Former APRC Champs Dominate Rally Germany

Rally Germany 2016Just as they did three weeks ago at the Rally Finland, the ŠKODA works duo Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) in the Fabia R5 brought home a commanding win in the WRC 2 category. Their team-mates at ŠKODA Motorsport, Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ), crossed the finish line in second place, thereby clinching the one-two result for the team from Mladá Boleslav.

“The team really deserved this win,” said ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek. “We saw a totally flawless performance from everyone: drivers, co-drivers, engineers, mechanics – every single one of them gave 100 percent once again. The conditions were not easy since the stages at the Rally Germany are some of the most challenging asphalt tracks in the entire WRC. On top of that was the changeable weather. Esapekka and Janne drove a perfect rally. No doubt Jan and Pavel would also have been up there fighting for the win if it weren’t for their unfortunate tyre damage, but made the best out of the situation finishing in second place. Four ŠKODA teams in the top four places, six overall in the top 10 clearly shows that the FABIA R5 is also the fastest rally car in its class on asphalt.”

Victory in the WRC 2 class was decided on Saturday, the longest day at the Rally Germany. While the rally was characterised by twisting asphalt tracks through the Mosel vineyards around the rally centre of Trier on Friday and Sunday, Saturday was all about the legendary “Panzerplatte”. This is a section of track on the military training ground of Baumholder, which is characterised by medium-speed tracks on a mix of asphalt roads and slabs of concrete. On this stage, a clever tyre selection and a controlled offensive in changeable weather conditions saw Lappi quickly take the lead and go on to pull away from his rivals with several best times.

Rally Germany 2016Team-mate Kopecký, initially slowed down by tyre damage on Friday morning, worked his way up from fifth place into second place during this phase. On the three closing special stages on Sunday, the two ŠKODA works drivers controlled the action and thereby clinched ŠKODA’s seventh successive victory in the WRC 2.

“I am over the moon,” said Lappi after his win at the Rally Germany. “To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting to be driving for the win here. But apart from a few slips on Friday morning, we made it through the stages flawlessly and quickly. Saturday in particular was perhaps the best day of my WRC 2 career on dirty asphalt to date. The FABIA R5 worked perfectly and we also made the correct tyre selection. We had a lot of grip. Thanks go to the entire team!”

Victory at the Rally Germany sees Lappi move up into third place in the WRC 2 overall standings (82 points). ŠKODA Motorsport also took the lead in the team standings (125 points). “It was the perfect team result for ŠKODA,” said second-placed Kopecký. “Of course I would have loved to repeat my victory of last year, but considering the tyre issues on Friday, we did the best we could with second place. Congratulations to Esapekka! I know how good at go karting he is, which is why I knew he could definitely win an asphalt rally.”

The ŠKODA works duo Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), who also contested the Rally Germany in the FABIA R5, but are not registered for the WRC 2 classification, were convincing in an impressive eighth place in the overall standings of the rally. “It was a great experience,” said Tidemand. “I am grateful for the opportunity that ŠKODA Motorsport gave me here. It was great practice for me to compete at a high level at this rally. I learned a great deal in terms of writing the pace notes, assessing the weather conditions and making the correct tyre selection on asphalt.”

In addition to the ŠKODA works drivers, ŠKODA customer teams completed the Czech automobile manufacturer’s very good result at the Rally Germany. Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer (D/D) in the FABIA R5 took the final spot on the purely ŠKODA podium at the award ceremony at Porta Nigra. The Belgian duo of Ghislain de Mevius/Johan Jalet (B/B) finished in fourth place in their FABIA R5. Bernhard ten Brinke/Davy Thierie (NL/NL), also in a FABIA R5 competing in ŠKODA Motorsport’s customer racing programme, came sixth. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari/Killian Duffy (Q/IRL) finished in tenth place.

Rally Germany result (WRC 2):
1. Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN) ŠKODA FABIA R5 3h 9m 3,5s
2. Kopecký/Dresler (CZ/CZ) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 1m 7.4s
3. Kremer/Winklhofer (D/D) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 1m 33.8s
4. de Mevius/Jalet (B/B) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 2m 36.1s
5. Loubet/Landais (F/F) Citroën DS3 R5 + 3m 42.0s

Competitor Update – 18 August 2016

Rally Hokkaido

  • A reminder that entries for Rally Hokkaido close on Friday 2 September.
  • Please check if you are required to get a visa for entry to Japan. Many countries are required to obtain a visa before arrival in Japan.
  • Similarly with driving licenses. Please check that your civil driving license is valid for Japan. Most will require an International Driving Permit (IDP) which is a translation of your existing civil license.
  • Rally Guide 2 is due to be published on Friday 2 September.
    Access to the Kita Aikoku service park will be from 0900 hrs on Monday 19 September. Team containers will be positioned in the SP from 0900 hrs.
  • We have a tight shipping schedule between Hokkaido and Malaysia. Containers are scheduled to be uplifted from Kita Aikoku service park Monday 26 September, from 0900 hrs.

Malaysian Rally

  • A revised version of Rally Guide 1 is now available on the event website.
  • Please note the revised prize list for overall winners. This is significant. To be eligible to collect the cash prizes, drivers must be present at the prizegiving dinner to be held on Sunday evening after the rally has finished.
  • A reminder that testing will be available on Wednesday 26 October. Application forms for testing are available online.

FIA Asia Cup Registration

  • A reminder that the close of registrations for FIA Asia Cup 2016 will be same time as close of entries for Rally Hokkaido – Friday 2 September/
  • Completed registration forms and registration fees should be sent prior to this date. Details on the APRC registration form available on the APRC website.

As always, any questions on any of the above, please contact me directly.

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator
+63 908 310 5888

China Rally – Stohl wins, Gill extends

China Rally 2016Dodging camels while driving on super-fast desert roads were just some of the challenges that drivers faced in the APRC China Rally.

The third round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship moved to a new location in Zhangye, a city in the far west of China and a stop on the ancient Silk Road.

Manfred Stohl from Austria in his R5 Citroen DS3 was a clear winner, leading the event from stage 1 and edging further ahead stage by stage.

Takayama passes Kreim, China Rally 2016India’s Gaurav Gill driving an MRF Skoda Fabia R5 was the only driver to challenge Stohl, but when he had to stop mid-stage to change a wheel, losing over 4 minutes in the process, the fight was over with Gill deciding that to finish second would still give him maximum APRC drivers points.

“Its been a great event for us, something completely new, very fast stages in the desert, very hot. The car went well, the tyres as well. Maximum points in the kitty, three out of three rallies, so couldn’t be better”, said Gill at the finish ceremony.

Third overall was Stohl’s Citroen team-mate Wang Hua from China also driving a Citroen DS3 using the power of R5 car, to stay well ahead of the rest of the field. There was a Citroen DS3 in 4th place too, but a less powerful two-wheel drive version driven by Australian Eli Evans.

Hitoshi Takayama, China Rally 2016After an early set-back when he lost time in the super-special, last year’s Asia Cup winner Hitoshi Takayama from Japan fought his way back to 5th overall and 2nd of the APRC registered drivers.

“I am so happy to make it back here to the finish, so many work people worked very hard for this result. Now I look forward to my home event in Japan”, said Takayama at final service.

New Zealander Mike Young was given the honour of driving the first Hybrid car on an international rally and dually rewarded Chinese car and battery manufacturer BYD with 6th place and winning the ‘New Energy Cup powered by Wuerth’ .

As he celebrated with the team Young said “Its been a great opportunity to drive a new car with new battery technology and get the result for BYD. It is very important for them as they have some big plans for rallying in the future’.

Mike Young, China Rally 2016MRF Skoda driver Fabian Kreim from Germany didn’t have such a good event as after consistently posting times in the top three, on SS5 a turbo blew ending any chance of a good finish. Kreim came back fighting on day 2, to be fastest driver of the day and to haul himself back onto the APRC podium and keep his driver titles chances alive.

Reflecting on the event, Kreim said “The event was good and bad together, today was very good for us – we were very fast and the feeling was quite good in the car. Yesterday we start slowly and safe, then we had some troubles with the turbo charger, but it’s part of the game and this happens. Overall we are really happy with our performance here”.

Following home 8th place was Zifeng Chengin a Citroen DS3 and final finisher Japan’s Satoshi Imai who went off on the first day ruining any chance of a good result.

The next event in the APRC calendar is the last weekend of September, when the drivers will fight it out on the fast forest stages of Japans, Rally Hokkaido.

Young Debuts Hybrid Rally Car in APRC

BYD on the start ramp, Rally China 2016This weekend’s China Rally will see a world first as Chinese car and battery manufacturer BYD debuts their Hybrid rally car in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

The car will be driven by regular APRC driver Mike Young from New Zealand who’s co-driver for this event is Long-she Zhung from China.

While the company has been competing in China for over two years, Young will be BYD’s first international driver and Young said: “This is an exciting opportunity to work with a rally team that’s bringing the latest battery and New Energy technology into motorsport. This is the future of racing and its great to be part of that process”.

While Young is entered into the FIA APRC event, he and BYD will not be eligible to score championship points as the car is entered under ASN regulations, but is still ecstatic to be among the first to drive a hybrid rally car in an FIA rally event.

“BYD, the APRC and even the WRC are very keen to see this car [BYD Hybrid] running in more international events and to the FIA rules and regulations, so I’m honoured to be among the first in the world to be offered the opportunity to do this,” continued Young.

Mr LV, Mike Young and Longxi Zhang, Rally China 2016Team principal for BYD Hongzhi Zhang is equally excited by this opportunity “BYD is very happy to be the first hybrid car to enter the international FIA APRC and be a global leader in our category,”

Although not well known outside China, BYD produced more plug-in electric cars than any other company in the world last year and have backing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and more recently Samsung Electronics.

With an eye on the future of rallying APRC Working Group president Steven Kennedy said: “Having the BYD Hybrid vehicle run in the APRC event has some great opportunities for us and rallying in the region. It will provide a significant test as it will be driven by a driver whose performance we know and will be observed by FIA APRC officials at the event who will provide feedback on the likely hood of this type of category being something we need to seek a category recognition for in the future.”

Zhangye is the new base for the 2016 FIA APRC China Rally and also doubles as a round of the Chinese Rally Championship (CRC). With most of event run in desert like conditions in temperature of 35C plus, the 239 kilometres of special stages will be a real challenge for all competitors.

ŠKODA Keen to Keep Winning

Skoda, 2016 Rally Whangarei“The Chinese market is paramount for the ŠKODA brand. So it is no surprise that we want to show our best side there and aim for the win,” said ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek, and added: “The ŠKODA drivers are doing a fantastic job this season and I am sure that they will be up there right at the front again in China. It will be far from easy since the event is completely new territory for us as the location has changed compared with the APRC rallies in previous years in China.”

This is the first time that the prestigious continental championship has a rally in a desert region in store for the ŠKODA team.

In previous years, the APRC Rally China was held in Longyou, in the province of Zhejiang around 400 kilometres away from the metropolis of Shanghai, but this season the organizers switched the location to the north of the People’s Republic, to Zhangye in the province of Gansu. There will be a total of nine special stages, over which the drivers and co-drivers must complete 235.45 kilometres on the gravel tracks.

A new challenge for the experienced ŠKODA MRF team. But the ŠKODA Fabia R5’s season tally to date is positive and speaks for itself: Two races, two one-two results – you can’t do better than that.

Fabian Kreim, 2016 Rally WhangareiTogether with co-driver Glenn Macneall, Gaurav Gill won both times, so the Indian’s interim conclusion is correspondingly positive: “The season couldn’t have gotten off to a better start for me. The two wins mean I have given myself a slight buffer in the championship, but I can’t rest on that since the competition is strong, particularly in my own ranks.”

He means Fabian Kreim, who in second place in the overall standings of the APRC with 61 points behind Gill (77) is still in with a good chance of the title. The German who is contesting the APRC for the first time this season was convincing in the first two rallies, finishing second both times. And on gravel – a surface on which the 23-year-old had never contested a rally before. “I have already learned a great deal so far this season and am pleased with my development. As a newcomer, to be second in the championship after two rallies is fantastic,” said Kreim. In addition to the APRC, he also contests the DRM – also with the ŠKODA Fabia R5 and also extremely successfully. With his win at the Thuringia rally in mid-July, Kreim extended his lead in the overall classification of the German championship further.

For the ŠKODA junior driver, the event in the Far East is also a trial run for the WRC in Germany (18 to 21 August), where Kreim will compete with the world’s elite in rallying. The ŠKODA Motorsport team will contest the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2) there. Then the team will also travel to China: The WRC event in ŠKODA’s core market of China takes place from 8 to 11 September.