Takale achieves target in Japan

Sanjay Takale, Rally Hokkaido 2016International rally driver, Sanjay Takale, achieved all of his goals at the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held at Rally Hokkaido in Japan over the weekend and finished in eighth overall.

After missing the previous round in China, Takale simply wanted to finish the rally to get “valuable seat time” and points for the Asia Cup in his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza.
Having achieved his targets, Takale said “I am very happy. I drove well I think, considering the health issues I’ve had.”

“Plus here [super special stage] I did it in less than a minute which I didn’t think was possible, so I’m really happy with that and my improvement over the weekend with speed and things.”

With his focus now on the Asia Cup, contested over the four Asian-based rounds and finishing at Takale’s home event in India, Takale vows to improve his fitness to increase his chances of a podium position in the Asia Cup. “I will work hard on my fitness so maybe I get a few seconds more in the stages. I’m not fully fit again yet after last year but I want to be better so I will simply work hard,” he said.
Takale also said he loves coming to Japan because of the roads, the people and the hospitality of his Cusco team who are based in Japan.

“Here the people are so friendly. The roads a great and everything is properly organised. It’s one of the best rallies I think.”

Sanjay Takale, Rally Hokkaido 2016The Pune-based driver also had the added advantage of a local Japanese co-driver, Noriko Takeshita, who gave Takale a lot of tips on the tricky and deceptive parts of the rally. “In the recce she [Takeshita] knew a lot of things like where people had gone off, or what was tricky, so it really helped adding cautions and things to my notes. Everything was helpful and it was really great having her with me on this event,” said Takale.

Rally Hokkaido also saw the formation of a new partnership between Takale and EZY Racing, who come on board from Sri Lanka to help both Takale and his team-mate Mike Young of New Zealand achieve their international rallying goals.

“I am very fortunate to have support from EZY Racing and I’m pleased we could start this weekend. I look forward to working with them for along time,” said Takale.

The next round on Takale’s calendar is the Malaysian Rally, held in Johor Bahru on October 29-30, which Takale said is a “like his home rally” because he’s done it so many times.

Gill Dominates in Japan

Gaurav Gill, Rally Hokkaido 2016Gaurav Gill has continued his dominant form at the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) at Rally Hokkaido in Japan, to take his fourth consecutive win this season in his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5.

After building up a substantial lead against his rivals on Saturday, Gill continued his charge today to finish almost two minutes ahead of his Team MRF Skoda team-mate Fabian Kreim, even though the young German driver won several stages throughout the weekend.

Fabiam Kreim, Rally Hokkaido 2016“It’s great to win. Four out of four is awesome,” said Gill. “Everything worked well. The tyres worked well since Saturday when it was wet on the tarmac and I have to thank the team for the good setup.
“It was a very difficult rally because of weather conditions constantly changing. Mornings are all wet, afternoon became all dry, then become pretty rough, so pretty difficult but I’m happy.”

Whilst Kreim is competing in the APRC or the first time in 2016, he has continued to impress by taking his third podium finish this season and now sits second in the championship. “I think we got a lot of experience especially on these very demanding roads with very fast parts and very big ruts. All of the ruts have a lot of loose gravel and compared to the other events, it’s completely new to us and it’s very good for us,” said Kreim.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016Rounding out the podium in third place was New Zealander Mike Young, whose main focus was bringing home a podium for his Japanese team Cusco Racing. “We’re happy. I guess we were the best of the Group N cars so it’s really good for our team,” said Young. “We pushed hard when we could and backed off when it was a bit rough. We had a few issues with punctures and stuff but it’s a good result for Cusco and EZY Racing.”

Local driver, Hitoshi Takayama, threw down the challenge to Young as he wanted to take the final podium place, but had to settle for fourth after Young fought back. “I am really happy to be here,” said Takayama. “I very enjoy the fight with Michael [Young] but I want to drive faster and better.”

Young’s Cusco EZY Racing team-mate, Sanjay Takale, managed to finish in eighth after what he described as a challenging weekend. “I am very happy. The roads were slippery but I got more confident in the afternoon on both days,” said Takale.

Sanjay Takale, Rally Hokkaido 2016While the overnight positions didn’t change for the top four, many other APRC competitors came unstuck on today’s seven stages including Satoshi Imai, which changed the results significantly. Engine failure forced Imai into retirement in stage 14 after he held fifth place for most of the weekend. His co-driver Jason Farmer said they were “gutted”. Kumiko Koide, Koji Miyamoto and Yuya Sumiyama also retired during the second day due to mechanical failures.

In total, eight competitors in the international field struck trouble during the 198 kilometres of special stages in what proved to be a challenging event for the crews. Interestingly, the two Skoda Fabia R5’s driven by Gill and Kreim won all 17 stages of Rally Hokkaido, making the weekend even more special for the team.

The next event on the APRC calendar is the Malaysian Rally, held on 29-30 October in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.

Rally Hokkaido 2016 Results

1, Gill/Prevot, 2:00:23.9
2, Kreim/Christian, +1:50.6
3, Young/Read, +2:03.8
4, Takayama/Takeyabu, +54.5
5, Iwashita/Takahashi, +8:27.2

Podium for Young in Japan

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016Mike Young has managed to secure third place at the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) after several close battles, held at Rally Hokkaido in Japan.

After sitting in second place for most of the first day in his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza, Young fell to third after two punctures handing the runner-up position to Fabian Kreim of Germany in the process, who drives a much faster Skoda Fabia R5.

“We’re happy to hold onto third place, especially when you consider what we were up against. I suppose we were the best of the Group N cars so it’s good for our team,” said Young. “We pushed hard when we could and backed off when it was a bit rough but it’s a good result for Cusco and EZY Racing.”

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016“Plus we really enjoyed the battles with both Fabian [Kreim] and Hitoshi-san [Takayama] but it’s a real shame a flat tyre ended the battle with Fabian. They kept us alert and it was good to be pushed.”

Japanese driver Hitoshi Takayama also vowed to challenge Young for the third place, and managed to reduce the gap at one time to approximately 20 seconds, but Young fought back and ended the rally 54 seconds ahead of Takayama.

Rally Hokkaido is a special event for Young as it’s also the home of his team, Cusco, and meant there was never a dull moment for himself and co-driver Malcolm Read.
“Japan is one of my favourite rallies because the fans are just awesome. They are so passionate and even if the weather is bad, they’ll still make the effort to watch.”
“Plus it’s great to be with the entire Cusco team again. It’s the one time all of us get together and I really enjoy it.”

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016Read echoes Young’s sentiments and added, “The calibre of Mike’s driving continues to impress me. His skill was reflected with the stage times against the R5’s this weekend and it’s great to do it at Cusco’s home event.”

The next round on Young’s calendar is the Malaysian Rally, held in Johor Bahru on October 29-30, which Young said is a “huge challenge”.

“We want to take the fight to the Skoda’s in Malaysia, plus enjoy the warm weather. Malaysia is hugely challenging but I can’t wait,” Young said. “Plus I believe EZY Racing are coming along and it’s always great to have their support as it really helps.”

To keep up to date between rounds visit the Mike Young Motorsport Facebook page.

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

Source: Team Release

Clear leader emerges at Rally Hokkaido

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016A trouble free run has seen Team MRF Skoda driver, Gaurav Gill, emerge as a clear leader at the fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) this weekend at Rally Hokkaido in Japan.

Capitalising on his vast experience, Gill (India) was able to pull away from the other front-runners early on in his Skoda Fabia R5 and maintained his lead throughout the day to finish almost a minute and a half ahead of his rivals.

“It’s been a good day. I’ve had good rhythm and speed, it was smooth sailing with Stephane [Prevot, co-driver] and that was something I was nervous about prior to the rally. But we have really good setup, although we made a few changes to the car and it’s working very well and I wish to continue like this tomorrow,” said Gill.

Meanwhile, his German team-mate Fabian Kreim managed to fight his way back into second after a troublesome morning, which saw him with very little rear grip and a puncture on stage four. “So far not bad for the first time here. It was not so easy, there are very deep ruts and a lot of deep gravel, but so far we are satisfied. The car setup is getting better and better and we will keep trying tomorrow. I think some more changing on setup tonight and then we will see,” said Kreim.

Masamura, Rally Hokkaido 2016New Zealander Mike Young also suffered a puncture in exactly the same place as Kreim, as a section of a cattle grid (or grate) became dislodged and caused punctures to multiple competitors; all on the right hand side of the car. Young had managed to hold second place all morning, but fell to third at the end of the first day after suffering from a second puncture, like other competitors behind him.

“We’re reasonably happy with that [third]. It’s a shame our battle with Fabian [Kreim] ended with a flat tyre but we were going okay before that. The second flat tyre cost us quite a bit of time but the rest of the stages were good,” said Young.

Coming in fourth is local Japanese driver Hitoshi Takayama in a Subaru Impreza, less than a minute behind Young and said he will push hard to get that final podium spot.

“It’s good. I’m really enjoying competing with Young but he’s very fast and I try to attack tomorrow. I’ll push hard and check the pace-notes several times tonight. The car has no problem and the driving feel is good,” said Takayama.

Rounding out the top five is Satoshi Imai in a Mitsubishi Evolution, who came close to “coming off the road” earlier in the day. “I think I have done what I have to do. Tomorrow I just keep position” said Imai. His co-driver, Jason Farmer, said, “we’ve had two punctures today which cost us about 50 seconds, so it’s a bit frustrating but we’ll keep going.”

APRC registered driver, Sanjay Takale, also has troubles getting grip on the slippery road surface this morning although he feels the grip is increasing, therefore so is his speed. “It was a good day. I think we starting going faster the second time around, more confident. I think after a break of one year, it is good to be back in action and get more seat time, said Takale.

Takayama, Rally Hokkaido 2016However, the day was packed full of drama for many other competitors. Yuya Sumiyama, in a Cusco Toyota Vitz, retired after the first stage with a driveshaft issue but looks likely to return tomorrow for day two.

Dinesh Deheregoda is not set to return tomorrow after he was forced into retirement with a broken gearbox after the first stage this morning, where he lost almost an hour. It is an unfortunate twist for the Sri Lankan driver who has attempted Rally Hokkaido multiple times but has suffered from mechanical issues each time.

Rally Hokkaido continues tomorrow with seven special stages, starting at 6.00am local time. The rally is then set to finish at approximately 17.40 local time near Obihiro after a short super special sprint near the main service park.

Conditions a challenge in Hokkaido

Gaurav Gill, Rally Hokkaido 2016The fourth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), Rally Hokkaido, is underway this evening in Obihiro, with every driver citing difficult road conditions due to a recent typhoon.

Current APRC drivers’ championship leader Gaurav Gill of India said he’s looking forward to the event although admits it will be a tough challenge due the conditions. “It’s a good feeling to be back in Japan,” Gill said. “This year we have some new stages to see and it’s quite rough because after the rains, the stages are very rough, so we’ll have to be very careful with the speed there.”

His Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 has also undergone some changes ahead of the event, based in the northern-most island of Japan. “The car is completely different from the last rally in China. As I said it is very rough so we have to change the setup completely and make sure everything is safe.”

Meanwhile, Gill’s Team MRF team-mate and current second-placed championship driver Fabian Kreim of Germany is again looking forward to soaking up the experience of a new country and more unfamiliar conditions. “I think the stages are very nice here, lots of deep gravel and big rocks, but it is a new experience for us. We have to change our style from tarmac as we’ve had a lot of rallies in Europe since China,” said Kreim.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2016“We had some rough parts [of the road] in Australia, and here we have also rough parts but I think the Skoda will be very good in those sections.”

New Zealander Mike Young, who is competing in Hokkaido for the fifth time, is hoping to bring home a strong result for his Japanese Cusco team. “I’m feeling quietly confident ahead of this rally. It is the home of Cusco so I want to do a really good rally for them. Hopefully we can step up and increase our pace,” he said.

His Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza has also undergone changes similar to the Team MRF Skoda’s, including an increase of the ride height because “it’s rough in some places”.

Young’s Cusco EZY Racing team-mate, Sanjay Takale of India, is also hoping for a good result on the fast, narrow roads in Hokkaido to secure a podium in the Asia Cup. “I would like to finish the rally. It’s very challenging I think, and the roads are a bit washed up, so it’s going to be hard on the car, so we have to save the car and at the same time drive fast also,” Takale said.

“But I think the most important thing is to write down the pace notes very correctly, where it’s dangerous and so on, so we can be fast and safe.” A bunch of local drivers are also set to take on the international crews, including front runners Hitoshi Takayama in a Subaru Impreza and Satoshi Imai in his Mitsubishi Evolution, who is joined by a New Zealand co-driver Jason Farmer.

Tomohide Hasegawa, Rally Hokkaido 2016Yuya Sumiyama also makes a return to the APRC in a four-wheel-drive Cusco Toyota Vitz, currently under AP4 development, and based on his performance during initial testing, he seems to be comfortable with the car. This prototype makes it’s international debut at Rally Hokkaido and so far, is proving to be very popular with rally fans.

“This car is a development car and we plan to build an AP4 car in the future because there is a need in Japan for a car like this,” said Cusco president Tsutomo Nagase.

Seeded ninth, and also making a return to the APRC is Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Deheragoda behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Evolution. “This is the third time I’m in Hokkaido and we had some mechanical problems the previous years, and now I’m more familiar with the stages. I hope the weather will be fine on the weekend so we can enjoy the rally and have a good finish on Sunday,” said Deheragoda.

With over 20 drivers registered in the international field, it is sure to be a tight fight until the last stage, with two days of competition across 220kms and 16 special stages. The rally will finish at approximately 17.40 local time on Sunday near Obihiro.

Takale aims for Asia Cup in Hokkaido

Following a three month break since his last Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) event, Sanjay Takale is looking forward to scoring maximum points at one of his favourite rallies, Rally Hokkaido in Japan, held this weekend in Obihiro.

With Takale’s overall APRC Championship hopes fading, he wants to make a strong start in the Asia Cup behind the wheel of his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza, contested over the four Asia-based rounds, including Rally Hokkaido.

“I am behind everyone and at this late stage of the championship I can drive without any pressure of winning points for overall championship. Still I would like to give it my best shot and earn Asia Cup points and be in contention for top spots on the podium given that the final round is in India and that will be something to drive in and show some mettle,” said Takale.

An exciting development for Takale at Rally Hokkaido is becoming part of the EZY Racing team, which sees him and team-mate New Zealander Mike Young combine as Cusco EZY Racing team-mates, leading to more opportunities for Takale around the globe.

While this is Takale’s fourth time at Rally Hokkaido, he says the roads are still tricky, especially with recent storms changing the conditions.

“The roads in Obihiro province are very tricky to say the least. Also rains over last few weeks have rendered the course very thick, but I am sure I can manage that. Early this year I came to Japan to do an ice rally and having done that now, I think any terrain is beatable terrain provided you steer clear of obvious mistakes.”

Takale is also joined by a local Japanese co-driver for the event, Noriko Takeshita, who has done Rally Hokkaido  numerous times and brings a huge amount of expertise to the car.

“She [Takeshita] is probably my biggest asset in Rally Hokkaido. She has co-driven extensively in the region and knows almost every corner of the course, plus knows the weather conditions very well.”

Takale also has the advantage of driving for a Japanese team, Cusco, which he says makes the event even more special.

“Cusco are a great team and have many fans here in Japan. They [the fans] are the most likeable as they gather in hundreds and cheer for us, so it is a real pleasure to be driving for them.”

Takale also visited Cusco’s headquarters in Tokyo before the event, to see where all the “hard work” gets done.

Rally Hokkaido gets underway on Friday night with one short super special stage, before two days of competition across 177.12 kilometres and 16 special stages. The rally will finish at approximately 14.50 local time on Sunday.