Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie marks the start of the 2009 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and will be held this Easter weekend (10 -12th of April, 2009) . The event also doubles as the first nominated round of the FIA APRC Pacific Cup.
In 2008, MRF Tyres Rally Team Mitsubishi driver Katsu TAGUCHI was the clear winner ahead of CUSCO’s Dean HERRIDGE but this year without the presence of leading teams from previous years, it will be the old masters in the shape of local legend Jean-Louis LEYRAUD and Brian GREEN from New Zealand, to fend off a strong challenge from young Kiwi driver Hayden PADDON for overall honours.
Given his experience and knowledge of the event Leyraud is going to be hard to beat for overall honours but even Leyraud will acknowledge that no matter how much of a lead you may establish on Day 1 it can all be lost on Day 2 with the running of the 35 km Katrikoin stage, infamous because most of the stage is held under a canopy of trees and the surface is treachously slippery. “The most difficult stage is always Katrikoin, especially if it rains and Yes I expect to win too but the way is long!”, said Leyraud as he began preparations for the event. For APRC points Leyraud is entered in the APRC Pacific Cup and not the full Asia Pacific championship ” I planned to do the whole APRC , but I didn’t find the budget and therefore I’m entering Pacific Cup again this year”.
With Leyraud not in the full championship it should be easy APRC points for kiwis Green and Paddon, however both New Zealanders are well aware its a challenge just to make the finish. Paddon is defending his title in the New Zealand Rally Championship and at the same time running in the APRC to get more international experience ” For our international programme we have to keep in mind that these are new events and the main objective is to gain as much experience as possible. While the aim on every event we compete is to win, it may on occasion be a matter of pulling it back a notch and driving at a level that ensures we get as many valuable kilometres as possible. I am thoroughly looking forward to our first experience of New Caledonia.” said Paddon at the finish of last weekend’s NZRC event the Rally of Hastings. “Getting two cars ready for two championships has meant many many long days and nights, some 18 hour days. I must admit I really enjoy this time of year when the pressure is building and its nice to have our season underway with a solid second in Hastings”.
Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie is run over a total of 16 stages on 7 different stage locations. On Friday (10th) there will be three short stages including two runs over the Super Special at Noumea’s Hippodrome. Day 1b is once again based 200 kilometres North of Noumea around the Poya Service Park, with almost identical stages to 2008 but run in a different order and reverse direction. After an overnight parc ferme in La Foa, the route heads back out for two runs over two stages based around the La Foa Service Park. Day two includes two runs through Katrikoin and at a distance of 35.10km, one of the longest stages in the APRC calendar and a true test of driver endurance.
The island of New Caledonia is part of the third largest archipelago in the Pacific Ocean after New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. At present it is a ‘self-governing territory of France’, but with an agreement to hold referendum to determine sovereignty between 2013 and 2018. Although 18,000 kilometres away from France, there is strong French influence everywhere the only difference being the beautiful Pacific beaches surrounded by Palm trees. There are two islands very close to Anse Vata which is close to location of Rally HQ. “Ilot Maître” and “Ile aux Canards” are protected sites, and also great places for windsurfing!
Recent APRC Winners of the Rally of New Caledonia
2008 Katsu TAGUCHI / Mark STACEY – Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX
2007 Jussi VALIMAKI / Jarkko KALLIOLEPO – Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX
2006 Katsu TAGUCHI / Mark STACEY – Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII
2005 Jussi VALIMAKI / Jarkko KALLIOLEPO – Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VII
2004 Geof ARGYLE / Steve SMITH Mitsubishi Lancer EVOVIII