Experience vs Youth at Whangarei

Gaurav GillThe 2015 International Rally of Whangarei is set to be a battle between experience and youth with the entry list for the April event headed by former FIA Asia Pacific Rally Champion Gaurav Gill from India and young Swedish rising star Pontus Tidemand. The event contested over 282 kilometres of challenging gravel stages from 17th-19th April is the opening round of the 2015 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has attracted eight international entrants from six nations.

Gill will be making his eighth consecutive start at Whangarei, and starts the event as favourite having been the regular pace setter in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in recent seasons. The 2013 APRC champion will again be partnered by New Zealand co-driver Glenn MacNeall, the experienced Indian driver is also the defending winner of the event.

Swedish driver Tidemand will make his first visit to New Zealands gravel rally stages and brings a reputation as one of the emerging young talents in world rallying. The youngest ever winner of the Swedish rally championship in 2011 at the age of 21, Tidemand then burst onto the world scene finishing third in the 2012 FIA Junior World Rally championship before dominating the class in 2013 to secure the title. Last season Tidemand competed in both the WRC2 support category and the FIA World Rallycross Championship, a highlight of the season being running within the top 5 overall at his home event, WRC Rally Sweden.

Pontus TidemandTidemand is excited at heading to New Zealand as a Skoda Motorsport driver. “I am looking forward to the new challenge. I am proud that my name is now on the list of ŠKODA drivers – at one of the most successful manufacturers in rallying,” said Tidemand.

Gill and Tidemand will compete using matching ŠKODA Fabia S2000 specification cars; backed by Indian tyre manufacturer MRF with support from Czech Republic based automotive manufacturer ŠKODA. The battle between the experienced Gill, and emerging talent Tidemand will be a feature of the event.

The challenge to the Skoda pair will be led by experienced Indonesian competitor Subhan Aksa and co-driver Nicola Arena. Returning to the APRC after campaigns in the Production World Rally Championship and WRC2 categories, Aksa has competed in NZ on several occasions prior and expected to be on the pace driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

Last years APRC Production Cup Winner and overall series runner-up, 22 year old Mike Young from New Zealand will make his debut in the four wheel drive category in a Cusco Subaru Impreza. The Kiwi driver partnered by experienced co-driver Malcolm Read has impressed with his giant killing results in lesser powered 2WD cars on the demanding APRC events. Young is looking forward to contesting his home event in the Cusco Subaru. “Whangarei will be my first international event in a four-wheel drive car and even though we’ve been working together for three seasons, the first time Malcolm (Read) and I have done our home event together. The New Zealand roads are the best in the world and the ideal rally to learn how to drive and setup a 4WD car before get into the Asian events later in the championship.”

Along with the Team MRF Skodas, a third Skoda Fabia S2000 is entered for the vastly experienced New Caledonian driver Jean Louis-Leyraud. A multiple New Caledonian champion and competitor in the APRC championship, Leyraud first rallied in New Zealand in the 1971 Heatway Rally.Rivalling Leyraud in the experience stakes is New Zealander Brian Green. Both drivers have regularly competed against each other for several seasons in APRC events, and that rivalry will continue at Greens home event. Driving a Team Ralliart New Zealand Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, he will be partnered by regular co-driver Fleur Pedersen. Other internatuional competitors include Japanese drivers Mitsuhiro Aoki driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, and Rina Ito in a Mazda Demio returning for the second year in succession.

The International Rally of Whangarei is the opening round of the 2015 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The event commences on the evening of Friday 17th April with a rally show in central Whangarei where fans can meet the cars and stars up close before they attack two passes of the night time Super Special Stage at Pohe Island. Leg one continues on Saturday heading as far north as Kawakawa for eight special stages on the fast flowing cambered roads the rally is famous for, while Sundays final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages. A total of 282 kilometres of competitive stages make-up the event.

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 spectacular Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage on Friday evening 17th April. 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 www.rallywhangarei.co.nz (in the spectator info section), or it can be collected from rally headquarters at Quayside Town Basin (from 14th 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 – and be inside the taped off viewing areas.

Story by Press Release
Photos courtesy of apsm.tv and Stefan Brending.

Skoda sign Tidemand for 2015

Pontus TidemandŠKODA Motorsport has pulled off a spectacular coup with the signing of exceptionally talented rally driver Pontus Tidemand (Sweden).

The former Junior World Rally Champion will drive a ŠKODA in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson (Sweden) will make their debut for the ŠKODA works team at the opening round of the APRC in New Zealand from 17th to 19th April.

“Our team already boasts the Asia-Pacific champion Jan Kopecký and European champion Esapekka Lappi, who have performed impressively in recent years. To ensure we are even better positioned to succeed in the future, we have now added another very talented duo, in the form of Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson,” said ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek.

24-year-old Tidemand has already emphatically demonstrated his ability over the course of his still fledgling career. After success on the karting scene, he was crowned the youngest ever Swedish Rally Champion in 2011. In 2013 he claimed the title of Junior World Rally Champion, before catching the eye with a number of spectacular outings in the FIA World Rallycross Championship and WRC 2 last year. Tidemand and navigator Emil Axelsson (who competed in the 2012 APRC as co-driver for PG Andersson) tasted success on numerous occasions, including a class victory at the ADAC Rally Germany.

Pontus TidemandIn signing for ŠKODA Motorsport, Tidemand is now taking the next step on the career ladder. “I am looking forward to the new challenge. I am proud that my name is now on the list of ŠKODA drivers – at one of the most successful manufacturers in rallying,” said Tidemand.

“We will do our utmost to be in contention for podiums and victories as soon as possible,” said experienced co-driver Axelsson (31). The duo already has experience with ŠKODA rally cars: in 2014, they won the Rally Finnskog in Norway in a Fabia Super 2000. They now line up at the opening round of the APRC in New Zealand in the very same model of car.

“We firmly believe in the extraordinary qualities of Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson,” said Hrabánek: “We plan to have our team running the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5 in the APRC by the end of the year – after all, the season finale takes place in our most important market, China.”

Story by Skoda Motorsport
Photos courtesy of Stefan Brending and Florival fr.

Competitor Update – March 2015

International Rally of Whangarei

  • Plans for team containers to be cleared and delivered to Northtec, Whangarei are in place. Teams involved in MPI quarantine inspections have been advised of location and date for this to happen.
  • Team containers are expected to be available at Northtec pre-event service area from approx midday on Saturday 11 April.
  • All foreign registered cars are required to go through a WOF inspection before being issued with approval to drive on NZ roads. This is highlighted in RG1 (pages 8 & 9) Please contact me directly if you have any questions on this.
  • Third party insurance is required for all vehicles, please refer to RG1 (page 12).

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie

  • Supplementary Regulations are available on the rally website www.aprcnewcaledonia.com
  • Accommodation details are available on the website.

International Rally of Queensland

  • A reminder that the IROQ organisers have arranged accommodation packages at the HQ hotel, Oaks Oasis, as in previous years. Details are available on the rally website www.rallyqueensland.com.au

Registration Dates

  • A reminder that APRC registrations close on Monday 23 March if Rally Whangarei is your first nominated rally.
  • Pacific Cup registrations close Monday 23 March also.
  • If you are nominating Rally New Caledonia as your first rally of APRC, the close of registrations is close of entries for that rally, ie Wednesday 15 April

Travel Visas

  • A reminder that many of you will require visas for your visits to the various countries of 2015 APRC.
  • Depending of your country of citizenship you may be required to apply for a visa well in advance of the event. Please seek advice from your travel agent on this and allow time for these to be processed.

Many of you will already be aware that I have now moved to Cebu, Philippines. Life and work will continue as before.

My email addresses remain the same. My local mobile number is +63 908 310 5888. If you wish to call or SMS me, please use my Philippine mobile number. I will also be available on this number via Viber and Whatsapp.

Any questions, please get in contact with me directly.

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator
+63 908 310 5888

Night Rally Action to Start Whangarei

Darren Turner Rally WhangareiThe 2015 International Rally of Whangarei will race into action with a spectacular evening of action in the city on Friday 17th April. A pre rally display, rally start and two runs of the Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage will provide motorsport fans a fantastic opportunity to see the cars and stars up close and in action throughout the evening.

The International Rally of Whangarei is the opening round of the 2015 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and the New Zealand Rally Championship, and a star field of the best drivers from around the region is set to contest the event.

The Friday evenings activities get underway at 5pm with the entire field of cars assembling in the pre start area on the spectacular new bridge in central Whangarei called Te Matau ā Pohe, or “The Fishhook of Pohe.” Located alongside and over the Hella Pohe Island Super Stage, rally fans will be able to get up close to all the cars and stars before the official opening of the event commences from 6pm followed by the first rally car proceeding over the start ramp at 6.15pm.

Skoda Night Rally TestLights go green at the Hella Pohe Island Super Stage for the first rally car at 7pm, with the field running in reverse seeded order, meaning the events fastest cars will start last. All crews will complete two runs of the Super Stage, racing for the fastest time over the 1.25km gravel course that snakes it way through the William Fraser Memorial Park via sweeping corners, hairpin bends, and under the overbridge, providing several prime viewing positions.

“To have all of the evening’s activity located in one area in central Whangarei is a great way to start the event” commented Laurie Brenssell, Chairman of the International Rally of Whangarei organising committee. “Throughout the course of the evening fans will be able to see the cars up close, meet the drivers, grab an autograph and then shortly afterwards enjoy seeing the cars in action on the Hella Super Special Stage under lights, all in one location.”

Following Friday nights action the rally continues on Saturday heading north for eight special stages on the fast flowing cambered roads the rally is famous for, while Sundays final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages. A total of 282 kilometres of competitive stages make-up the event.

Young in line for WRC Fiesta Trophy Seat

Mike YoungLast years Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Production Cup winner and overall APRC drivers championship runner-up, 22 year old Mike Young from New Zealand, has received an invitation to join the M-Sport run Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta Trophy in the World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2015.

Young says: “To say I’m excited is an understatement, and while we’re totally committed to the APRC this year in a Cusco Subaru Impreza, the dates all work so we’re scrambling now to see if we find the budget.”

The DMACK Fiesta Trophy consists of five European WRC events starting with Portugal in May, followed by Poland, Finland, Germany before finishing in Spain later in the year.

“It’s [Ford Fiesta Trophy series] a great series with lots of variation in surfaces and it is really well run. We checked it out last year during a trip to WRC Germany and were really impressed by the support for young drivers.

“It’s a great stepping stone for sure, but only possible to do this year if we can find the funding,” explained Young.

Image courtesy of Ford Motor CompanyAfter the issuing the invitation, M-Sports Andrew Wheatley said: “Malcolm Wilson and the DMACK team all agreed that having a driver from the Asia-Pacific championship would be a great opportunity to share the good news of the Fiesta series in that region and we decided to offer the drive to New Zealander Mike Young.

“He’s a driver that shown considerable maturity, finishing second overall in last years APRC drivers championship. Plus he did it in a 1600cc car, which shows he has the ability too. We like his attitude and would very much like to see him in the championship if there is any opportunity.”

The DMACK Fiesta Trophy has an impressive list of former winners that have all gone onto factory supported drives including Craig Breen now a Peugeot factory driver in ERC/WRC2, Elfyn Evans a Ford factory driver, Pontus Tidemand who’s just signed for a manufacturer supported programme and last years winner Sander Parn getting ready for an all expenses paid drive in WRC.

Young and his team will be working hard in the coming weeks to find the funding required for the WRC drive, but also with an eye on the clock as round one of the 2015 Asia Pacific Rally Championship is only six weeks away.

Ford Fiesta R2It begins at the International Rally of Whangarei on 17th-19th April where Young will drive a Cusco prepared Group N Subaru Impreza.

“I can’t thank Cusco enough for giving me the opportunity to drive a four-wheel-drive car. They have been amazing throughout my career and I couldn’t do it without their continued support,” said Young.

“I also have to send a big thanks to Dunlop too, as this is the third year they’ve supplied our tyres. In fact the container left Japan yesterday with two cars and packed with over 100 tyres and parts,” continued Young who could be in for a very busy year in 2015.

To keep up to date with Michael Young and his progress, head to: https://www.facebook.com/MikeYoungMotorsport

Young’s APRC campaign is supported by Cusco, Dunlop, Yoda Rallying, OMP, CRC Speedshow

Images courtesy of apsm.tv, Ford Motor Company and CMC-Images.com