Veiby Stumbles, Gill Wins

Gaurav Gill, SS5, Rally Whangarei 2017Starting today’s final leg of the two-day International Rally of Whangarei second on the road, Gaurav Gill and co-driver Stéphane Prévot took a comfortable win in the final stages of the New Zealand based event.

The opening round of the 2017 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), current champion and 2016 rally winner Gill returned to Whangarei with a sizable 2min02sec lead. Second in the identical MRF Tyres ŠKODA Fabia R5 was overnight leaders Ole Christian Veiby and co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmoen from Norway. Improving weather for the day’s six special stages held south of host city Whangarei saw the teams return to sunny yet cooler conditions for the afternoon’s ceremonial finish.

“We are here to win. Being professionals – we are always wanting to win although it is important to make sure we do it at the right time and right place in the championship,” said Gill at the finish.

“This has been a good rally. Very very difficult for me and while OC (Ole Christian) has been driving very well the incident today pushed him back, after we had some issues yesterday that pushed us back. So, I guess that is part and parcel of the sport. Our other most important thing is to have both cars sitting one and two for the MRF team.”

For Veiby, who started first car on the road today and with a leading margin of 33.2 seconds, it was a case of sweeping some of the loose surface gravel for his chasing competitors to benefit from.
Having won seven of the 15 high-speed special stages, Veiby’s comfortable advantage evaporated on the first repeat-run stage, the 22.53km Waipu Caves.

“A brake hose in the rear came loose and all the fluid came out so I lost brakes into a junction and barely made it, so had to finish the stage with no brakes and lost a lot of time,” explained Veiby.

Incurring a time penalty for being nine minutes late to the start of the next stage put the 20-year-old a further 1min30sec behind.

“It was not so nice; quite disappointed at the moment as I felt we had this win, but that is rallying, we win together and lose together. Second place comes with good points but as I said I thought we had this win. It has been a real pleasure to be here and huge thanks to ŠKODA, MRF and the guys in the team – they did an amazing job and we improved a lot this weekend and showed good speed. That last stage – with no pressure we just cruised, had fun and were driving for all the spectators to enjoy.”

Jari Ketomaa, Rally Whangarei 2017Running third overall for most of the event, Finland’s Jari Ketomaa and co-driver Ville Mannisenmaki retired after the opening stage this morning with engine failure in their Mitsubishi Mirage. Their place on the podium was taken by New Zealand brother and sister pairing of Matt and Nicole Summerfield in a Subaru STI.

“It’s been an awesome event. A big credit goes to the guys who have given me this car. It has been such an unreal weekend with so much drama going on and cars breaking down so we are very lucky to even be here today. We’re absolutely rapt with how everything has gone and it was definitely hard-fought,” said Summerfield.

Sweden’s Robert Blomberg and co-driver Lars Andersson finished 10th overall in the remaining international category Mitsubishi Mirage, with local teams filling the remaining positions.

Tackling the double-run loop of three tests all the competitors commented on the roller-coaster nature of the 15.39km Tangihua Road section. Japan’s Fuyuhiko Takahashi and Mitsuo Nakamura returned all smiles after their first encounter of such roads in their Subaru STI: “We had fun – the reason why I entered this rally. There was a little rain early and the last stage was very up and down – not like anything in Japan so was very different – but fun,” he said, finishing 18th overall.

Of the original 61 starters, 27 made it to the picturesque Whangarei Quayside Town Basin ceremonial finish.

The next round of six for the 2017 APRC moves to Australia. This year it will be based from capital city Canberra – 26 to 28 May.

The third round of the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship returns to the South Island for the Queen’s Birthday running of the Lone Star Canterbury Rally (4 June).

2017 International Rally of Whangarei – Overall top 10
1. Gaurav Gill/Stephane Prevot, Skoda Fabia R5, 2:35:06.8
2. Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjarmoen, Skoda Fabia R5, +2:02.8
3. Matt Summerfield/Nicole Summerfield, Subaru Impreza STi, +6:53.5
4. Dylan Turner/Malcolm Read, Audi S1 AP4, +7:59.9
5. Darren Galbraith/Rocky Hudson, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 8, +8:59.9
6. Rhys Gardner/Phil Hall, Mazda 2 AP4 +, +12:41.4
7. Graham Featherstone/Dave Devonport, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7, +13:55.6
8. Job Quantock/Matt Hayward, Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 7, +16:52.6
9. Dave Strong/Bruce McKenzie, Ford Fiesta S2000, +17:39.9
10. Robert Blomberg/Lars Andersson, Mitsubishi Mirage AP4, +17:45.5


Veiby Sets the Pace at Rally Whangarei

Ole Christian Veiby, SS7, Rally Whangarei 2017Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby and co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmoen have emerged comfortable leaders after the first full day of competition at the International Rally of Whangarei.

The opening round of the 2017 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), the championship rookies returned to Northland New Zealand’s host city of Whangarei with an advantage of 33.2 seconds. Sitting in second is early event leader, current APRC champion and 2016 rally winner, Gaurav Gill from India with co-driver Stéphane Prévot.

Today’s seven special stages were held in mainly wet weather, north Whangarei. The variable conditions made for a cat-and-mouse game between Gill and Veiby, the MRF Tyres team-mates happily adjusting to the conditions in their matching ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars.

Third, debuting the Swedish based Mitsubishi Mirage team to a full APRC season is Finland’s Jari Ketomaa and Ville Mannisenmaki, 1min42sec behind Gill.

“Yes, we are very happy to be where we are,” commented Veiby. “A very nice day for us. We started with our own pace this morning in the first loop, to check in against everyone else. The afternoon we increased our pace and felt comfortable we could push a bit more. It’s not a maximum attack but I tried to take some time in the first stage after the morning service because we did that first up. The stage after that I felt I did well and it seems like it was a good time compared to Gaurav. You can go fast in these cambered corners but the changing conditions of mud and rain made it slippery in places and not others. In some places it was raining so hard the wipers couldn’t clear all the water away – so made it hard to see.”

For Gill the day came with multiple challenges, including adjusting to the style of his new-season co-driver. “It has been a long day and I think we have some issues with the front dampers and maybe the rear differential too. The front dampers mean we can’t get the tyres to work like they should so obviously I can’t go as fast as I would like to. We have had good speed and I have enjoyed the stages. Tomorrow is another long day and I have a lot to catch up.”

Gaurav Gill, SS9, Rally Whangarei 2017Departing Whangarei this morning for the day’s double-run four gravel stages, the internationals dominated the timesheets. While Gill returned after the morning’s first loop with a narrow margin of 1.7 seconds the 20-year-old Norwegian stretched his ability early in the afternoon. A traffic incident preceding the running of the afternoon’s second test forced the cars to re-route. Veiby added a further 17sec advantage on the subsequent 17km stage, winning four of the day’s seven tests.

Attrition took its toll on the chasing Kiwi field. Rangiora based brother and sister pairing of Matt and Nicole Summerfield are currently fourth overall in their Subaru STI. In fifth is the debuting Audi S1 of Auckland’s Dylan Turner and co-driver Malcolm Read.

Of the 61 cars that started Friday night’s Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage 59 made the start of Saturday’s leg. Only 36 made it back to Whangarei.

A further 108.76km of competition remains with teams contesting six special stages tomorrow. Set south of host city Whangarei they complete a double-run loop of stages across more familiar roads, returning for the 3pm ceremonial finish at the picturesque Quayside Town Basin.

International Rally of Whangarei Day 1

1. Ole Christian Veiby, 1:31:33.8
2. Gaurav Gill, +0:33.2
3. Jari Ketomaa, +2:15.7
4. Dylan Turner, +5:04.9
5. Robert Blomberg, +11:08.3
6. Fuyuhiko Takahashi, +16:33.1
7. PG Abhilash, 20:45.6
8. Ben Hunt, +31:22.1


Veiby Quickest in Shakedown

Ole Christian Veiby, Rally Whangarei 2017Norway’s Ole Christian Veiby and co-driver Stig Rune set fastest time of 47.2seconds in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 at this morning’s shakedown test ahead of the weekend’s 28-30 International Rally of Whangarei.

The opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Ole Vieby and Ole and Stig Rune are one of 61 teams competing across Northland New Zealand’s gravel roads in a variety of cars.

Second fastest with a time of 47.7sec was 2016 rally winner and current APRC champion Gaurav Gill from India, with new co-driver Stéphane Prévot, also in a ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Only completing one run of mixed surface test located close to the central city, Finland’s Jari Ketomaa and co-driver Ville Mannisemaki set third fastest time – debuting the Mitsubishi Mirage R5 to the country and series.

Focus now turns to tonight’s ceremonial start, before a double-run of Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage – a 1km blast across the same course used this morning.

The action proper starts early Saturday morning as the teams’ head north for two loops of four tests, the first starts at 7:26am with the 29.73km Riponui stage. The cars then head as far north as Northland’s Piahia before returning to Whangarei for a midday service break. Repeated in the afternoon the cars get a 45-minute service break at the end of the day before being securely parked for the night at the Toll Stadium.

Sunday’s remaining stages take the teams south, covering more familiar territory to some. The day starts with the 22.53km Waipu Caves stage, followed by the 16.46km Waiotira test and the 15.39km Tangihua stage. The cars return to Whangarei for a brief service break before repeating the loop in the early afternoon.
After the final stage the cars return for the 3pm ceremonial finish at the iconic Quayside Town Basin, adjacent to the inner harbour and city centre.

Spectators can enjoy free access to the service park (adjacent to the Toll Stadium, Port Rd side) and ceremonial finish (Quayside Town Basin). Tickets for Friday’s driver signing, opening ceremony and the Hella Super Special Stage start at $20 (under 15-aged kids are free). Spectating day passes for the rural stages cost $10 and can be pre-purchased from the Rally Headquarters (Ground Floor, Toll Stadium, 51 Okara Drive, Whangarei). Paddock parking is available at some locations for a gold coin donation.

Source: Event Release


Talented Line Up for 2017 APRC

Gaurav GillWhangarei again hosts the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) next weekend, which brings new cars and a star driver line-up for the 796.78 km journey across revered Northland New Zealand rural gravel roads.

The International Rally of Whangarei, part of the Whangarei Festival of motorsport, will include defending APRC champion and last year’s rally winner Gaurav Gill from India.

For Gill, co-driver Stephane Prevot and new team-mate Ole Vieby (Norway) with co-driver Stig Skjarmoen, they will compete using equal R5 specification ŠKODA Fabia cars, backed by Indian tyre manufacturer MRF.

New for 2017 are the two-car Swedish based Mitsubishi team that include former World Rally Championship (WRC) driver Jari Ketomaa. The 38-year-old Finnish ace has contested the New Zealand roads previously and comes backed with recent competition experience. Ketomaa and co-driver Ville Mannisemaki will be joined by Sweden’s Robert Blomberg and co-driver Lars Andersson in matching four-wheel-drive turbo-charged Mitsubishi Mirage R5 cars.

Along with other international entrants will be the return of several Kiwi teams to the international grade, including former New Zealand Rally Champion Ben Hunt (Auckland) in a Subaru STi, while Dylan Turner (Auckland) will debut a brand-new Audi S1 car.

Jari KetomaaContesting six rounds for the 2017 title, the Whangarei season opener will be the battle-ground for top-level manufacturer backed teams. Drivers the calibre of Ketomaa and Gill will ensure every second matters as they strive for early dominance and brand superiority.

“The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is of major strategic significance to ŠKODA as the rallies are run in extremely important growth markets like India and China. On top of that, the demanding gravel tracks are ideal for challenging talented young drivers,” stresses ŠKODA motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek.

The message is echoed by Mitsubishi MPart boss Tomas Weng: “The Asia Pacific Rally Championship provides a great showcase for our Mitsubishi, as it is given parity against cars of the same specification that it wouldn’t otherwise have in the WRC, ERC and some domestic rally championships. Therefore, it is of great interest to us to be able to compete on a level playing field against other cars of similar specification and therefore challenge for overall positions and the championship title.”

A further 54 cars will follow in the trail of the international category cars – including the similar specification AP4+ cars growing in significant popularity. Last year’s national field was headlined by WRC rally winner Kiwi Hayden Paddon and John Kennard. For 2017, it will be the same Hyundai i20 at the hands of understudy David Holder and co-driver Jason Farmer.

The defending Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Champion, Holder’s temporary hold of the car has allowed him to take an early lead in the six round local series having recently won the opening Rally Otago event. Several Mazdas, a Toyota, Suzuki Swift and the Holden Barina of four-time Bathurst winning driver Greg Murphy are some of the latest cars to join the leading-edge of competition. They will be alongside familiar Mitsubishi and Subaru models – as well as many two-wheel-drive specification cars, all chasing their own accolades.

While the competition takes place across 16 closed road sections spread around the region on the Saturday and Sunday, pre-event the teams will recontour the roads in a controlled convoy. From the descriptive notes they create, additional information will be dissected by car engineers to derive an optimum setup for the car to suit the conditions.

They get the chance to test the setup at Friday mornings shakedown – being held at Pohe Island, a short distance from the service park.

Focus then turns to the autograph signing session from 5pm at “The Fishhook of Pohe” river crossing bridge. That is followed by the 6pm cultural welcome and ceremonial start with the first test – the 1km long Hella Pohe Island Super Special Stage to start at 7pm. Run twice, teams complete the evening ahead of the action proper starting early Saturday morning.

Heading north for two loops of four tests, the first starts at 7:26am with the 29.73km Riponui stage. The cars then head as far north as Northland’s Piahia before returning to Whangarei for a midday service break. Repeated in the afternoon the cars get a 45-minute service break at the end of the day before being securely parked for the night at the Toll Stadium. Sunday’s remaining stages take the teams south, covering more familiar territory to some. The day starts with the 22.53km Waipu Caves stage, followed by the 16.46km Waiotira test and the 15.39km Tangihua stage. The cars return to Whangarei for a brief service break before repeating the loop in the early afternoon.

After the final stage the cars return for the 3pm ceremonial finish at the iconic Quayside Town Basin, adjacent to the inner harbour and city centre.

Spectators can enjoy free access to the service park (adjacent to the Toll Stadium, Port Rd side) and ceremonial finish (Quayside Town Basin). Tickets for Friday’s driver signing, opening ceremony and the Hella Super Special Stage start at $20 (under 15-aged kids are free). Spectating day passes for the rural stages cost $10 and can be pre-purchased from the Rally Headquarters (Ground Floor, Toll Stadium, 51 Okara Drive, Whangarei). Paddock parking is available at some locations for a gold coin donation

Source: Event Release


Gill Back to Defend Title

Gaurav Gill, Stephane Prevot, Hokkaido 2016ŠKODA has announced its drivers for the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with reigning champion Gaurav Gill from India teaming up with Norwegian rookie Ole Christian Veiby.

It is Gill’s 5th season with ŠKODA and for 2017 he will have a new co-driver Stephan Prevot from Belgium. Prevot is no stranger to the APRC, having been co-driver to former Škoda APRC champion Chris Atkinson. Last year he made a one-off appearance with Gill at Japan’s Rally Hokkaido, where the pair won the event outright.

Both crews will enter the competition in ŠKODA FABIA R5’s run by the Australian MRF Race Torque team. Gill won all last years events in the APRC and had already secured the championship one round before the end of the season. In 2017, however, he’s likely to face fierce opposition from promising Norwegian rookie Ole Christian Veiby.

“The FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is of major strategic significance to ŠKODA as the rallies are run in extremely important growth markets like India and China. On top of that, the demanding gravel tracks are ideal for challenging talented young drivers,” stresses ŠKODA motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek.

ŠKODA can look back on unparalleled success in the APRC. Every championship winner since 2012 has driven a ŠKODA, and current works drivers Jan Kopecký (champion 2014) and Pontus Tidemand (winner 2015) used the APRC to gain important experience on the demanding gravel tracks in Asia, Australia and New Zealand. “Ole Christian Veiby has impressed us with his powerful performance, and not just at the Rally Sweden.

I’m really looking forward to seeing how he fairs on gravel up against our old hand Gaurav Gill,” says Hrabánek.

Norwegian youngster Ole Christian Veiby is eager to make his APRC debut: “I’m so grateful to ŠKODA for putting so much faith in me and giving me this amazing opportunity.”

Veiby goes head to head with Gill on equal terms. The MRF team is running two identically prepared ŠKODA FABIA R5. Veiby proved his class with a third place at Rally Sweden and finished 5th at Rally Tour de Corse, both in category WRC 2. He is currently holding fifth position in the WRC 2 standings.

Source: Team Release


Ole Christian Veiby signs for APRC

Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune SkljaermoenOle Christian Veiby has signed a deal with Skoda Motorsport to drive in the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

“This is totally awesome and a big step towards the goal of getting a contract with one of the WRC teams. This is going to be insanely cool” said the 20-year-old Norwegian, who together with his co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen will participate at the six events in the APRC for Skoda Motorsport.

“This is a unique chance. To work with Skoda Motorsport gives us a great opportunity to get a WRC contract later on. We have seen that happen several times with other drivers. Therefore it is very important to do well” he said.

“I know that Skoda has followed my career for a while. After the third place at the Swedish WRC round, it was confirmed that they would give us the chance to do the APRC. Our performance in Sweden was probably a big factor in getting us the contract and was in that way a very important result for us” he explained.

Ole’s team-mates in Even Management, Pontus Tidemand and Esapekka Lappi, have both previously received the same opportunity with Skoda and they have told him that there are some quite unique gravel rallies that awaits him on the other side of the planet. Pontus won the APRC in 2015, while Esapekka contested selected events in 2013 and 2014 and won several of them.

“I’ve mostly spoken to Pontus and he said that you can’t compare these rallies to any other events that I’ve done before. I’ve also seen some pictures and videos from the events and there are no doubts that it will be exotic” he said.

With events in New Zealand, Australia, China, Malaysia, Japan and India, the Norwegian youngster needs to prepare himself for a lot of traveling this year.

Ole Christian Veiby, Corsica 2017“There will be big time differences compared to Norway and it is going to be a huge adjustment. With that in mind, I will travel in good time before the rallies to get used to it. I usually deal with it well. But at the same time I haven’t experienced such extreme time differences as between Norway and New Zealand for example. That can obviously become a challenge” he said.

Together with Indian Gaurav Gill, the main goal is to win the team championship for Skoda. Gill, who is the defending champion, is an experienced driver who has participated in the championship for many years and knows the rallies well.

“We will form a two-car-team. Gaurav Gill is one of the championship’s top drivers and will most likely fight for the overall victory. My task is primarily to complete the events and together we will make sure that Skoda wins the team championship” said Ole, who is also going to compete at selected WRC 2 rounds with a Skoda Fabia R5. This past weekend he finished fifth in Corsica and will also be on the start line in Sardinia, Finland, Spain and Wales.

“Ole Christian Veiby has impressed us with his strong performances, not only at Rally Sweden. I’m really looking forward to see where Ole stands compared to experienced Gaurav Gill” said Michal Hrabánek, head of Skoda Motorsport.

Source: Team Release