Young Back on Track

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2015Torrential rain and dangerously slippery roads didn’t stop Mike Young from winning the FIA Asia Cup category and finishing second overall at Rally Hokkaido, based in Obihiro city northern Japan.

Young arrived in Japan third in the Asia Pacific Rally championship points and after crashing out on the last round in Malaysia, the first time in two seasons – the young New Zealander was keen to make amends for his Malaysian mistake. As this event was the Cusco EZY Racing Team’s home event, they too did not leave anything to chance installing a new engine block, gearbox and suspension to the Group N Subaru Impreza prior to the event.

And while the week leading up to the event was brilliantly fine and hot, come race-day the heavens opened up and heavy rain turned the narrow forest tracks into slush.

Even in these tricky conditions Young was quickly on the pace and by stage 4 was sitting in second place overall. However at the next refuel point the car wouldn’t restart and nearly 30 minutes was lost trying to find the fault. Luckily the service-crew was at hand and although unable to touch the car, was able to give advice to Young and co-driver Malcolm Read, to find what turned out to be a blown fuse. Checking in 23 minutes late to the next time control resulted in a three minute and forty second penalty, dropping them down the start order and falling to 5th place.

By the evening Young had made up time and got back into third “One of the hardest days rallying in my rally career, fully concentrating on trying to keep the car straight at 150 Kph, aquaplaning and pushing water out everywhere was pretty tough, but even in those conditions we managed to win a stage and get ourselves back into a podium spot”.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2015Day 2 was a complete change in the weather with bright sunshine, but the roads still very slippery under the trees and with a lot of standing water remaining. By the second stage of the morning Young had climbed back into second place and with overall leader Pontus Tidemand from Sweden driving a very fast Skoda S2000 too far ahead to chase, Young settled into consolidating his second spot.

Arriving back to final service there was a huge cheer from the team and local supporters, everyone aware how much the place and finish meant “Very happy, good finish in the home-ground of Cusco. Second place was a good bonus for us, especially as we came into the rally just wanting to finish, try stick to the plan and make through. Second place is awesome and really good points in Asia Cup, Production Cup and APRC as well”.

China Rally is next, starting 30 November, “our focus there will be securing the Production Cup for 2015 and getting more points in Asia Cup, we’re second at the moment with China and India rallies to go”.

APRC points after round 5
1. Pontus Tidemand 186
2. Gaurav Gill 104
3. Michael Young 90
4. Subhan Aksa 44

APRC Manufacturers’ points
1. Skoda 195
2. Subaru 105
3. Mitsubishi 46

APRC Teams’ Trophy
1. Team MRF Skoda 350
2. Cusco Racing 107
3. Bosowa Rally Team 44
4. Immens Motorsport 23

Source: Team Release


Team MRF Claims APRC Titles

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Hokkaido 2015Team MRF’s Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson celebrate their Hokkaido Rally win, and their first APRC title.

Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand and Axel Emilsson have taken an unassailable lead in 2015 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) after a commanding victory in Japan’s Hokkaido Rally.

After the early demise of their Team MRF team-mates, Gaurav Gill and Glenn Macneall, the Swedish duo were able to control the rally, eventually winning by an impressive margin of nearly 12 minutes.

Driving their Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia Super 2000, it was the pair’s fourth win from the five APRC events held so far this year, a remarkable effort given that they are competing on all rounds of the championship for the first time.

It was also Race Torque and Team MRF’s seventh Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title, a feat achieved with drivers from seven different nationalities.

“Right now it feels indescribably good,” Tidemand said after the finish of the two-day, 20 stage event.

“To become APRC champion was the ultimate goal this season, both for Skoda’s sake and for our own. I’m so happy that we managed to deliver this result with one event to go. Things could not have gone any better!”

Heavy rain across the weekend made conditions tricky for all competitors in the event. The rain began to fall heavily before Friday’s opening super special.

“It was really tricky in some places, especially since we were the first car on the road,” Tidemand added.

“It was slippery and rough with standing water here and there, at the same time as the rain continued to pour down. But this is the kind of practice that I definitely consider a great experience for the future.

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Hokkaido 2015“The roads were also fun to drive and it was fascinating to see how the nature changed. At first it felt like we were in the middle of Sweden, then it reminded us more of Rally Germany, and when we came to the northern parts, it was like being back in New Zealand.”

Tidemand took 18 stage wins from the 20 stages and his victory margin measured nearly 12 minutes.

“It would have been awesome to win the title after a close battle, so it was a bummer to miss out on that when Gill retired.

“But it proves once again that anything can happen in rallying and you simply have to run your own race. We had a great weekend where everything worked flawlessly, and just like in previous events, both the team and Emil have done a fantastic job.

“Now we look forward to the last event in China, and that will be fun, for sure.”

While the Swedish pair celebrated the spoils of victory, it was a disappointing weekend for their Indian/Australia team-mates, Gill and Macneall.

Their event had started out well, but a driveshaft problem on the first day of the rally cost them any chance of a good result.

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, was obviously thrilled with the team’s fifth win from five rallies this year.

“It’s great to take another victory in the APRC, and another APRC title, and congratulations to Pontus and Emil on another outstanding drive,” Heenan said.

“It would have been great to have both Pontus and Gaurav fighting it out in the stages, but it wasn’t to be.

“The weather also played its part in the rally, but the MRF tyres worked well again and allowed the team to take a comprehensive victory.

The sixth and final round of the APRC takes place in China between October 30 and November 1.

APRC points after round 5
1. Pontus Tidemand 186
2. Gaurav Gill 104
3. Michael Young 90
4. Subhan Aksa 44

APRC Manufacturers’ points
1. Skoda 195
2. Subaru 105
3. Mitsubishi 46

APRC Teams’ Trophy
1. Team MRF Skoda 350
2. Cusco Racing 107
3. Bosowa Rally Team 44
4. Immens Motorsport 23

Source: Team Release


Tidemand Takes APRC Title

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Hokkaido 2015After five rounds, it is a fact – Pontus Tidemand and his co-driver Emil Axelsson take the title in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for SKODA Motorsport. At this weekend’s Rally Hokkaido, they made a stunning performance , won the event and scored so many points that no other competitor has a chance to catch up even though one round remain in the championship.

“Right now it feels indescribably good” said a pleased Pontus after finishing on Sunday. “To become APRC champion was the ultimate goal this season, both for SKODA’s sake and for our own. I’m so happy that we managed to deliver this result with one event to go. Things could not have gone any better!”

The weekend in Japan started with a couple of very wet days. The rain began to fall heavily before Friday’s opening super special and it continued to rain for two days. Pontus took the lead right from start when he beat his main competitor Gaurav Gill by nearly a second on the first stage. It was set for a thrilling fight between the two of them, but it ended abruptly when Gill was forced to retire with technical problems already on Saturday morning.

The weather resulted in difficult road conditions and major challenges for the contestants, and many of them suffered from issues and had to retire. Pontus, however, managed to stay away from trouble as he mastered Saturday’s ten stages.

“It was really tricky in some places, especially since we were the first car on the road” said Pontus. “It was slippery and rough with standing water here and there, at the same time as the rain continued to pour down. But this is the kind of practice that I definitely consider a great experience for the future. The roads were also fun to drive and it was fascinating to see how the nature changed. At first it felt like we were in the middle of Sweden, then it reminded us more of Rally Germany and when we came to the northern parts, it was like being back in New Zealand.”

No competitor could keep up with Pontus’ pace as he extended the gap between himself and the rest of the field more and more for each stage. On Saturday evening, when the first 11 stages of the rally were completed, Pontus had a lead of almost five minutes and basically just needed to get to the finish to secure the title.

Luckily Sunday’s nine stages offered no drama – and no rain. All in all, Pontus took 18 stage wins on the overall 20 stages and the victory margin measured incredibly 12 minutes.

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Hokkaido 2015“It would have been awesome to win the title after a close battle, so it was a bummer to miss out on that when Gill retired” said Pontus. “But it proves once again that anything quickly can happen in rallying and you simply have to run your own race. We had a great weekend where everything worked flawlessly and just like in previous events, both the team and Emil have done a fantastic job. That is what makes us finish on top here today. Now we look forward to the last event in China, where we will make APRC debut with the Fabia R5, that will be fun for sure.”

During his first year as a SKODA driver, Pontus has so far contested all five of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship rounds, where he has won four and finished second once. In addition to that he has also done three WRC 2 rounds for SKODA and has finished on the podium every time. The APRC title is Pontus’ second international title in two years; in 2013 he became Junior World Rally Champion.

Pontus and Emil celebrate their victory by already next week head to France and Corsica for the next WRC round, which is run on 1-4 October. The sixth and last round of the APRC takes place in China between 30 October and 1 November.

Source: Team Release


New Start for Young in Japan

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2015Sri Lankan-owned International team Ezy Racing’s champion driver Mike Young revealed yesterday that his Cusco Subaru Impreza WRX Sti has received a comprehensive overhaul ahead of the crucial Rally Hokkaido here in the Northern-most island of Japan. The 21-year-old New Zealander said so many things were replaced, it could even be termed a brand new car.

Ezy Racing’s formidable machine met with a debilitating accident in the previous round in Malaysia just a month ago, but Young said that it wasn’t the accident that made them overhaul the car. He said a car could afford only a limited number of rallies on its components and they had to be changed constantly in order to be competitive.

“The car has got a brand new engine plus a new gear box. They’ve also changed the suspension completely. It has even been given a new bonnet and fender due to the accident we had last time. Even back in Malaysia we changed a lot of parts like the lower arms and chamber. It’s almost brand new. It had a pretty big birthday really,” Young told “Daily Mirror” yesterday.

“It is a lot of work to change the engine over, the gear box and suspension within a day. Cusco team which is Ezy Racing’s Technical partner has done a tremendous job as the car got delayed to arrive here due to an issue with transportation. It arrived just two days ago and the Cusco team has been working tirelessly on doing all the replacements. All the problems have been fixed and the car’s almost brand new,” assured Young.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2015“It is safer to have a new engine. They can only do so many rallies with an engine. I suppose the engine we had was fully used. It needs to be in mint condition. It’s the same with the gear box. It’s done a few rallies so it was time for it to be changed ahead of Japan, China and India, this season” he added.

Young was also pleased with yesterday’s official testing. “It was good. We managed to do a lot of changes. Changed the car to suit my driving and to suit the conditions here. We changed the suspension and started adjusting it from zero to get to where I like it. So, at the moment we have a really good balance for the twisty corners and fast tracks of Hokkaido. The stages here are really, really fast” he said.

Young who was third overall in the APRC championship coming to the fourth stage and the first stage of the Asia Cup segment of the event, had a nasty accident and crashed out just ten minutes from the start in Johor Bahru. It resulted in Ezy Racing failing to complete the first day and finishing without any points.

However, Young who had not had a single accident till then for more than two seasons, said that he used the time since the rally to access what went wrong and correct his mistakes.

“I went home and reset myself. Looked at the data and looked at everything to see what went wrong and what we could’ve done better. Coming here, we made better plans. Thought about the rally more and really focussed on doing well here” claimed Young.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2015Young has won several titles in the past two years in the APRC including the Asia Cup in 2013, Junior Cup in both 2013 and 2014, 2WD Cup both in 2013 and 2014 along with the Production Cup in 2014.

However, this is the first ever season on a Four-wheel-drive car and he felt his relative inexperience with it also had a part to play for the accident in Malaysia.

“Speed was a factor. I had been driving like I was driving a two wheel drive. If it was a two-wheel drive, I could have probably stopped the car. A four wheel drive with that extra weight was never gonna stop in time. And how the weight moves was a big factor. Of course, locking the breaks was never a good idea. Probably I should have put the car more sideways,” Young said revealing what he learned from the analysis of the accident.

Article by Chanaka de Silva, Sports Editor for the Daily Mirror Sri Lanka, currently in Obihiro, Hokkaido Japan with the Cusco EZY Racing Team.


Japan Next for Pontus Tidemand

Pontus Tidemand, APRC Podium 2015Pontus Tidemand has a solid lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship when only two events remain in the series. The first one of the last two is Rally Hokkaido, which takes place in Japan this weekend. Much is at stake, but Pontus and co-driver Emil Axelsson are ready to once again jump into their SKODA Fabia Super 2000 and do what they always do – give it their all.

“Of course it feels great to come to Japan as the championship leader” said Pontus. “But each rally comes with a new challenge, especially for me as I do all these events for the first time and never really know what to expect. Every APRC event is so unique, which gives you an incredible amount of experience and I have to say that there is a certain excitement in doing a rally you have never done before.”

The 2015 Rally Hokkaido is the 14th APRC event held in Japan and it often attracts big crowds – last year, almost 50 000 made it out to the stages to see the rally cars from first row. The event has not only history with the APRC, but also with the World Rally Championship. In 2003, it became a candidate for the WRC and in 2004 it was arranged together with WRC Rally Japan. The events were held separately the following year and has since then also included the Japanese Rally Championship and it is currently the only international FIA rally that takes place in Japan.

Hokkaido is the northernmost of Japan’s islands and has widespread forests, mountains and agricultural land. The island is located on the same latitude as northern Italy and France and due to the North Pacific Current, Hokkaido has long and cold winters. The Tokachi region, where Rally Hokkaido takes place, is a rather flat area with mostly agricultural land. The island’s two mountain ranges affect Tokachi’s weather and some stages reach the foothills of the mountains, but that is the closest the rally crews will get to those mountains. The typical September weather is relatively similar to the autumn weather in Northern Europe with cold mornings and evenings, while the daytime temperature can rise quite rapidly when the skies are blue. But overall, this is a rainy season, something that could potentially become a crucial factor in this weekend’s event.

Pontus Tidemand, Malaysian Rally 2015The rally base and the service park is located in the city of Obihiro, which has about 170,000 inhabitants and a big interest in rally permeates the neighborhood, perhaps thanks to the fact that the city hosted Japan’s WRC Rally between 2004 and 2007.

20 special stages will be completed between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. The event both begins and ends with a fast super special of less than a kilometer and the rest of the stages are evenly divided with ten stages on Saturday and nine on Sunday, including the super special. When the crews reach the finish line, they have mastered a total of 225.35 km.

“I have no doubt that this will be an interesting weekend now that we approach the end of the season and this is a rally that I really look forward to do. We are ready to fight for a great result and hopefully it will be a close and exciting race” said Pontus.

After Asia-Pacific Rally Championship’s fourth round, Pontus has 147 points in the standings, which gives him a 43 points’ lead over Gaurav Gill in second place. In addition to the fast and experienced Gill, Rally Hokkaido offers about 25 strong competitors and among them another Swede – Patrik Sandell, who has vast experience from the WRC as well as Global Rallycross and the X Games.

Source: pontustidemand.se


Competitor Update – 3 September 2015

I will be arriving in Obihiro on Sunday 13 September. From Sunday evening my local mobile number will be 080 2876 8956 (international dialling +81 80 2876 8956)

Rally Hokkaido

Rally Guide 2 is now available on the rally website www-rally-hokkaido.com. Please note the information included in this guide.

In particular:

  • The laws regarding speeding and other traffic offences in Japan.
  • Opening and closing times of the Kita Aikoku service park – this will be monitored.
  • There will be no rubbish/waste facilities at Kita Aikoku. If you require a bin/skip to be made available please refer to 5.2 of Rally Guide 2.

There has been a delay in the arrival of team containers, due to typhoons in the region. At this stage containers are still expected to be delivered to Kita Aikoku on Monday 14 September. However, it may be early afternoon before they actually arrive at Kita Aikoku. I will keep you updated if there is any change to this.

China Rally

I have prepared individual team import invoices for China. I will go over these with you in Obihiro.

Some important documents and dates for you to remember (note: these documents are not yet available on the China Rally website)

  • 7 September – entries open
  • 11 September – media application closes
  • 18 September – last date for requesting invitation letter for obtaining visa (team crew form
  • 18 September – vehicle information form to be submitted
  • 22 September – hotel reservation closes
  • 9 October – entries close
  • 23 October – SP open. I am expecting to have customs inspections done on Friday 23 October. To be confirmed.

If you are having any problems accessing the above information and documents, please contact me and I can send you a copy.

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator
+639083105888
murray.brown@fiaaprc.com