Swedish driver and new generation cars add sparkle to Whangarei Rally entries

Talented drivers from all over the world have created an exciting line-up of entries for this year’s Brother International Rally of Whangarei, which runs from 30 March to 1 April.


Among the confirmed entries are new generation rally cars such as the Citroen DS3 being contested by New Caledonia’s Jean-Louis Leyraud – the Citroen is built to FIA R3 specifications.


The official entry list has now been released by organisers, confirming that 23 competitors are registered for the main Group N and S2000 classes which are count towards the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship, powered by Brother. A further 26 competitors have entered the event to contest the other NZRC categories and the Clubman’s class which counts towards the Top Half Rally Series.


The Proton Motorsports team delivers what is arguably the most experienced driver line-up seen at New Zealand’s APRC event with Swedish star Per-Gunnar Andersson and highly-regarded WRC driver Scotsman Alister McRae. Andersson and McRae are set to pilot a pair of distinctive yellow Proton Satria Neo S2000 cars around the Northland and Kaipara district roads which make this event so popular with drivers.


McRae and his Australian co-driver Bill Hayes won the Asia Pacific title last year, so head to Whangarei for their third attempt at this world-class event as the defending champions. Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson are fresh from winning an Intercontinental Rally Challenge event in Norway and the Super 2000 World Rally Championship category of Rally Sweden. Andersson last competed in New Zealand in 2008 as part of the Suzuki World Rally Team.


Up against the APRC-winning Proton team is the revamped Team MRF with Australian Chris Atkinson and his Belgium-born co-driver Stephané Prevot in one of the Skoda Fabia S2000s being flown to New Zealand for the Whangarei event. Teaming up with Atkinson in the matching Skoda is the highly-experienced Indian driver Gaurav Gill who again has Dunedin-based Australian Glenn Macneall alongside.


Atkinson won the 2011 International Rally of Whangarei outright when driving for Proton. Heading for Whangarei at the end of March, Atkinson has just contested WRC Rally Mexico with Ken Block’s Monster World Rally Team in a Ford. Despite the retirement in Mexico, he should also be in strong form.


Event chairman Laurie Brenssell says: “We are fortunate that the Brother International Rally of Whangarei attracts some of the best competitors in the world, many of whom compete in the new generation rally cars such as the Skodas, Protons and the Citroen. The roads, atmosphere of the event and the organisation provide added impetus to the teams’ decision to come here.


“The history of the event has shown the our local Group N competitors are more than a match for their international rivals – in short, we are going to see a huge battle up-front to take line honours in 2012.”


New Zealander Brian Green and Frenchman Jean-Louis Leyraud add an interesting element to the APRC field. Green is contesting his 11th Asia Pacific Rally Championship this year as part of 40-plus years of competitive rallying. Leyraud, from New Caledonia, has a similar heritage in rally sport around the Asia Pacific and returns to Whangarei with a new R3-spec Citroen DS3.


Protons are the most numerous make of car in the main field with a further five Proton Satria Neos – in Group N spec – entered for Whangarei. Three are being driven by Malaysia’s Karamjit Singh and Kenneth Koh, and Japan’s Akira Bamba with the Proton R3 Cusco Rally Team. K’s World Rally Team has entered Japanese driver Takasahi Nihei and young New Zealander Michael Young. Yet another Proton – this one in Group A spec – will be seen in action with Indian driver Sanjay Takle and MRU Motorsports.


With such an array of international competitors to pit themselves against, NZRC entrants such as Masterton’s Richard Mason and Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour will have an exciting opening round of the domestic season in Whangarei.


While the number of drivers registered for NZRC point is fewer than recent years, the intensity of competition is expected to be even greater as Christchurch’s Chris West, Rotorua’s Sloan Cox, and Kerikeri’s Kingsley Thompson go up against Mason, Gilmour, Christchurch’s Matt Jansen and Auckland’s Dave Strong in their bid to win the New Zealand rally title.


The 2012 Brother International Rally of Whangarei officially gets underway in Whangarei on Friday 30 March with an exciting free-to-see start ceremony and driver autograph session in Cameron Street Mall before two days of full-on competition on gravel roads throughout the Whangarei and Kaipara districts. The full entry list, current news, spectator and ticket information and rally map are all available on the event website, www.rallywhangarei.co.nz or follow the event on Facebook.



PHOTOS; Marcel Stawiczny and 2012 Malaysia Rally Championship


For further comment, please contact:

Laurie Brenssell, Brother International Rally of Whangarei organising committee chairman

M: 0274 333 667


For any other queries, please contact:

Kate Gordon-Smith, media liaison, Brother International Rally of Whangarei

M: 021 587 227; E: kate@rallynz.org.nz


2012 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship calendar

Round 1 – 30 March to 1 April – Brother International Rally of Whangarei

Round 2 – 28 to 29 April – Rallye de Nouvelle Calédonie

Round 3 – 26 to 27 May – Rally Queensland

Round 4 – 14 to 15 July – Malaysian Rally

Round 5 – 15 to 16 September – Rally Hokkaido

Round 6 – 26 to 28 October – China Rally


2012 New Zealand Rally Championship calendar

Round 1 – 30 March to 1 April – Brother International Rally of Whangarei

Round 2 – 27 to 29 April – Rally Wairarapa

Round 3 – 25 to 27 May – Rally Otago

Round 4 – 21 to 24 June – Rally New Zealand (incorporating Possum Bourne Memorial Rally)

Round 5 – 25 to 26 August – Rally Gisborne

This article originally appeared on aprc.tv.