The first round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, Rally of Canberra 3-5 May, features an excellent entry of international drivers including the return of last years double champion Karamjit Singh from Malaysia.
Singh and the PERT team have just won the Group N class at the WRC Rally of Cyprus. Singh had a great weekend in Cyprus – not only did he win Group N outright for Proton but in the same weekend he became a Dad – his wife giving birth to a baby girl. Singh said after his win “I feel absolutely on top of the world, that is the only way to describe it. We have driven well within our limits today and it’s certainly paid off. After two days of pushing we did what we had to do today and brought the car home. To come to our very first Cyprus Rally and win Gp N by 5 minutes 41.5 seconds is a fantastic result for us and the PERT team. After a fantastic weekend I’m really looking forward to going home and seeing my wife and our new baby girl.”
Malaysia will be represented in this years APRC by another major entry, that of Saladin Mazlan (pictured on left) who will campaign a WRC Hyundai Accent run jointly by the official factory team MSD and Saladin Rallying. Saladin was a regular driver in the APRC Rally of Malaysia, drove in the 1999 Rally of China and last year entered the Junior WRC in a Ford Puma. Saladin will be guided by UK’s Jerry Freeman.
Italian driver Nico Caldarola (Mitsubishi) would like to continue on the winning note he finished on in 2001 – he won the last two events in China and Thailand – and will be run by Top Run Team. Caldarola plans to contest the entire 2002 APRC series, reuniting with co-driver Giovanni Agnese who last co-drove for Caldarola during their successful 1995 Italian Rally Championship campaign. Agnese will celebrate his 35th birthday in Canberra and Caldarola has prepared a birthday present for him – a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, “My team Top Run, succeeded in getting ready the new version of the Mitsubishi. We’ve just shipped the fabulous Evolution 7 by aeroplane. I am really happy and excited about having a new car for Canberra. I am looking forward to competing at a very high level although I still do not know who the other competitors are but I hope they will be many because in Italy we say: ‘many enemies, much honour’.”
The United Kingdom is represented by John Lloyd and is this year joined by Kenyan based Alistair Cavenagh and New Zealander Brian Green – all driving Neil Allport prepared Mitsubishi’s.
Six times Australian Rally Champion, New Zealand Possum Bourne (pictured on right) is hopeful of making a return to the full championship and to take back the APRC crown he held in 2000.
Japanese teams are headed by Nobuhiro ‘Monster’ Tajima driving a JWRC Suzuki Ignis in the Super 1600 class. He will be joined by countryman Atsushi Masumura (Mitsubishi), Haruo Takakuwa (Subaru) and Daisuke Yamada (Subaru).
For the first time the Indian sub-continent will be represented, Chennai-based MRF Tyres Rally Team with VR Narem Kumar and Arjun Balu driving 2002 model Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIIs.
New Zealand’s Geoff Argyle (Mitsubishi) heads an impressive list of New Zealand registered competitors. The former New Zealand Champion will contest the event in a competitive Group A spec Lancer with a new sponsor – ‘TOTAL’. Reece Jones has switched his efforts from WRC to APRC and will drive a Falken Tyres sponsored Mitsubishi.
Local Australian drivers to watch include the current Australian Rally Championship leader Ed Ordynski in a Ralliart Mitsubishi, Bourne’s Subaru team-mates Cody Crocker and Dean Herridge and privateer Simon Evans.