Takayama Wins 2015 Asia Cup

Hitoshi Takayama, 2015 China RallyAt close of entries for India Rally the final round of the FIA Asia Cup, no APRC competitors had entered the event therefore the Asia Cup winner for 2015 is current points leader Japanese driver Hitoshi Takayama and co-driver Hideki Takeyabu.

The only registered driver that could have challenged Takayama for the Asia Cup is New Zealander Mike Young however the Cusco EZY Racing team have elected not to compete in India handing Takayama the trophy.

There’s no doubt Takayama is a deserved winner having finished all events and won the majority of stages in the three Asia Cup events contested in 2015. Add to that it was Takayama’s first time rallying internationally, not an easy task on events like Malaysia and China where the terrain, climate and cultures are vastly different to his native in Japan.

On hearing the news Takayama said ” I feel very happy to get the ASIA cup title. But it is only by the good luck and our team efforts, not by my power. So I feel that I should try harder to be stronger rally driver. China was my favourite event , because I could win the (Asia Cup) rally and it was the very first time of winning in my rally career.”

Hitoshi Takayama and and Hideki TakeyabuTakayama was up against some formidable competition for the Cup including former APRC Champion Gaurav Gill from India who won the category in Malaysia, Fan Fan from China and Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Deheragoda.

However Takayama’s main challenge came from New Zealander Mike Young the 2013 Asia Cup winner, who finished 22 points behind. Both driving identical Group N Subaru Impreza WRX STi’s, the two swapped times all season with Young’ crash on Day 1of the Malaysian Rally the deciding factor.

Young recovered his championship hopes by winning Asia Cup in Japan, then survived China Rally after driving the event with no power-steering and a roll-over to finish second to Takayama. Young is registered to compete in India however for a variety of reasons the New Zealander and his Cusco EZY Racing team have elected not to contest the event.

Hitoshi Takayama, 2015 Malaysian Rally“We were looking forward to competing in India, however after China Rally there was some serious damage to the car from our roll-over and then when we heard no other APRC competitors were going. While we still had to finish the event (to score enough points), it would have been a rather empty victory to have secured the cup in that way’, said driver Mike Young. “Sure it hands the Asia Cup to Takayama san, but he thoroughly deserves the award – he drove really well and finished all three events. Of course I look forward to a big fight with him next year!”.

Young and Takayama are both planning a full APRC campaign in 2016 in Group N Subaru’s– it will be a good battle to watch through the season.

International Rally of Whangarei turning 10

Hayden Paddon,Rally Whangarei 2008World class rallying will return to Northland, New Zealand in 2016 with the 10th annual running of the International Rally of Whangarei to be held from Friday 29th April to Sunday 1st May 2016.

The event will again play host to the opening round of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally championship, the six round series also visiting Australia, Malaysia, Japan, China and India, along with being the second round of the 2016 New Zealand Rally Championship.

The fast flowing Northland roads are widely regarded by drivers as among the best gravel roads in the world, having previously been used during the 1980’s, 90’s and 2000’s by the New Zealand round of the World Rally Championship, while 2016 marks the 10th annual running of a round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship in the region.

Chris Atkinson, Rally Whangarei 2011The 2016 edition of the rally will again feature two legs of competition spread over 16 special stages totalling 270 kilometres of competitive driving while The Toll Stadium in Whangarei will provide a new base for the event hosting Rally Headquarters and the overnight parc ferme.

A spectacular evening of action will start the event on Friday with the Rally Start and Super Special Stage in Central Whangarei providing great opportunities for fans to see the stars and cars up close. Cars will lineup for the rally start on the impressive ‘Te Matau ā Pohe’, or “The Fishhook of Pohe” bridge located alongside and over the Pohe Island Super Stage where they will tackle two runs over the 1.7kilometre gravel stage under lights.

Saturday’s competition heads north of Whangarei for eight special stages including the Helena Bay test that debuted at last year’s event, a challenge 14 kilometre stretch of gravel that winds inland from the coast. A further 6 special stages south of Whangarei await drivers on Sunday using a mix of new and old favourites, all featuring the distinctive fast flowing camber the area is famous for.

Spectator, Rally Whangarei 2009Event Sporting Director Willard Martin says the experienced Rally New Zealand organising team are aiming to include all the best elements of previous events. “The 2015 rally was a great success with top international drivers and our own Kiwi drivers creating a great spectacle. We had a new mix of special stages that challenged drivers and provided a number of excellent viewing locations for spectators and media all within a short distance of Whangarei along with the spectacular Friday night superstage. We will retain these elements with some tweaks to ensure another world class event for competitors.”

Organisers are expecting a high quality field with changes to vehicle eligibility for Asia Pacific Championship events providing an opportunity for more competitors including New Zealand’s best drivers to compete head to head with the international visitors for overall rally honours.

Rifat Sungkar, Rally Whangarei 2011The International Rally of Whangarei has hosted many of the world’s best teams and drivers with recent visitors to the event including American Superstar Ken Block, Australian WRC driver Chris Atkinson (winner in 2011 & 2012), current Asia Pacific Rally Champion and 2015 winner Pontus Tidemand from Sweden, and New Zealand World Rally Championship driver Hayden Paddon, a three time winner of the event.

Source: Event Release
Photos: apsm.tv, Euan Cameron, and Rally of Whangarei

Queensland ‘Reboots’ for 2016

The 2016 International Rally of Queensland will go ahead next June with a new promoter, following the withdrawal of former promoter Brisbane Sporting Car Club.

A new organising committee chaired by well-known rally official Wayne Kenny will start work immediately on the event, scheduled to host rounds of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Australian Rally Championship on the Sunshine Coast on 17-19 June. The name of the new promoting entity will be announced soon.

Mr Kenny, who is also Senior Executive Officer of the Rally Australia world championship round, will make appointments to key roles and contact government, commercial and sporting stakeholders in the coming weeks.

All enquiries should be address by email to admin@rally.com.au.

Source: Event Release

Tidemand and Team MRF Dominate China Rally

Pontus Tidemand, China Rally 2015One of the world’s fastest young rally drivers, Pontus Tidemand, has driven his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 to a dominant victory in the final round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), the China Rally Longyou.

Debuting the Fabia R5 in one of Skoda’s strongest markets, the 24-year old Swedish star won all 13 stages of the event, taking victory by over 30 minutes.

Rain for the duration of the rally made it an incredibly tough test of man and machine, but Tidemand and co-driver, Emil Axelsson, easily won their fifth APRC rally from six starts this season.

Their Team MRF team-mates, Indian Gaurav Gill and Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall, challenged for the lead early on the first day, but slid off the road in the treacherous conditions, putting paid to their chances of a good result.

“I must say that it was a huge challenge,” Tidemand said of his first visit to the Chinese event. “I drove these stages for the first time and the roads were tricky and demanding in themselves, but with mud and rain, they got extremely slippery and difficult to get through. We were as careful as we could in order to survive.

Pontus Tidemand, China Rally 2015“This victory was far from a walk in the park. We have consumed enormous amounts of focus this weekend. To have a good lead is positive of course, although it was a shame to not get that close fight with Gill.

“But this time I actually think that the roads have been our biggest competition. If you lose your concentration for just a brief moment, you can slide off the road and get stuck in a ditch and suddenly your advantage is gone.”

The China win capped off a superb debut season for Tidemand in the APRC, and follows victories in New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Japan.

“I’m incredibly happy with the season in Asia and Oceania and it feels really great to finish on top here in China,” he added. “The APRC has been an adventure since the first event in April and I have had experiences that I could not have got anywhere else, and I will always have those experiences with me. Team MRF gave me the best possible opportunities to succeed and Emil has done a superb job all year.”

Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan was thrilled with the performance of Tidemand and the Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia R5. “Debuting the new Fabia R5 here in China was always going to be challenging, but with the atrocious weather conditions all weekend, it added an extra element for the entire Race Torque team,” Heenan said.

“Pontus drove incredibly well and showed once again that he is a tremendous talent and that he has big things in store for him on the world stage. To win five from six events on his debut in the championship is an incredible performance.”

Pontus Tidemand and Lane Heenan, China Rally 2015In contrast, Heenan said he disappointed that Gill’s season hadn’t finished on a more positive note. “To lose Gill early in the event was disappointing, but it has been one of those years for him where not much has gone right – other than his victory in New Calendonia. He was driving the S2000 car here in China, but was showing incredible speed with some really fast split times. I’m confident he’ll bounce back in future rallies.”

Despite his retirement, Gill still finished third in the championship, upholding his strong recent APRC performances.

Japanese driver, Hitoshi Takayama, finished second in a Subaru, while New Zealander Mike Young was third in a Subaru, despite power steering problems.

Source: Team Release

Five For Tidemand at China Rally

Pontus Tidemand, China Rally 2015Given the atrocious conditions Pontus Tidemand couldn’t exactly cruise to victory, but after team-mate Gaurav Gill crashed out early on Day 1, the event was a lot easier for the Swedish driver.

Debuting the new MRF Skoda Fabia R5 and his first time in China, Tidemand and co-driver Emil Axelsson drove to victory in their MRF ŠKODA Fabia R5 on approximately 230 kilometres of muddy gravel tracks and slippery concrete roads, made worse by 3 days of continuous rain.

Hitoshi Takayama, China Rally 2015Japan’s Hitoshi Takayma moved his Group N Subaru from third to second on the morning of Day 2 after Richard Mason retired his Wan Yu Rally Team Mitsubishi. Takayama drove well considering his limited international experience and the treacherous roads. The Japanese driver had a scare on the final afternoon when he got a puncture, losing nine minutes in the afternoon’s first and long stage.

Another podium for Mike Young but possibly his toughest of the year after his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru had steering pump problems from Stage 2, requiring a super human effort to wrestle the car home.

Mike Young, China Rally 2015It didn’t come without incident though, rolling on Stage 7 when the car wouldn’t turn for a fast right-hand bend, the Subaru finally made the finish looking very battered and bruised. Young’s efforts were rewarded by moving into second place in the overall driver championship and winning the FIA Production Cup.

Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Deheragoda retired on Day 1 when his Mitsubishi developed diff problems on Day 1. Gaurav Gill’s co-driver Glenn Macneall suffered a broken collarbone in the crash on Day 1, but was sufficiently recovered to accept third prize overall in the Wuerth Cup at the finish.

China Rally 2015, Provisional Final Classification
1. Pontus Tidemand(S) Emil Axelsson(S) 03:08:46.4
2. Hitoshi Takayama(J) Hideki Takeyabu(J) +:33:26.7
3. Michael Young(NZ) Malcolm Read(NZ) +16:03.6