Second APRC Title for Gill

Gaurav Gill, Malaysian Rally 2016Gaurav Gill dominated the fifth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held at the Malaysian Rally this weekend in his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5, after winning the event with a commanding margin and also claiming the overall APRC drivers’ championship a round early.

Gill (India) and co-driver Glenn Macneall (Australia) built their lead from the very first stage before simply maintaining the gap after their fellow competitors suffered misfortunes over the two-day event around Kota Tinggi. The result means Gill can now be crowned the 2016 APRC drivers’ champion, the second time he has done so, and also helped Skoda claim the manufacturers championship a round early.

“I couldn’t ask for more. This year has been awesome and we’ve worked really hard. The car has been perfect, the team has been perfect, and we’ve had the perfect tyres and perfect setup at every rally which has helped us to get to where we are. I can’t thank the team enough,” said an elated Gill.

“Malaysia is one of the most difficult rallies of the year, it always has been, so it’s always a challenge to arrive at the end. Glenn [Macneall] has been a great co-driver and he’s been giving me tips on how to drive all these years so it’s been an amazing journey and I’m very thankful,” Gill continued.

While celebrations were enjoyed in the Team MRF Skoda camp, Jari Ketomaa and co-driver Mikko Lukka of Finland also celebrated with their Mitsubishi Mirage team after claiming the runner-up spot.

“It’s a great result, perfect actually. I am really happy but we also learnt a lot about the car setup. We know the things we need to do to get more speed so hopefully when I return to Malaysia, I can be fighting for the victory,” said Ketomaa.

Rounding out the podium in third was Japanese driver Yuya Sumiyama in a Cusco prepared Subaru, joined by co-driver Takahiro Yasui, who moved up to third following their team-mates retirement earlier in the day.

“Very very happy to come third. Today stages very slippery and very difficult roads. But car was good, no problems,” said Sumiyama.

Mike Young, Malaysian Rally 2016Indian driver Sanjay Takale, also in a Cusco Subaru, finished in fourth and is overwhelmed with his result at the notoriously difficult event near Johor Bahru. Takale also managed to secure first overall in the national Malaysian Rally Championship that ran alongside the international event, ahead of local rallying legend Karamjit Singh.

“I am very happy, I have never been on such a high in my entire career. We had a simply strategy and that was to ‘stay centre’. We were patient and it paid off,” explained Takale, who also added it was great to get the result on an important day for many around the world; Diwaili.

After retiring on the first day with a gearbox issue and re-joining under the rally rules for day two, German driver Fabian Kreim claimed fifth with his co-driver Frank Christian in their Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5. Despite being in his first year of gravel rallying Kreim has shown he has raw speed and has managed to claim multiple podium places, adding to the significant points margin in the manufacturers championship which Skoda has now claimed.

“It was quite good today. The roads were difficult and slippery again but we had the right tyre choice and so of course, we are happy with our results,” said Kreim.

“We were maybe a little faster today too but of course Gaurav [Gill] was not driving so fast today. The important thing is experience so that’s why we have tried to push a little harder and now we have won five stages today which is not bad for us,” Kreim continued.

It was a sad end to a promising rally for New Zealanders Mike Young and Malcolm Read in their Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza. The duo ended up in a deep ditch during the first stage of the morning and despite their best efforts, could not get it unstuck and were forced to retire from a potential podium place.

“It was such a simple thing. The corner didn’t have a ditch to start with but suddenly the ditch came and we just slipped in. The car has absolutely no damage so while we’re gutted about retiring, we can be happy that the car is ready for the next round and also that our speed was good,” said Young.

The next and final round of the APRC is Rally of India, held near Bangalore, where both Gill and Takale will get to drive in front of their friends, family and local fans.

Gill Closes in on APRC title

Gaurav Gill has managed to extend his FIA Asia Pacific Championship (APRC) lead further at the first day of the Malaysian Rally, after dominating the time sheets and the subsequent retirement of his closest rival and team-mate Fabian Kreim.

The much anticipated rain never arrived meaning the stages stayed relatively dry throughout the day, although drivers maintained the roads were incredibly slippery in parts and the heat made the challenge even greater.

With the retirement of his Team MRF Skoda team-mate, Indian driver Gill now only needs mere points to seal the APRC drivers’ championship a round early if he completes the rally tomorrow.

Mike Young, Rally Malaysia 2016“We are really happy to be in front but the rally is not over yet and as you know Malaysia is very tricky and anything can happen at any time,” said Gill. “This rally is not just about competing against each other. It’s also about competing against the rally itself. The Malaysian Rally can bite you pretty hard and make things worse for you, so you really have to respect it.”

“The Team MRF Skoda has been great. We had some problems with overheating in the morning but nothing in the afternoon. I think that’s because there wasn’t as much grass blocking the radiator and it was a bit cooler in the afternoon, so that’s been helping the car temperatures to stay cooler.”

Meanwhile Kreim remains optimistic and vows to return on Sunday if the car can be repaired in time. “It’s all part of the game,” said Kreim upon returning to the service park. “We will hope to re-join tomorrow and keep going.”

After making a small mistake, Kreim went to select reverse and in his own words, “maybe I selected it [reverse] too quickly. Something maybe broke inside the gearbox and from there I only had first gear. It was too slow for us to continue.”

Kreim’s retirement promoted Finnish driver Jari Ketomaa to second place behind the wheel of his Mitsubishi Mirage run out of Sweden. While the car still requires FIA-homologation, it is already proving to be a threat to the Skoda R5’s here in Malaysia and may be a car to watch in future.

Ketomaa said “It was great but it has been such a tough day. I couldn’t imagine this at all. I mean, I have done many world rally events in my life and hundreds of other events all around the world but this is the most toughest day I’ve ever had.”

Jari Ketomaa, Rally Malaysia 2016“We have had absolutely no trouble with the car at all. Obviously the speed is not what we want to be so the speed is a disappointment but we know exactly why. We know the points we need to improve and then we can get the speed up immediately,” Ketomaa continued.

Rounding out the podium in third is New Zealander Mike Young, who is also battling a head-cold making his Malaysian Rally event much harder in his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza.

“My arms were getting weak halfway through some of the longer stages and my concentration just isn’t there because of this flu. But everything is going well and we’re really happy with third,” Young said.

“We made a good tyre choice sticking with the rally tyre over the muds [mud-tyres] as the roads dried out quite a bit. We also had a puncture that cost us about 10 seconds but other than that, the Cusco car is great.”

Young’s Cusco team-mate Yuya Sumiyama ends the day in fourth after a steady drive through the tricky, narrow roads, although he also suffered a puncture during the day which also cost him time.

“Not good day. We struggle but rest tonight and hopefully better tomorrow,” said Sumiyama.

Completing the top five is Sanjay Takale, also part of Cusco EZY Racing in a similar Group N Subaru Impreza, who will be aiming for maximum points in the Asia Cup and Production Cup which was his main goal here.

“I am very happy with how the day has gone. I am getting quicker which is the main aim and in one stage, I beat my own time by nearly a minute in the second pass. I pulled up my socks and got on with it and hope to do it again tomorrow,” said Takale.

The Malaysian Rally continues tomorrow across six closed special stages totalling approximately 67 kilometers. The rally then concludes at Angsana Complex in Johor Bahru at approximately 4.00pm where a ceremonial finish will take place.

Outright speed not the key in Malaysia

Rally crews from eight countries around the world are getting ready to tackle the fifth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) this weekend at the Malaysian Rally, held in Johor Bahru, which is already promising to be the most challenging event of the year.

Daily thunderstorms have swept through the region and while this hasn’t caused damage to the roads, teams say it will be difficult to get car setup right due to the constantly changing conditions. Stages can start completely dry with loose surface gravel before turning into a mud bath later in the same section.

Tyre choice, car setup including suspension settings, tyre wear and mental alertness could all play a huge part in this rally but teams say they relish the challenge and can’t wait to tackle the 14 special stages.

After 3 wins out of 4 events, current APRC championship leader Gaurav Gill is hoping to continue his dominant charge in Malaysia, especially after his Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5 has undergone routine upgrades and parts replacements following the last round in Japan.

“At the end of Rally Hokkaido the team decided to change the engine as a precaution so we put a new one in for this rally knowing it’s a difficult event. So they [team engineers and mechanics] have been at it for the past couple of days preparing everything,” said Gill.

The test held on Wednesday was Gill’s first chance to test the new engine and ensure everything is set right for the upcoming rally, which he also says is incredibly difficult on the car, mind and body.

“The first run of the new engine has been quite good. We had to do a bit of tuning for the suspension to make it softer because there are so many junctions, and it’s better to have good speed in and out of the junctions. But it’s a long rally and it’s very difficult, probably the most difficult of the year so we have to be very careful,” Gill continued.

Meanwhile Gill’s Team MRF team-mate, Fabian Kreim of Germany, is keen to continue his momentum in the APRC Championship and will be looking to push for another podium finish, especially after the high of winning the German Rally Championship last weekend.

“We will push for sure. I have a very good feeling in the car after the test and I hope that we can drive as fast as Gaurav [Gill],” said Kreim.

Although Kreim admits this rally is completely different to any other rally he has done in the past and is looking to extend his experience on various road surfaces around the world.

“It’s hot and the humidity is quite high here. It’s a very different rally to all the other APRC rounds and I think this will be a very big challenge for us. But already the feeling in the car is better than Japan so we feel confident,” he said.

New Zealander Mike Young will continue to chase down the R5 Skoda’s at this event in his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza but maintains this rally is not about speed, but is rather about survival.

“You have to have a level head and approach this rally a little differently. You can’t go flat out all the time and have to keep a bit in reserve for places that could catch you out, especially because you get so hot and don’t concentrate as much as you should,” Young explained.

“It’s certainly going to be very tough out there but that’s what we have been training for. Mentally you also have to be quite strong and just focus on the game.”

His Cusco EZY Racing team-mate Sanjay Takale of India, who has extensive experience in this region, is also looking forward to the challenge of the notoriously difficult stages although said his goal is to simply finish.

“This rally is a game of surviving,” said Takale. “You have to be neat and tight on all the corners so you have to balance that with the speed. Of course my first aim is to finish and then we see if I can climb up [the leader board] from there.”

“Plus I really enjoy this rally because it is like a second home to me. I won the Malaysian Rally Championship here in 2011 so hopefully that works to my advantage this year,” he continued.

Finnish driver Jari Ketomaa is also joining the international field at the Malaysian Rally this year in the newly built Mitsubishi Mirage. While this car is built to R5 specifications, it’s not yet FIA homologated but the team still saw the Malaysian event as a good opportunity to test the car in the difficult conditions, giving them a chance to truly test its reliability and strength.

Two time winner of the FIA Asia Cup Yuya Sumiyama from Japan returns to Malaysia in a Cusco prepared Subaru Impreza, who will also be hunting for a top result here. After competing in the Malaysian Rally several times, and scoring as high as second in the past, Sumiyama will be a force to be reckoned with here.

Fellow countryman Makoto Kawahara also returns to the APRC in Malaysia after competing in other rounds including New Zealand. His focus is on finishing and getting more points in FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Cup powered by WÜRTH where he currently sits in seventh.

The Malaysian Rally gets underway on Friday evening from 8.45pm at the Angsana Complex before crews tackle 234 kilometres of closed special stages on Saturday and Sunday around the palm oil plantations near Kota Tinggi. The rally then finishes up back at Angsana Complex in Johor Bahru at approximately 4.00pm on Sunday.

Takale to push in Malaysia

Sanjay Takale, Malaysian Rally 2014Indian rally driver Sanjay Takale feels right at home on Malaysian Roads, so the experienced driver is confident of a good result at the fifth round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held this weekend in Johor Bahru.

Behind the wheel of his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza, Takale is aiming for a podium place in both the Asia Cup and Production Cup titles as well as gaining valuable overall APRC drivers’ points.

“I can look at podium finish in Asia Cup as I am only 11 points away from the third-placed driver, who is my teammate at Cusco-EZY Racing Michael Young. I am currently fifth in Asia Cup but the fight is very much there,” said Takale.

“Also in the overall APRC championship I am fourth and though Young has good lead over me, my plan would be to first finish and then earn good points in Malaysia,” he continued.

Takale’s team-mate, New Zealander Michael Young, is also his biggest rival although the pair are good friends and often swap information on the roads, cars and everything to do with the rally.

“Unfortunately and fortunately, my main rival is my own teammate Michael Young. But I know he is great driver and I have full respect for his driving abilities. He is driving a much slower car than the leaders from MRF-Skoda team, but his times are very good,” Takale explained.

Sanjay Takale, Rally of Queensland 2016While Takale and Japanese co-driver Noriko Takeshita, who has joined Takale since the first round in New Zealand, are in the hunt for multiple podiums across the various APRC classes including the Production Cup, Takale knows they have a huge challenge ahead of them and will be drawing on his vast experience across the often car-breaking roads. Since winning the Malaysian Rally Championship in 2011, Takale has competed in the region a lot and is probably one of the most experienced drivers on these roads at the event this year.

“Malaysia is like my second home. I have done more rallies here than anywhere else. The route has slippery stages and tropical climate makes driving in Johor one of the toughest in the world. If it rains then the track becomes rough and slippery.

“Actually, you never know how slippery they are till you go on to them. The terrain is simply unforgiving, even if you make one small mistake,” explained Takale.

In the meantime, Takale’s main focus is preparing for the rally with extra fitness and eating well ahead of the official start later this week after being delayed by 24 hours at the airport, making it to testing just in time. Plus he’s joined by two very special guests who have travelled with him from India who he said he is looking forward to hosting at this event.

“Two of my friends in Media are coming for the rally. Kirti Patil and Mukund Potdar will actually be watching me drive in Malaysia for the first time. They have written reams about me in their respective newspapers, so it will be an experience for them too and I’m honoured to have them here.”

Source: Team Release

Young: “Toughest APRC rally”

Mike Young, Malaysia pre-event testingInternational Kiwi rally driver Mike Young is set to tackle the fifth round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) this weekend in Malaysia, as he continues to aim for the top in the overall APRC drivers’ championship.

While he currently sits in third with his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza, Young is hoping to simply maintain that position and finish the rally, which he describes as “one of the toughest rallies I’ve ever done”.

“The Malaysian Rally is notoriously difficult, as I’m sure you’ve already heard. It’s always a good challenge but you have to drive to survive here otherwise it can be over so quickly,” said Young.

“Not only are the roads tricky but inside the car temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius so it makes things quite difficult. You learn how to manage it but you can quickly lose your concentration in that kind of heat so you always have to be careful. Due to all that, the finishing rate is quite low which can work in your favour if you’re one of the ones to finish,” he continued.

The narrow muddy roads of Malaysia often have deep car-breaking ditches lining each side of the road with huge trees right on the roads edge in other places; both tricky obstacles which Young is familiar with and keen to avoid.

“I’ve enjoyed good success in Malaysia in the past but last year I pushed too hard to quick and made a big mistake. It ended our rally on one of the early stages and while we were able to re-join, it really cost us so I don’t want to be making that mistake again,” Young explained.

Young credits his navigator, Malcolm Read for keeping him focused while increasing his speed due to the development of their pace-notes [detailed rally directions].

“Malcolm [Read] and I have been working really hard on developing our notes to get more information in there so we can push harder and go faster. It’s certainly working but we’ll need to get them absolutely right here as the conditions can change so quickly here with rain and so on,” he said.

Malcolm Read and Mike YoungIt is a special event for Young and co-driver Read of Hamilton who started their professional partnership at this event four years ago, and in that time, the duo have gone on to enjoy multiple regional successes including youngest driver to win the FIA Asia Cup. Interestingly, the Malaysian Rally also marks Read’s 100th event since starting with well-known rally driver Miles McElwain in New Zealand around 10 years ago, so a good result would be extra special for the Kiwi pair in Malaysia.

With the backing of both Cusco (based in Japan) and EZY Racing (based in Sri Lanka), the pair believe that while they’re in a slightly heavier and older Group N Subaru Impreza, they can challenge for a podium if they get the formula right.

“The Cusco EZY Racing Subaru will have to undergo a lot of changes ahead of this rally [Malaysia]. Everything is completely different to the fast roads of Japan but I have the best team behind me and I’m sure they’ll give me a great car,” said Young.

The Cusco prepared Subaru has undergone a major overhaul of parts throughout the car in preparation for the gruelling event although Young says even if the roads are dry like they were at testing today, it can still be slippery due to the “pea-stones” which are like marbles but admits it shouldn’t be too much of a problem being seeded third on the road. Although the biggest challenge for Young may come in the form of his team-mate Yuya Sumiyama who is seeded behind him.

“I think my biggest rival will be my Cusco team-mate Yuya [Sumiyama]. He’s very quick and has a lot of experience on these roads. It will be good to go head-to-head with him and compare times but it’s also really important for us to think about the overall APRC drivers’ championship where we currently have a podium place. We don’t want to lose that,” Young said.

In the meantime, Young and Read have a busy schedule ahead of them in Malaysia ahead of the official start later in the week. Both say they are looking forward to everything Malaysia has to offer including “the amazing food and awesome culture”, ahead of testing, reconnaissance [preview to rally stages where the teams write pace notes] and sponsor events.

The Malaysian Rally is Young’s seventh international rally of the year, which has seen the 23-year-old compete in Estonia in a Markko Martin Motorsport prepared car, along with two events in Japan, and the rest of the APRC where he also debuted the BYD hybrid car in China; a first for an FIA-sanctioned event.

The Malaysian Rally gets underway on Friday evening from 8.45pm at the Angsana Complex before crews tackle 234 kilometers of closed special stages on Saturday and Sunday around the palm oil plantations near Kota Tinggi.

Source: Team Release

Competitor Update – 5 October 2016

Malaysian Rally

  • A reminder that entries for Malaysian Rally close on Friday 7 October, ie in 2 days time. Please ensure you send your entries in good time.
  • Supplementary Regulations are available on the website (note: the website was down but now back online)
  • Rally Guide 2 is due to be published on Friday 7 October.
  • As per previous information, team containers are due to be available at Angsana SP on Saturday 22 October.
  • I expect to do customs inspections on Friday evening, 21 October.
  • My local mobile in Malaysia will be +61 13 612 7784 (013 612 7784 locally)
  • Any questions regarding transfers from Singapore Changi airport, I can provide contact details for reliable transfer service from Changi to Grand Paragon Hotel.
  • We are on a tight schedule to ship from Malaysia to next rally in India. Customs inspections will take place on Monday 31 October at Angsana SP, then moved directly to Pasir Gudang port.
  • If you have any special requests for the layout of your service area in Angsana, please advise myself and organisers as soon as possible.

India Rally

  • Yet another reminder that India Rally 2016 will be held Saturday 3 December to Monday 5 December.
  • Team containers will be railed from the port of Chennai to Inland Customs Depot (ICD) Bangalore.
  • This is where customs inspections will take place.
  • Teams should allow to have at least 1 staff member on site for both the import and the export customs inspections. IMPORT 25 November – EXPORT 7 December. Note: these dates are still to be confirmed.
  • Bangalore has an international airport served by most major airlines so is the natural choice for entry/exit India. I have been given advice on hotels close by the customs inspection depot. I can supply this on request.
  • After customs inspections at ICD Bangalore, team containers will be moved to Chikmaglur and the ABC Classic service park. They will be available from Monday 28 November or earlier.
  • If you haven’t already done so, I recommend you make contact with the organisers regarding your accommodation requirements for the rally in Chikmaglur.
  • Rally Guide 1 is available online.
  • Entry forms and Supplementary Regulations are due to be available online from Monday 10 October.

Live Results App

  • As you will all be aware, APRC uses the services of Rallysafe to meet the FIA requirement for electronic tracking of the rally cars at most APRC rallies
  • Rallysafe have developed a mobile app which can be downloaded from app stores online. This is free of charge.

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

Murray Brown
APRC Coordinator
+63 908 310 5888