Competitor Update – April 2015

Rallye de Nouvelle Caledonie

  • Team containers will be available at the pre-rally service area in Ducos from early next week.
  • Containers will be moved to the rally service park at Tene-Bourail on Friday 15 May.
  • Note that Leg 1A will be held Friday 15 May at the Noumea Hippodrome. Two passes of this superspecial stage, the second in darkness, to start the rally off.
  • Export arrangements are in place for shipping to Brisbane Australia following Rally New Caledonia. A reminder that due to the AQIS quarantine inspections in Brisbane, all cars, wheels, parts and equipment (including the containers) must be thoroughly cleaned prior to shipment. There will be facilities and time available for this to happen after the rally finishes, and all day Monday 18 May, if required. The organisers have informed me there will be a wash facility available at the SP in Tene-Bourail.
  • Note that the SP at Bourail is not at the Sheraton Hotel (Rally HQ) but is close by.
  • A reminder that you will be required to obtain insurance cover for all vehicles used on the roads. Details available in Rally Guide 2, page 14.

International Rally of Queensland

  • Supplementary Regulations are available on the rally website
  • Entries close on Wednesday 3 June.
  • The format for IROQ will follow closely that of the last couple of years. Team containers will be located at the pre-event service area in the carpark of the HQ hotel, Oaks Oasis, Caloundra.
  • Details of the timing and location for AQIS inspections will be confirmed closer to time. However, it is expected they will take place on Friday 12 June, at the same facility as used in previous years (Russells Transport yard). Following the inspections, containers will then be moved to Caloundra.

Malaysian Rally

  • Currently there is no information available for Malaysian Rally 2015. This is expected to be available soon.

Rally Hokkaido

  • Rally Guide 1 is available on the event website,

Asia Cup Registrations

  • A reminder that registrations for APRC Asia Cup 2015 close at the close of entries for Malaysian Rally (if you wish to nominate Malaysian Rally for Asia Cup). This is expected to be approximately 20 July. The date will be confirmed when RG1 for Malaysia is published.

National Car Approvals

  • There have been 3 cars approved for eligibility under the National Car approval process. If you are wanting to apply for approval to use similar cars, these applications should be forwarded to the APRC secretariat in advance.
  • The application form is available on the APRC website
    For clarification, nationally approved cars will be shown on the rally entry lists and subsequent documents with the group as “ASN”. The same also applies to cars that are eligible under the JAF RJ Category “RJ” and CAMS G2 category “G2”.

As always if you have any questions on any of the above, please call or email me at the below contacts.

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator
+63 908 310 5888

How Swede It Is

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Whangarei 2015Team MRF have made the perfect start to their Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) campaign, finishing first and second in the season opener, the International Rally of Whangarei.

Shooting for a fourth consecutive APRC title, Team MRF debutant, Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand, dominated the event in his Skoda Fabia Super 2000, while his team-mate and the 2013 APRC winner, Gaurav Gill, finished second to kick-start his season.

A former Swedish Rally Champion and one of the world’s most talented young drivers, Tidemand was untroubled as he and co-driver Emil Axelsson drove to a victory of nearly six minutes, despite this being their first visit to New Zealand.

“It is just fantastic and for the team it is first and second, so it couldn’t be a better start,” Tidemand said.

“And early in the season it’s always good to have a good start because it makes the season much easier to win. New Caledonia (round two) will be completely new for me like this one, so it will be a good experience.

“I’ve enjoyed Rally Whangarei so much and my co-driver Emil has done a fantastic job, the team was great and the car was working really well… I hope I can come back here to drive again.”

Such was Tidemand’s dominance, he won 15 of the rally’s 16 closed road stages to the north of Auckland, on New Zealand’s north island.

Gaurav Gill, Rally Whangarei 2015Driving the second Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000, India’s Gaurav Gill didn’t have the trouble free event enjoyed by his younger team-mate, but still managed to claw his way back through the field.

A last day charge by he and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, saw them move into second place on the very last stage. They eventually finished just 1.9 seconds in front of New Zealander Mike Young, after nearly 300km of stages.

“We had a great battle with Mike at the end. He drove really well considering it was his first time in the four-wheel-drive car, and of course the New Zealand roads are a real pleasure to drive on,” Gill said.

“We had some dramas but we got it sorted today and I was up to speed. Although in the last stage I was a little nervous because we had a lot of rain and I had no clue whether he had some rain or not, so I pushed a little harder.”

Jean-Louis Leyraud, Rally Whangarei 2015New Caledonia’s Jean-Louis Leyraud and Australian Scott Beckwith – in a third Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000 – finished the event in fifth place.

Through it all, the MRF-equipped Skodas were the class of the field, and have started their 2015 campaign in perfect style.

“It really couldn’t have gone any better,” team boss Lane Heenan said.

“The drive from Pontus was truly incredible. On his first visit to New Zealand, and his first time in our team, he put in a fast and mature drive that is going to make him hard to beat for the remainder of the championship.

“Gaurav had a few dramas, including a broken driveshaft, but his fightback over the final few stages on the last day proved that he has lost none of his speed and that he’ll be right up there as the year progresses.”

Weather played a crucial role at the International Rally of Whangarei, with conditions changing several times throughout the weekend, from torrential downpours to beautifully clear and sunny skies.

The second round of the APRC will be held in New Caledonia from May 15 to 17, covering 245km of the mid-Pacific islands gravel roads.

Final results – 2015 International Rally of Whangarei

1. Pontus Tidemand/Emil Axelsson, Skodia Fabia S2000, 2h55m29.4s
2. Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall, Skodia Fabia S2000, +5:51.8s
3. Michael Young/Malcolm Read, Subaru Impreza WRX STi (N4), +5:53.8s
4. Subhan Aksa/Nicola Arena, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X (ASN), +9:14.2s
5. Jean-Louis Leyraud/Scott Beckwith, Skoda Fabia S2000, +15:43.5s

Source: Team Release

Tidemand Claims Victory in NZ

The first round of the 2015 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) has been won by Swedish driver Pontus Tidemand, on what was his first outing in the APRC behind the wheel of his Team MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 at the International Rally of Whangarei held this weekend in Northland.

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Whangarei 2015Despite competing on the fast flowing New Zealand roads for the first time, Tidemand took the rally lead after the first stage on Friday and kept the lead over the entire weekend, extending his lead to over five minutes in the process.

Tidemand said: “It is just fantastic [the result], and for the team it is first and second so it couldn’t be a better start you know. And early in the season it’s always good to have a good start because it makes the season [APRC Championship] much easier to win. New Caledonia [Round 2, APRC] will be completely new for me like this one [Rally Whangarei] so it will be a good experience.

Gaurav Gill, Rally Whangarei 2015“I’ve enjoyed it [Rally Whangarei] so much and my co-driver Emil [Axelsson] has done a fantastic job, the team was great and the car was working really well… I hope I can come back here to drive again.”

His Team MRF Skoda team-mate and 2013 APRC Champion Guarav Gill of India, fought back later on second day to finish in second by a mere 1.9 seconds after fixing handling issues in his car, clawing back over 40 seconds in just three stages to do so.

Gill said: “We had a great battle with Mike [Young] at the end. He drove really well considering it was his first time around in the four-wheel-drive car, and of course the New Zealand roads are a real pleasure to drive on. “We had some dramas but we got it sorted today and I was up to speed. Although in the last stage I was a little nervous because we had a lot of rain and I had no clue whether he [Young] had some rain or not, so I pushed a little harder.”

Mike Young, Rally Whangarei 2015Rounding out the podium was local driver Michael Young, who not only kept Gill honest throughout the day but also enjoyed considerable success in his Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza GRB despite competing in a four-wheel-drive car for the first time this weekend.

“We are really happy [with third]. We had a few moments in the last stage otherwise I think we could have had him [Gill]. Apart from that I’ve adjusted really well to the four-wheel-drive and Cusco have given me another great car,” Young said.

Young also had the added pressure of being second on the road today, a totally new experience for the 22 year-old, but he said it was a valuable learning experience and in some ways, suited his driving style, particularly when the roads were damp.

Subhan Aska, Rally Whangarei 2015Weather also played a crucial role at the International Rally of Whangarei, with conditions changing several times throughout the weekend, from torrential downpours to beautifully clear and sunny skies. Subhan Aska from Indonesia finished fourth in his Mitsubishi Evolution after losing time to a broken gearbox yesterday, meaning he slipped down the leader board after earlier battling with Young on day one.

Aska said: “During the last few stages I was basically just trying to make it through because we were miles behind the guys in the top three, and quite far from the guy behind us. So you know, I wasn’t very happy with the result but it’s my first time back in the APRC and I’m looking forward to the new rallies.”

Jean Louis Leyraud, Rally Whangarei 2015New Caledonia driver, Jean-Louis Leyraud was rewarded with a top five finish in his brand new Skoda Fabia S2000 following a steady and consistent drive, even though he had a spin during the first stage of day two. Mitsuhiro Aoki finished in sixth in his Mitsubishi Evolution and said he really enjoyed the New Zealand roads, although they were often slippery for the Japanese driver.

Rina Ito re-joined the rally in her Mazda Demio today where she instantly got “back in the groove” to set top times across all of the stages today after she was forced to retire yesterday following a crash. To keep up to date with APRC news, follow us on Facebook or Twitter or see our website.

APRC International Rally of Whangarei
Tidemand/Axelsson, 2:55:29.4,
Gill/Macneall, +5:51.8 (+5:51.8)
Young/Read, +5.53.8 (+1.9)
Aksa/Arena, +9:14.2 (+3:20.4)
Leyraud/Beckwith, +15:43.5 (+6:29.2)
Aoki/Aoki, +42.48.4 (+27:04.9)
Ito/Santo, DNF (SS8 – off road)

Sizzling Swede Storms Stages

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Whangarei 2015The challenge of tackling New Zealand’s fast and flowing rural roads for the first time has seen 24-year-old Swede Pontus Tidemand rocket to the top of the time sheets after today’s first day of competition at the International Rally of Whangarei.

Here for the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson (MRF Tyres Skoda) extended their slight overnight advantage from last night’s two Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage runs and returned to Whangarei tonight with a lead of four minutes. Currently in second is Kiwi born Mike Young and co-driver Malcolm Read (Cusco Subaru) while defending rally winner Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall are third (MRF Tyres Skoda), a further minute behind.

A total of 48 cars left Whangarei this morning – seven in the international field and 41 contesting the national/club category. Covering eight special stages to the north, light overnight rain and passing showers during the day did little to dampen the drivers’ competitive spirit – with many encountering all number of niggly issues.

First car to start each of the day’s stages Gill was languishing in the thicker gravel – and while trying to minimise the time loss to the following cars was further hampered by a differential problem.

“All the stages we were constantly losing time. In the last two we lost 40-50sec on really fast roads. Every time we would steer in one direction the car would try turn-around. I want to get the car back and finish here with the maximum points we can get. Just a bad day and we have to live with that,” said the 33-year-old Indian.

For Tidemand the lead was less of concern: “At this pace I think I can manage safely so we will stay where we are.
“It was a very good afternoon; the day has been fantastic and so we’ve enjoyed it. There are so many cars having problems so we just have to try stay away from that.”

Mike-Young, Rally Whangarei 2015His first time campaigning an all-wheel-drive car, 22-year-old Young was earlier focused on learning how the car reacts in various situations. Having finished third overall at the event in 2014 and runner-up in the overall championship he said the afternoon’s result leaves him well placed for a podium placing.

Currently fourth is Indonesia’s Subhan Aksa and Nicola Arena (Mitsubishi Lancer X) while New Caledonia’s Jean-Louis Leyraud and Scott Beckwith are fifth (Skoda Fabia).

Leading the national field American pairing Ken Block and Alex Gelsomino (Ford Fiesta H.F.H.V) sit over a minute clear of Mt Maunganui’s David Holder and Rob Scott in the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8. Early leader Alex Kelsey and Mal Peden (Kelsey MC2) succumbed to a clutch failure after the fifth stage. Other casualties included Emma Gilmour and Anthony McLoughlin with electrical trouble in the Suzuki Swift Maxi while Auckland drivers Andrew Hawkeswood and Shannon Chambers both had roll-over incidents. Third for the day is Auckland’s Ben Hunt and Tony Rawstorn (Gull Subaru) while Tauranga’s Phil Campbell and Venita Fabbro are fourth – yet third in the NZRC standings.

Following end-of-day service the cars are again parked overnight ahead of Sunday’s six remaining stages. Set south of Whangarei two repeat runs (once in the morning and repeated in the early afternoon) use three groups of road familiar to many of the events competitors. Finishers will be recognised at the 3pm ceremonial event – held at Whangarei’s Quayside town basin. Along with the celebratory national anthem of the winning team, the top-three finishers are further recognised by their nation’s flag being shown adjacent to the winners’ dais.

Photos courtesy of and Geoff Ridder

Young Steps Up to Turbo Four-Wheel-Drive

Michael Young, New Zealand’s only Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) competitor, is set to compete in a turbo four-wheel-drive car for the first time at the International Rally of Whangarei this weekend.

Mike YoungYoung (22), who wants to replicate last year’s strong championship finish, will pilot a Cusco Racing prepared Subaru Impreza GRB at his home event, despite never having driven the car before. It is Young’s fourth year driving for the Cusco Racing Team from Japan, who he says have greatly contributed to his success.

“I’ve only driven the car in and out of the container at the customs inspection last week. So while we may be going into the dark [at Whangarei], the stages and road conditions are to my liking so I’m hoping that pays off. Plus the team at Cusco Racing always prepare a great car which also gives me confidence,” said an optimistic Young.

“I also have an incredible team behind me including Malcolm [Read, co-driver] who has a huge amount of experience in four-wheel-drive cars here which will be a huge help. I just can’t wait to be on the start line at stage one; it will be a very special moment for me.”

With Young and Read from Opotiki and Hamilton respectively, the strong Kiwi duo has now finished nine consecutive rallies and will be aiming for their 10th this weekend, made even more special as it’s the first event they’ve competed in together at home in New Zealand.

Young said: “I’d love to get our 10th finish in a row this weekend but we’ll be easing into it [the rally] to see how the car handles and how it’s different to the two-wheel-drive cars I’ve driven.

Mike Young and 2015 Cusco Subaru“But the Rally of Whangarei is a great event as the stages [roads] are incredible. They’re real driver’s roads and you get such a huge buzz driving them. There is honestly nothing else like it anywhere else in the APRC and with the new stages this year everyone will be on a level playing field which will be good.”

The International Rally of Whangarei also follows a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Young to compete for World Rally Championship team, M-Sport, in the Drive Dmack Series in Europe following his success in the APRC.

“The team at M-Sport has given me an incredible opportunity to compete in Europe but obviously the costs are huge and for this year we’re hoping to do just one or two events to get some experience. I’ve started a crowdfunding page where people can donate to help me get there by visiting,” explained Young.

The International Rally of Whangarei begins on Friday evening at the Pohe Super Special stage before teams compete across 281.30 kilometres of closed special stages to the north and south of Whangarei over Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th April 2015.

Young’s APRC campaign is supported by Cusco, EZY Racing, Dunlop, YodaRallying, Verandah Apartments and Sanjay Takale.

Story: Team Release

MRF Target 4th Straight APRC Title

Team MRF head into this weekend’s first round of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship targeting their fourth successive win in the prestigious series.

Gaurav Gill, Rally Whangarei 2014The 2013 champion, India’s Gaurav Gill, will head Team MRF’s attack, ably supported by his Skoda Fabia Super 2000 team-mate, Pontus Tidemand, from Sweden.

Frenchman, Jean-Louis Leyraud, will drive a third Race Torque-prepared Skoda in New Zealand’s Rally of Whangarei, from April 17 to 19.

Gill will fancy his chances of a second title this year, having won in 2013 and finishing runner-up last year. With experience of the Skoda Fabia S2000 and the events that make up the APRC, he’ll be hard to beat.

But the early season hype has been around his young team-mate, who led the World Rally Championship qualifying Swedish Rally earlier this year.

“I’m really looking forward to this new challenge. It makes me incredibly proud to see my name on the list of ŠKODA’s drivers,” Tidemad said.

Gaurav Gill“I have been waiting for a chance like this for years and I will take care of it in the best way I can, both in terms of performance and development, to get a good result for ŠKODA Motorsport.”

Despite not having had any experience with the seven events that make up the APRC, Tidemand will be hoping that he can repeat the performance of last year’s champion, and Team MRF driver, Jan Kopecky, who won on his first attempt.

“We will do everything we can to take podiums and victories as soon as possible,” Tidemand’s co-driver, Emil Axelsson, added.

While both Tidemand and Gill will contest all events in the APRC, Leyraud, who is based in New Caledonia, will tackle only those events making up the Pacific Cup component.

In past seasons the Race Torque-prepared Team MRF Skodas have been the cars to beat, and with a proven package, team manager Lane Heenan is hoping for similar success in 2015.

Pontus Tidemand“The Skoda Fabia is one of the most successful rally cars in the world at present, with many international victories around the world, and we’re hoping that continues this year.

“We’ll be using the same cars that finished last season so successfully, and with further development we expect to our drivers to be right on the pace again.”

However, the new Fabia R5 is likely to replace the current Super 2000 model before the end of this year’s championship.

“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,” ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek said.

Jean-Louis LeyraudThe Rally of Whangarei commences on the evening of Friday, April 17, with a rally show in central Whangarei, 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 Sunday’s final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages. A total of 282 kilometres of competitive stages make-up the event.

Team MRF’s strongest opposition is expected to come from the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X of Indonesia’s Subhan Aksa, and New Zealander youngster Mike Young in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

Source: Team Release
Photos courtesy of and Stefan Brending.