Eighteen drivers register for APRC 2011 – more to come

As the close off date approaches there are now 18 confirmed drivers registered to compete in one or more of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship competitions. As entries for Pacific Cup are not required until April 21 this number is expected to grow further.

Heading the drivers registered for the full six round competition is last years champion Katsu Taguchi from Japan. The APRC’s most experienced driver is joined again by Indian team-mate Gaurav Gill in Race-Torque prepared MRF Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10’s. Australian Chris Atkinson and Alister McRae from the UK will both drive for the factory backed Proton team using the latest S2000 Satria Neos. As last year, it is expected that these two teams will provide most of the competition and it will be interesting to see if the R4 spec’d Mitsubishi’s can foot it with the very quick and nimble Protons.

In the past 2 days Wan Yu Rally Team China have confirmed their entry with Chinese drivers Fan Fan, Hao Yuan and 3-times British champion Mark Higgins. With the latest spec’d Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 to drive Higgins could prove to be ‘ the fly in the ointment’ amongst the APRC regulars. Vastly experienced at World Rally Championship level and with a long list of victories in all levels of the sport, Higgins will undoubtedly be one to watch.

A new combination is the “Cusco-Pertamina Team’ with Indonesian Rifat Sungkar leading their APRC assault in a Cusco prepared Mitsubishi Lancer. Yuya Sumiyama will return to defend his Asia Cup title for the team, while it is expected that Cody Crocker will compete in Australia and New Zealand as ‘Cusco-Pertamina’ go for the APRC teams award. Crocker is also expected to be in Malaysia too but as part of an assault on the Malaysian Rally Championship.

Young Japanese driver Akiro Bamba in a Proton Neo 1.6 is doing both the Junior series and is fully registered for the APRC has he hopes to win the 2WD Class for Proton-Cusco. Entered for the Junior Series only and driving for Cusco-Proton team is Kosuke Takashino from Japan.

Malaysia is represented by Gunaseelan Rajoo, the former Malaysian Rally champion going for the 2WD class in a Suzuki Swift. New Zealand veteran Brian Green will drive a variety of cars starting with an MRU prepared Subura Impreza in Malaysia, returning to Mitsubishi Lancers for the Pacific events.

There’s an impressive line-up in both the Asia and Pacific Cups – where drivers can compete in just the three events of those regions. Full-timers Taguchi, Gill, McRae and Bamba are all entered in Asia Cup joined by Malaysian MRU team owner Muhammad Udhaya and Japanese drivers Yuya Sumiyama, Tomohide Hasegawa and Masaaki Hatano.

The Pacific Cup has the largest entries of any of the APRC competitions with Atkinson, Fan Fan, Hau Yuan, Higgins, Sungkar, Green and Rajoo all going for the cup. These fully registered drivers are joined by New Caledonians Jean Louis Leyraud and Daniel Palau. Pacific Cup entries are expected grow further as final registration is not required until April 21. Australian’s Cody Crocker and Nathan Quinn are expected to enter Pacific Cup, joined by Indonesian Suban Aksa.

With the ability to enter four local wild-cards at each event and Teams entering one-off guest drivers to get Team Trophy points, further drivers are expected to join the APRC in 2011.