014 two-wheel-drive Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title plus take the lead in the production cup title at the penultimate APRC round held in Japan over the weekend.

Young, joined by co-driver Malcolm Read, said he’s really happy with the result in Japan but adds the final round in China will be incredibly tough as the Kiwi pairing aims to wrap up their third title for the season.

“Winning the two-wheel-drive cup here is amazing. We’ve had such great support from the fans here and the Cusco Racing Proton ran perfectly all weekend. We’re absolutely stoked with the result but know that a big job awaits us in China,” said Young.

At only 21 years old Young has competed in numerous international events and claimed multiple APRC titles, but the Cusco Racing driver will compete in China for the first time in 2014 making his final championship push trickier than his fellow APRC competitors, particularly with the return of previous production cup leader, Mark Pedder from Australia.

Mike Young Rally HokkaidoYoung said: “I’ve been to the China Rally as a spectator before but never as a driver, so it’s going to be a really difficult event for me. All I know about the roads in China is that there is a lot of concrete and sections of gravel so it gets quite slippery. I’m looking forward to it though and at least we’ll be a little more relaxed than usual going there as we lead the production cup but I know Mark [Pedder] will keep us honest.”

After winning the junior and two-wheel-drive titles this year, Young also leads the production cup over his Cusco Racing team-mate and last year’s production cup champion, Sanjay Takale of India, by 28 points while sitting fourth in the overall APRC drivers’ championship; less than 10 points behind third placed Jan Xu of China.
With the overall drivers’ championship already wrapped up by Jan Kopecky of Czech Republic, Young says he’ll just be aiming for a good result to tie up the production cup, yet adds a solid result in the overall championship would also be nice.

“Obviously we’ll be focusing on the production cup in China with Mark [Pedder] chasing us for the lead. We’ll just see what happens because anything can happen in rallying, but it’d be really cool to move up a place or two in the overall championship too.”

The next and final event on Young’s calendar is the China Rally, held in early November, based in Longyou, Zhejiang Province 400 kilometres south-west of Shanghai, China.

To keep up to date with Michael Young and his team during the rally, head to:

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

Kopecky Claims Title

Jan Kopecky Rally HokkaidoMRF Skoda driver Jan Kopecky has the won the Rally of Hokkaido and at the same time becomes the 2014 Asia Pacific Rally Champion, with one round to spare. “ The car was great, the team was great. I’d like to thank all the guys from our team. They did an amazing job these past five rallies and hopefully we can do it again in China”.

The event was initially led by Kopecky’s team-mate Gaurav Gill from India but on stage 8 Gill understeered off a corner, down a bank and into a tree. The Skoda Fabia was seriously damage and unable to re-start the next day and therefore Gil left Japan with no point and no chance of retain the drivers title he won in 2013.

Jan Kopecky Rally HokkaidoHiroshi Yanagisawa finished second of the APRC registered drivers and a great result for the new Cusco Subaru WRX Sti. The car was very competitive on its first outing and even with very little pre-event testing looks to have plenty of potential once it’s fully FIA homologated.

Cusco took the third place on the podium too with Yuya Sumiyama from Japan third and first of the Asia Cup contenders. With his second in Malaysia and main rival Gill not finishing, Sumiyama takes a 12 point lead over China’s Jun Xu.

Xu had a troubled rally and was never really able to think about challenging the leaders. Damper issues were the main problem and Xu will be hoping for a better run in at his home event in Novembers China Rally.

Hiroshi Yanagisawa Rally HokkaidoSanjay Takale from India finished 5th driving a Cusco prepared Subaru Impreza. “This was our goal to come here and win a round of the Production Cup as this will my last APRC event of the year. We’ll be back next year though, preparation for that begins now” said Takale at the finish.

Takale may have won the round but the new Production Cup leader is New Zealander Mike Young in his Cusco 2WD Proton Satria. The next APRC event in China Rally will be the decider in this category, although Young only needs to finish to be assured of his third title for the year.

Sanjay Takale Rally HokkaidoAsia Cup entrant Tomohide Hasegawa was 7th in APRC and picked up valuable points in Asia Cup. Although not expected to be in China, Hasegawa will compete in Thailand the final round of the Asia Cup.

EZY Racing a new entrant to the APRC had a tough time in Hokkaido with strange noises coming from the LSD and drive shalfs from Stage 1. With no way to fix the problem Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Derereagoda was forced to cruise to the finish, although the car appeared to have other ideas once it reached the finish podium reversing to move with a stuck hand-brake.

The next event in the 2014 Asia Pacific Rally Championship is the China Rally 4-7 November.

Story: By Brian Young, Asia Pacific Sports Media.

SKODA Aims to Seal Title in Japan

Jan Kopecky Service at Rally HokkaidoŠKODA continues its relentless pursuit of the title in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) at the Rally Hokkaido. Championship leader Jan Kopecký (CZ) and defending champion Gaurav Gill (IND) head to the penultimate round of the season, in Japan from Friday to Sunday, on the back of four wins from the first four races. This weekend, the works-assisted ŠKODA MRF team can wrap up the Manufacturers’ Championship in the APRC with one rally still to come.

“As a team, our main goal is obviously to successfully defend the title for ŠKODA. That is what we are focussing on,” said Kopecký. ŠKODA currently has a 67-point lead over the second-placed manufacturer. Should that advantage still be at least 40 points at the end of the Rally Hokkaido, the team will be assured of first place. At the same time, however, Kopecký is also battling his team-mate Gill for the Drivers’ title in the APRC.

Jan Kopecky Testing at Rally HokkaidoBoth ŠKODA drivers have two wins to their name in the APRC this season: India’s Gill and his co-driver Glenn Macneall (NZ) triumphed most recently in Malaysia and at the opening race in New Zealand. European champion Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler (CZ), in their first season in the APRC, were unbeatable at the rallies in New Caledonia and Australia. The 32-year-old ŠKODA works driver goes into the Rally Hokkaido with an eight-point lead over Gill at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.

“It will be another great battle. Gaurav has the advantage of knowing most of the special stages in Japan from last year. But I will obviously fight hard,” said Kopecký. The land of the rising sun is certainly not unknown territory for the Czech automobile manufacturer – neither now nor in the past. ŠKODA’s predecessor Laurin & Klement was selling cars in Japan between 1908 and 1914. One model was even presented to the imperial family, while the mayor of Tokyo drove another. Fast forward a century, and Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall won the only international rally in Japan on the way to winning the continental championship last year.

Jan Kopecky Service at Rally Hokkaido“It goes without saying that I would like to win here again this year. That would be a big step towards defending my Drivers’ title. However, that will not be easy, as Jan Kopecký is a quick learner at rallies that are new to him,” said Gill, praising his fellow ŠKODA driver. The competitors at the Rally Hokkaido must tackle 18 special stages and 222.28 kilometres against the clock. There is huge spectator interest: 68,000 fans were counted out on the route for ŠKODA’s triumph last year.

The starts in the APRC are of great importance to the Czech automobile manufacturer. The goal is to further raise the awareness of the brand in international markets – particularly ŠKODA’s largest market, China, where the finale of the APRC season takes place in November.

Did you know that:

  • Rally Hokkaido made its first appearance on the APRC calendar in 2002. The rally is taking place for the 13th time this year.
  • The 2003 event was a candidate to be included on the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar in 2003. One year later, the APRC competition was held in conjunction with the first “WRC Rally Japan”. The events were separated again in 2005, and the APRC rally has been run under the name Rally Hokkaido since then.
  • Rally Hokkaido is nowadays the only international FIA rally in Japan.
  • The six rounds of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship are held in regions, in which over 2.5 billion people live. China, which hosts the final race in the APRC Season on 8 and 9 November, was also the largest individual ŠKODA market in the world in August, with 21,600 cars sold. In total, ŠKODA delivered 522,500 cars in the first half of 2014, the first time the company had sold more than half a million cars in just half a year. That is a remarkable 19.1 per cent increase on August 2013.

Story: Team Release

Young aims for Trifecta

Mike Young Testing for Rally HokkaidoThe Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s (APRC) only New Zealand driver, Michael Young, is chasing down valuable APRC points in Japan this weekend, as he aims to claim three championship titles at the penultimate round in Hokkaido.

Young, originally from Opotiki, took out three APRC titles last year and speaking from the service park in Obihiro city, said he’s working on securing the two-wheel-drive and production cups this year, alongside the junior cup he secured in Malaysia.

“It’s a bit more about the championship and getting points now. Obviously winning the production cup [class] would be nice to win this year to make it three championships in one season again like last year, so now that we’ve secured Junior Cup and two-wheel-drive is almost secure, that’s definitely what we’re aiming for,” explained Young.
Young and his Cusco Racing team have been working hard on the Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo, making minor handling adjustments to the car to ensure Young and co-driver Malcolm Read are able to get maximum speed out of the car, aiding their championship quest.

“We’ve made a few new changes to the car here at testing and they’re working well for my driving style. I quite enjoy driving it and it’s much easier to drive the car with those changes. It’s basically just making sure we have the right setup for the stages here as we really want a good result.”

Mike Young Testing for Rally HokkaidoAlthough, the Kiwi duo know a good result in Japan won’t come easy with the roads being described as a true mix between fast, flowing and open, to tight, twisty and slippery.

Young said: “The roads can be very nice in the first pass then suddenly change to something completely different for the second pass, and in some cases, it’s actually like a completely different rally. The ruts can be difficult and are something new so I have to adapt my driving to suit.
“Plus to be fast here, our pace-notes [detailed directions] have to be spot on. Malcolm and I have been working on a good system though so I’m confident that we’ll be fine.”

The event starts at Obihiro in Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido on Friday evening. The teams then compete across 18 special stages covering almost 222 kilometres before finishing on Sunday at approximately 5.00pm back in Obihiro.

To keep up to date with Michael Young and his team during the rally, head to:

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

Story: Team Release

MRF Drivers Battle for Title

Jan KopeckyGaurav Gill took a dominant victory in Rally Hokkaido last year, and will be hoping for a similar result.

Team MRF are back in action this weekend for round five of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in Japan.

With just eight points separating Team MRF drivers Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) and Gaurav Gill (India) heading into Rally Hokkaido, there’s still everything to play for.

Kopecky retired his Skoda Fabia S2000 at the previous event in Malaysia, and while his team-mate, and the 2013 APRC champion, is chasing hard, the Czech driver remains confident of victory.

Gaurav Gill“If you can make good pacenotes like we did in Malaysia, it’s possible to make up the difference. But the next two events in Japan and China are all very different,” Kopecky said.

Gill, meanwhile, has nothing to lose and needs a victory to get his title defence back on track.

“The strategy is going to be absolutely flat out from the word go in Japan,” he said.

“That’s going to be a sort of decider for us. It will either make it or break it.”

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, said that while it was pleasing that his team drivers were running one and two in the championship standings, the margin was a little close for comfort.

“It’s great that both drivers are in the running, but with only eight points between them heading into this event we know that they’ll both be pushing really hard to win.

“Kopecky’s car will have a new engine for this event, although it’s the same specfiication as in previous events, but other than that both Skodas will run as they have in previous events.”

This year’s Rally Hokkaido stages are similar to those in 2013, with 18 special stages totalling 222 kilometres.

The lush vegetation is one of the features of the Japanese rally – the stages are fast and narrow, and pacenotes have to be accurately written as the grass and bushes by the side of the road can often be covering some deep ditches and hidden obstacles.

Starting on Friday from the city of Obihiro, with a ceremonial start and a one kilometre Satsunai Super Special, the majority of the rally runs on Saturday and Sunday.

Weather conditions for the event are likely to be warm, although the weather bureau has predicted the chance of a typhoon on Thursday, which would certainly spice up road conditions.

Story: Team Release.

Showdown in Hokkaido

Rally Hokkaido 2013Rally Hokkaido has always been a pivotal event in the Asia-Pacific championship and it’s no different this year with the drivers’ title race still wide open. Czech driver Jan Kopecký may lead on 112 points, but only by a mere eight points from his MRF Skoda team-mate Gaurav Gill. The Indian driver and 2013 APRC champion is hoping his experience of the unique Hokkaido roads will allow him to bridge the points gap.

“The strategy is going to be absolutely flat out from the word go in Japan,” said Gill. “That’s going to be a sort of decider for us. It will either make it or break it.”

Koepecky was quietly confident after Malaysia even though he did have a DNF “If you can make good (pace) notes like we did in Malaysia it’s possible to make up the difference. But the next two events in Japan and China are all very different”, said Kopecky.

Behind the leading duo, several other drivers are still in with a chance for the championship, especially with 39 points on offer for each of the remaining two driver’s title events in Japan and China.

Mark Pedder is third in the points but is not entered in Hokkaido and could lose his place to Skoda China driver Jun Xu and New Zealander Mike Young – who are equal fourth with 67 drivers points. Xu in an S2000 Skoda should easily beat Young in his 2WD 1600cc Proton but then it’s the kiwi’s fourth time in Hokkaido, while it will be Xu’s first. With 6th place Tom Wilde not entered in the Japan round it will be India’s Sanjay Takale’s opportunity to leap frog the Australian who is currently just one point in front on 45 points.

Rally Hokkaido 2013There will be an intense battle for the APRC’s Asia Cup too, currently led by Gill on 39 points with Japanese driver Yuya Sumiyama just 10 points and entered a Cusco Subaru Impreza. Xu holds third while Takale is next in line to add to his points total.

Takale’s Subaru needed a complete set of new panels after his roll over in Malaysia, while another requiring repairs prior to the start is EZY Racing’s Mitsubishi Lancer. Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Deheragoda hit an Oil Palm tree on Day 1 in Malaysia, but still managed to get the car home 6th in the Asia Cup.

After suffering painful back problems in Malaysia, Tomehide Hasegawa will be hoping for a better run on his home event, while Kohei Izuno returns will a repaired Suzuki after a multiple end for end crash in Malaysia.

Hokkaido will see the debut of the new Cusco Subaru WRC Sti to be driven by former APRC competitor Hiroshi Yanagisawa and veteran co-driver Yoshimasa Nakahara. The car has had very little testing on gravel, so hopefully it gets some decent mileage.

Rally Hokkaido starts this Friday from the city of Obihiro, with a ceremonial start and a one kilometre Satsunai Super Special, followed by 222 kilometres of stages on Saturday and Sunday.

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