Teenager Michael Young and veteran rally driver Brian Green will be flying the New Zealand flag when the fifth round of the 2012 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) takes place on the island of Hokkaido, Japan next weekend.
Young, a 19-year-old contesting his first full season of rallying, will be driving to win the APRC Junior Cup title. Rally Hokkaido, running 14 to 16 September, is the final round of this series-within-the-championship and Young currently holds second place, just two points behind leader Akira Bamba, of Japan.
Third on the APRC points-table, Green is enjoying a season of top results and heads to Japan having recently won the final round of the New Zealand Rally Championship, the national series that his company Brian Green Property Group sponsors, in Gisborne.
Young and co-driver Tasmanian Daniel Willson will be competing in the rally based in the city of Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan for just the second time. The teenager says it will be tough to beat local driver Bamba on the fast yet twisty Japanese stages. “But the stages suit me and the car so we will attack in the first loop of stages because we are always quick in the first pass,” says Young who is eager to get back in the Cusco Racing-prepared two-wheel-drive 1.6-litre Proton Satria Neo after a crash on day one at the previous round in Malaysia left the front of the car seriously damaged.
Young has been working in Perth recently to earn more money to fund his fledgling international rallying career and fund repairs to the car. “It will be tough to beat Bamba-san on his home event, but we won the events in New Zealand and Australia on similar fast roads so I think we should be able to keep the pressure on” said Young.
Meanwhile Green, who is a strong contender to finish this year’s APRC in a podium position, says the MRU Motorsports-prepared Subaru Impreza WRX in which he won July’s Rally Malaysia needed almost no work at all leading up to Rally Hokkaido.
With more than 40 years of competitive motorsport behind him, Green plans to do some testing on Monday in Japan but says: “Because we’ve competed here ten or so times before, we know what to do with the car.” Green is just ten points behind second-placed Scotsman Alister McRae.
With 39 points up for grabs to the winner in Japan, Green is hopeful to move further up the leader-board but is wary of Indian driver Gaurav Gill who is only three points behind Green in fourth. Rally Hokkaido is the penultimate round for Green and co-driver Fleur Pedersen, of Havelock North. While reliability has been Green’s strong point throughout the season, he admits that with Japan’s tricky roads anything can happen and “motorsport always holds a surprise somewhere”.
The final round of the APRC Championship for Green is Rally China held on 26-28 October 2012.