Kreim, Gill Battle in Whangarei

Fabian Kreim. Rally Whangarei 2016Only four seconds separate first and second place after the opening day of the first round of Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held today, with gravel newcomer Fabian Kreim of Germany taking the lead in the final stage.

Kreim’s Skoda team-mate, Gaurav Gill (India) and Australian co-driver Glenn Macneall held the lead for most of the day until they lost over 40 seconds in the final 14 kilometre test due to a puncture four kilometres from the end of stage 10.

Despite maintaining his focus is on simply finishing the rally, and that he wouldn’t chase Gill, Kreim with co-driver Frank Christian managed to grab the lead and said: “Unbelievable! I did not expect that [to be leading] because we also have some problems but have not lost so much time.”

“Tomorrow it will be same like today. We’ll just be driving and I think tomorrow Gaurav [Gill] will be very fast. We talk together before every stage and they [Gill and Macneall] give me some very important tips and I hope I can use this.”

Meanwhile, Gill is still getting used to the car said: “Unfortunately we had a puncture in the last stage, about four kilometres from the finish. We lost about 40 seconds to our team-mate, so we’re down about five seconds tonight, but that means we’re going to start second on the road tomorrow which I’m happy about.”

“Obviously I would have wanted my 50 second lead but I’ll live to fight another day. We’ll also be doing some setup changes with the car tonight so tomorrow should be good.”

Both Team MRF drivers say the new Team MRF Skoda R5’s are great cars and are very responsive, and their pace is reflected in the dominant lead they have over third place.

Local duo Michael Young and Malcolm Read finished the day in third despite their 13 minute deficit overnight, after winning stages in both the APRC and New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) fields and moving up the leader board as their rivals encountered problems.

Young said: “It’s been a really good day for us. With our 14 minute handicap I just said to Malcolm ‘lets see how much we can pull back’ so to get back into third in one day is pretty awesome.”

“Tomorrow we will keep up our pace as that has seemed to work well for us today and it keeps me focused. And we’re obviously stoked to win a couple of the New Zealand Rally Championship stages which was another pleasant surprise.”

Scott Pedder. Rally Whangarei 2016Scott Pedder and co-driver Dale Moscatt from Australia, who were holding third until stage five, were forced to retire because of mechanical issues and are not expected to re-join tomorrow.

Cusco driver, Sanjay Takale (India), was also forced to temporarily withdraw from the day following an electrical issue on the second stage of the morning. The Cusco team have now fixed the problem and Takale and Japanese co-driver Noriko Takeshita will be re-joining tomorrow.

The rally, typically known for its fast and flowing roads, quickly became the rally of attrition today after almost all of the crews suffered various issues particularly with tyre wear, with only the Team MRF crew having a relatively trouble free run.

The three Japanese crews also enjoyed the stages today, often explaining them as slippery, fast and fun. Mitsubishi driver Makoto Kawahara and co-driver Osamu Yoda finished in fourth ahead of their compatriots, Tatsuo Koizumi/Takumi Takahashi and Fuyuhiko Takahashi/Shigeru Ikeda, who both in Subaru Impreza’s.

The action starts again at 08.06 am over six iconic Northland stages totalling 120 competitive kilometres held to the south of Whangarei.

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Results after leg one – part one (gap to first):
Kreim/Christian: 1:45:09.6
Gill/Macneall: +4.6
Young/Read: +13:41.8
Kawahara/Yoda: +16:08.4
Koizumi/Takahashi: +35:36.9
Takahashi/Ikeda: +2:14:13.9
Takale/Takeshita: +7:00:38.0

Takale Reveals International Campaign

Sanjay Takale, Rally Whangarei 2016 testingIndian rally driver, Sanjay Takale, is getting ready to tackle the first round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), held in Whangarei this weekend, following a one year hiatus from the sport.

Takale, who has been a regular competitor in the prestigious championship, says he’s looking forward to getting back in the drivers seat and is joined by a vastly experienced Japanese co-driver, Noriko Takeshita.

“Frankly speaking, I am excited to be back in the APRC this year. I missed out on a lot of rally action last year due to a few reasons but primarily it was due to a prolonged illness. I feel I am now ready for any challenge and am looking forward to the long winding gravel roads around Whangarei,” said Takale.

“I’m also looking forward to having Noriko [Takeshita] join me as my new co-driver. She was recommended to me by my Cusco Racing team who have a lot of knowledge in this area. She has excellent credentials and was Toshihiro Arai’s co-driver who has competed all across the world so I’m excited about this.”

The Pune-based driver will compete in all six rounds of the APRC Championship and says a major highlight is seeing the championship return to India following a 10-year absence from the country.

“Given that the Rally of India will be the last round of the season, it gives me Goosebumps to think that the APRC title would probably be decided in India. It’s a very exciting time and think it reflects the growth of motorsport in the Asia region,” said Takale.

“Plus I meet so many excited fans in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and at other rally venues, and it is time that Indian fans to come out in hordes and support home-grown rally drivers. It will be a great event I’m sure.”
Takale will again be part of the Cusco Racing team this season and is driving a newer version of the Subaru Impreza WRX he last used in at Rally Hokkaido in Japan in 2014.

“I last drove a Cusco Subaru in Hokkaido [Japan] so it has been a long time. Although I did an ice rally in Sweden and went to a rally school in Wales so I do feel prepared.

“I also took part in an autocross, hillclimb and rally-sprint event in Arunachal Pradesh [north-east India] recently and I feel these experiences will carry me forward when I compete in New Zealand this weekend,” explained Takale.

Takale also aims to compete in selected European rounds in order to extend his experience on roads all around the world, as he works towards his dream of competing in the World Rally Championship (WRC). “Racing in the World Rally Championship has always been a dream of mine so I’m dedicated to making that happen. Competing in the APRC will help me a lot, and I can’t wait to get started,” continued Takale.

The International Rally of Whangarei starts on Friday and continues over Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May around the far north city across 16 closed special stages and 275 competitive kilometres.

Source: Team Release

Young looks to Repeat History

Mike Young, Rally Whangarei 2016New Zealand rally driver, Michael Young, is revved up and ready to tackle the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) which starts this weekend at the International Rally of Whangarei in Northland.

Fresh from his win at the Quit Forest Rally in Western Australia, Young says he is determined to carry on his history of strong results in the international series which kicks off at his home rally on Friday.

“As this is my second full season in a four-wheel-drive car and my fifth year with the Cusco team, I’m hoping to improve on the speed we have shown in the past and give them some strong results,” said Young.

“Although in saying that, finishing each event is so important because if you miss one round it is really difficult to catch up and those new Skoda’s will be really hard to catch… we will need to keep the pressure on.”

Mike Young, Rally Whangarei 2016 testingAs the only New Zealand registered in the full APRC Championship, Young and Hamilton-based co-driver Malcolm Read are hoping to maximise on their local knowledge and experience on the fast flowing roads at the first round.

“I’m stoked to have Malcolm [Read] as my co-driver again because I know I can fully trust him on the pace-notes [detailed directions]. Together we have achieved awesome things and I’m sure that can continue, particularly at our home rally,” explained Young.

The duo will compete in the new Cusco-prepared EZY Racing Subaru Impreza like previous years, although they have been nominated as the number-one driver for the team ahead of the season which sees a new white livery.

Mike Young, Rally Whangarei 2016 testing“I am so honoured and grateful to be given this opportunity [number one driver] by Cusco. They have supported me so much over the past five years and to be given the top car is a huge honour for me. They work so incredibly hard and always give me a great car so it definitely makes me even more determined to bring home a good result for them,” said Young.

The 23-year-old has been keeping busy over the off season by raising the vital funds needed to compete at this level along with working at giving people ‘hot laps’ in rally cars. “It’s been really good seat time for me and I really enjoy showing people the rally experience… some of them get a bit scared at the start which is quite funny,” laughed Young.

As a one-off, Young and Read have also entered into the New Zealand Rally Championship (NZRC) event which runs alongside the APRC event, meaning they can race head-to-head with dozens of local drivers; a rare opportunity for Young.

The International Rally of Whangarei starts on Friday at Te Matau ā Pohe [adjuacent to the Pohe Island super special stage near the town centre] and continues over Saturday 30 April and Sunday 1 May around Northland across 16 closed special stages and 275 competitive kilometres.

Young’s campaign is supported by Cusco, EZY Racing, Dunlop, Interactive, Yoda Rally, Dreams India, Verandah Apartments and KOS Sunglasses.

Source: Team Release

MRF Still Hungry For Victory

Fabian Kreim, Rally Whangarei 2016 testingTeam MRF will go in search of their eighth Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title when the series gets underway in New Zealand this weekend with the running of the Rally of Whangarei. Regular Team MRF driver, Indian Gaurav Gill, will be joined by up-and-coming German star, Fabian Kreim, in a pair of Skoda Fabia R5s for the six round championship.

While Gill and his Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, are veterans of the championship, having won it in 2013, their young German team-mate will be making his debut on all the events that comprise the series.

“I am absolutely delighted to be able to take on the challenge of the APRC with ŠKODA,” 23-year old Kreim said.

“All the rallies are obviously completely new to me, and I will have a lot to learn. However, I hope I can establish myself among the front-runners and challenge for race wins as quickly as possible at these international events.” Kreim and his co-driver, Frank Christian, finished second in the 2015 German Rally Championship.

Fabian Kreim, Rally Whangarei 2016 testingThe Team MRF Skodas will again be prepared by the West Australian based Race Torque Engineering team. “We’re excited to be starting another season in the APRC with Skoda and Team MRF,” Race Torque’s Lane Heenan said.

“Together with MRF Tyres we are aiming for our eighth Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title, as well as our fifth with Skoda. “We expect both drivers to be fast, although as always with the first event for the season, the plan is to get both cars to the finish and score valuable points to get our championship defence off to a solid start. Testing on Wednesday went really well, with drivers completing around 50km. The engine is very good and for their first run in the car, both drivers were extremely happy and made only small changes to the set-up.”

Based to the north of Auckland, the Rally of Whangarei entails 16 special stages on some of New Zealand’s most famous gravel roads. The total competitive distance for the event is over 275km. The rally gets underway with two short spectator stages on Friday night, with eight stages on Saturday, and a further six stages on Sunday.

Fabian Kreim, Rally Whangarei 2016 testingAfter round one, the 2016 APRC visits Australia, China, Japan, Malaysia and India over a six-event season that finishes in mid-December.

The 2015 title was taken out by Sweden’s Pontus Tidemand, and Skoda Motorsport Director, Michal Hrabanek, is keen for the team to continue their winning run.

“The rallies in the populous Asia-Pacific region, with our core market of China, are particularly important to ŠKODA,” he said. “For this reason, we want to be at our best again with the experienced and successful Team MRF.”

Source: Team Release

The 2016 APRC comes to DUKE

Good news for New Zealand viewers, 2016 APRC TV series on TVNZ’s free-to-air DUKE channel.

With New Zealand hosting the opening round of the 2016 APRC on 30th April in Whangarei and Kiwi Mike Young one of the championship’s top drivers, DUKE couldn’t be a better home for the seven-part series.

After Whangarei the championship travels to the International Rally of Queensland, Australia followed by the China Rally – located near the Mongolian border. Japan’s northern most island of Hokkaido is host to the next event, followed by the extreme heat and humidity of the Malaysian Rally with the finale in December, the Rally of India.

Winner of Motorsports NZ’s Elite Motorsport academy in 2015, 23-year old Kiwi driver Mike Young has finished second outright in the APRC for the past two years and is the youngest driver to win the FIA Asia Cup. In 2016, Young will drive a Group N Subaru Impreza for the Japanese based Cusco EZY Racing team. Young’s co-driver in the APRC is fellow New Zealander Malcolm Read.

Along with the Kiwi crew, the APRC attracts top competitors from Japan, India, China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and this year a challenge from Europe with German driver Fabian Kreim lined up to pilot one of the factory backed MRF Skoda Fabia R5s.

International Drivers chase Würth Cup

The International Rally of Whangarei is the first round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) that takes the teams from New Zealand, to Queensland in Australia, on to China, Japan and Malaysia, with the final round in India in December.

The teams and drivers are chasing the prestigious FIA APRC Drivers’ and Manufacturers trophies plus the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Cup powered by Würth; a competition open to all drivers entered in the international events regardless of how many APRC rounds they compete in. The winner of each rally receives US$1,000 from the Würth Cup prize-pool and at the finish of the championship in India, the top three drivers will be awarded the coveted silver trophies that will be on display in the Würth tent at the Whangarei Toll Stadium service park.

Würth’s support goes much further too, providing funding for the television coverage and at each event supplies APRC teams with boxes of their high quality chemical products.

After three years of working closely with the engineers and mechanics that build and maintain the cars, Würth has refined the list of products to an ideal ‘must haves’ for any professional rally team. It’s a comprehensive list that includes everything from multiple cans of brake, glass and hand cleaners, silicon and contact sprays, paper-rolls, gloves and cable ties.

This is backed up by the top teams in the APRC, “Rallying is a great test bed for any product and over the past three years the partnership with the APRC and Würth has resulted in big benefits for both parties. Würth staff attend each event to provide the teams with technical advice, while at the same time they are coming to us for feedback on their products”, said Lindsay Hegan, Racetorque MRF Skoda team manager.

David Paterson from Würth New Zealand is equally enthusiastic, “The partnership with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is now in its fourth year and New Zealand has been privileged to be the opening round in each of those years. Working with the APRC and especially directly with the teams who use our products and tools at the cutting edge of technology, often in extreme conditions has been a great experience for all Würth staff. Team spirit, willingness to perform and to give one’s best are important factors in rallying, similar values also determine the corporate culture of the Würth group”.

The International Rally of Whangarei is the opening round of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship starting on Friday 29th April.

The event is based from the Pacific Ford Service Park adjacent to the Toll Stadium on Port Road where each day the teams can be seen tuning and preparing cars for the 275 kilometres of competitive stages that make-up the event.