Team MRF debut Skoda Fabia R5 in China

Skoda R5, Service Park, China Rally 2015Team MRF’s Pontus Tidemand will debut the new Skoda Fabia R5 in China this weekend.

Newly crowned Asia-Pacific Rally Champion (APRC), Pontus Tideland, is in China this weekend for the final round of the 2015 APRC season, fresh from winning the WRC2 category in last weekend’s Rally of Spain.

The Swedish star, together with his Team MRF team-mate, Indian Gaurav Gill, are eager to complete the APRC season with six wins from their six starts in their Skodas.

For this event, Tidemand and co-driver, Axel Emilsson, will debut Skoda’s latest rally weapon, the Fabia R5, which has taken the World Rally Championship 2 category by storm this season.

Skoda R5 TestingWith recent experience in the car, Tidemand will attack the Chinese event full of confidence, despite not having competed in the rally before.

“The Fabia R5 is the successor to the Fabia Super 2000, a car that has been tremendously successful for Skoda, Team MRF and Race Torque,” team manager, Lane Heenan, said.

“China is one of Skoda’s biggest markets, with 25 per cent of the company’s total worldwide sales sold in China in September, so it’s important that the R5 makes its APRC debut on this event.

“We would have liked to have run an R5 for Gill as well, but he has not yet driven the car, and it would have been unfair to ask him to test the car during a rally.

“Because of this, he’ll drive the tried and tested Fabia S2000 – a car that he was won regularly in.”

Despite this being his first year in the APRC, Tidemand is aiming for his fifth win from six starts, and is naturally full of confidence.

“For every good result, you just want more and after the win in Spain, we feel strengthened and confident coming to the last APRC event,” he said.

“We technically do not need to chase maximum points as we have secured the title already, but it will be great fun to drive the R5 for the first time in this part of the world.

Skoda R5 at Rally Germany 2015“Since China is SKODA’s biggest market, we want to present both the car and ourselves in the best way possible, so there is no other option than to give it our all. It feels like we have preserved the pace from Spain and we also got good practice on mixed surface, so I hope that can be to our advantage.”

Gill and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, led the Chinese event in 2014 and looked set for victory, but ultimately retired from the rally. However, their experience could prove vital as they push for their second victory of the season.

China has been a part of the APRC since 1997 and Rally China Longyou has been on the calendar every year since 2006. Longyou is a county in the Zhejiang province in eastern China, located about 400 km from the country’s largest city, Shanghai.

The event offers 13 special stages totalling 230km and the road surface is a mixture of gravel and concrete, which is a big challenge for drivers as well as teams and puts high demands on the cars’ set-up in order to be as well adjusted to the changing road characters as possible.

Rally China Longyou starts with a super special stage on Friday and the following two days contain six stages each, before the finish on Sunday afternoon.

Source: Team Release

Did You Know…

China has a population of about 1.38 billion? This makes it the most highly populated country on the planet, with about 18.8 per cent of the global population.
Gaurav Gill, China Rally 2013
China Rally Longyou Scenery
China has been part of the APRC since 1997? The China Rally Longyou, in the Zhejiang province, has hosted the race since 2006. The Longyou district dates back over 2000 years and is located about 400 kilometres from the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai.
Some sections of the “China Rally Longyou” head through bamboo forests? The route is a mixture of concrete and gravel sections, making it a real challenge for the set-up of the rally cars. The majority of the special stages are the same as in 2014. The only unfamiliar terrain comes on the 25.20-kilometre Dajie stage, which is the longest on the rally.
Alister McRae, China Rally 2012
Cody Crocker, China Rally 2009
ŠKODA has won the China Rally Longyou for the last two years? Esapekka Lappi (FIN) triumphed in 2013, while last year. The record winner is Australian Cody Crocker, with four wins in a row between 2006 and 2009.

ŠKODA Celebrates Title Treble in China

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Spain 2015ŠKODA will celebrate a title treble in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) when it lines up in the core market of China. The grand finale at the China Rally Longyou from Friday to Sunday will be something of a triumphal procession for the Czech automobile manufacturer. Ahead of the final round of the season, ŠKODA has already secured its fourth successive Manufacturer title in the APRC.

Works driver Pontus Tidemand (S) and his navigator Emil Axelsson (S) are also guaranteed a title* in the Driver and Co-Driver championships. They were victorious at last weekend’s Rally Spain in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2). The highlight of the season will also feature a first in China: Tidemand/Axelsson will present the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 for the first time in the Middle Kingdom.

“China is the most important market in the world for ŠKODA. As such, we are particularly delighted to be able to show the tens of thousands of fans our new ŠKODA Fabia R5 live in action,” said ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek, who went on to praise the performance of the ŠKODA MRF Team over the course of the APRC season so far. “It is an outstanding effort to have already wrapped up three titles before the final rally – and for the fourth time in a row. I would particularly like to congratulate Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson, who have proven to be the real deal in their first year with ŠKODA.”

Pontus Tidemand, Rally Hokkaido 2015In the five rounds of the APRC season so far, the ŠKODA works duo of Tidemand/Axelsson have claimed four victories in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Japan. They also finished runner-up at the Rally New Caledonia – but even here the ŠKODA MRF Team had cause for celebration, as victory went to the second crew of Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall (IND/AUS). “We are happy to have won such an important title in our first year with ŠKODA – and at difficult rallies, which were completely new to us. That is definitely cause for celebration, but not until after the season finale: before then, we want to thrill our fans in China with the fantastic ŠKODA Fabia R5. We know this is a particularly important rally for the ŠKODA brand,” said Tidemand.

The 24-year-old Swede headed straight from the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2) in Spain to China – almost 10,000 miles away. As well as the huge distance, Tidemand/Axelsson must also overcome a time difference of seven hours. The two ŠKODA duos of Tidemand/Axelsson and Gill/Macneall will face about 230 kilometres against the clock, spread over 13 special stages at the China Rally Longyou. Tens of thousands of spectators are expected for the first outing of the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 in China.

Source: Team Release

Richard Mason steps up for Rally China

Richard Mason, 2011 Rally WhangareiFive times New Zealand Rally Champions Richard and Sara Mason are set to end their 2015 Rally Season on a high as they head off shore to take on some of the world’s best drivers and teams on the gravel and concrete roads of Longyou, China at the end of this month.

The Masterton based duo have been contracted to drive for the Chinese Wan Yu Rally Team in round 6 of the FIA Asia Pacific Championship (APRC) based in the town of Longyou, not far from Shanghai. Richard will be taking the wheel from Finnish rally star Jussi Valimaki who competed for the team at Rally Malaysia earlier this year and Patrick Sandell, their contracted driver for Rally Japan.

Driving the left hand drive Soueast Motor Team APRC Lancer R4, they will take on many top challengers including newly crowned 2015 APRC champion Pontus Tidemand (Sweden), past champion Gaurav Gill (India) and fellow New Zealander Mike Young.

Also competing at the event in the Chinese Rally Championship division are previous WRC drivers Chris Atkinson (Australia), Alister McRae (Australia) and Mark Higgins (UK).

The Masons will not be without experience however, as they drove in the Chinese Rally Championship in the 2005 and 2006 seasons for the GITi Rally Team accumulating 11 rally starts over varying surfaces.

Richard and Sara, fresh from competing at their home event Rally Wairarapa last weekend are looking forward to the challenge of competing overseas against tough competition.

Richard Mason, 2011 Rally WhangareiHaving been a contracted driver for the Wan Yu team at APRC Rally Whangarei in 2011 where they finished 3rd, the pair already have first hand experience of the team’s ability to provide a good competitive package.

“Sara and I have won so many events in New Zealand, and with the loss of a major sponsor for the 2015 New Zealand Rally Championship, we instead decided to turn our attention to overseas and focus on gaining more experience internationally.

“When he found out we were available, Wan Yu team owner Fan Fan was very excited at the prospect of having us drive for him now that our calendar is fairly wide open” Richard said.

The pair have only a couple of weeks to prepare as they head off for testing and pre event activities in less than three weeks’ time, with the event on at the end of this month, over the weekend of 31st October – 1st November.

Photos courtesy of Marcel Stawiczny.

Competitor Update – 6 October 2015

2015 APRC Driver Champions

Congratulations to Team MRF driver Pontus Tidemand and his co-driver Emil Axelsson. The Swedish pair now have an unbeatable lead in the 2015 FIA APRC Championship.

China Rally Longyou

  • A reminder that entries for China Rally close on Friday 9 October.
  • Import customs inspections have been requested for Friday 23 October. As yet I have not had confirmation of this, but will continue to plan on that basis. As in previous years, this will take place at the rally SP.
  • Export customs inspections will take place on Monday 2 November. No specific time has been requested at this stage. As always I will attempt to have this done as quickly as possible. Please allow time for this to happen.
  • Rally Guide 2 is due to be published on Friday 9 October.

Coffee Day India Rally

  • Rally organisers are putting final plans together for this new rally. Please continue to check the rally website for further information
  • As previously advised I am planning to have customs inspections done in Bangalore on approx 3 or 4 December. Team staff will need to be on hand to possibly unload the containers for inspections. This will happen before the containers are transported to Chikmaglur.
  • I will provide confirmed details as soon as possible.
  • Supplementary Regulations and RG 2 are expected to be available soon.

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

Any other questions re the above events, or the APRC, again, please feel free to contact me directly

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator

APRC Extends TV Coverage in India

Rally Hokkaido 2015 CrowdsCar rallying in India has received a major boost with the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship having it’s final round in Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka in December and now rally fans in the region will be able watch all the action from the championship on the giant TEN Sports network.

Ten Sports Network will be the exclusive broadcaster in India of the APRC’s official television series that stars India’s most successful international rally driver Gaurav Gill. An FIA champion in 2013 and currently driving for Team MRF, who along with car manufacturer Skoda have dominated the series over the past three years, Gill has more APRC wins and podium finishes than any other driver currently competing in the championship.

India is well represented in the production category too with Sanjay Takale from Pune a regular competitor and Production Car champion in 2013. From Sri Lanka comes Dinesh Derehagoda who in his debut year in 2014, finished second in the APRC’s Asia Cup competition.

Sanctioned by the world governing body the FIA, the APRC is held over two continents and seven countries starting in New Zealand in April, followed by events in New Caledonia, Australia, Malaysia and Japan. China Rally will run in October before the international teams ship their cars and equipment to India where the final event for 2015, 11-13 December.

“The broadcast agreement with Ten Sports Network is perfect excellent timing with the APRC returning to India for the first time in ten years. Car rallying is perfect for television as new technical innovations in miniature and in-car cameras mean the viewer can be inside the car with the driver or millimetres from the car as it races past at 160 kph. With all the events in different countries and continents, there’s a cultural and geographic element to the TV programmes as well as the action and excitement”, said Brian Young director of APRC Television and Media.

With a potential audience of 150 million households, Ten Sports network boasts of the most widely distributed sports channels in the Indian sub-continent. Mr. Rajesh Sethi, Global CEO of Ten Sports said, “We are happy to come on board as broadcasters of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in the Indian Sub-continent. Viewership for Motorsport in our region is increasing and adding the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is only going to bolster our portfolio in this genre. We believe we can help enhance the reach for this property and with the Indian race and Indian racers, there is a huge incentive for Indian fans to tune it in and we are confident that viewers will enjoy watching these rallies on our channels.”