Team MRF head in to this weekend’s final round of the 2012 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with the Drivers, Teams and Makes titles well within their grasp. The China Rally Longyou is the sixth and final event in this year’s championship, and Team MRF drivers Chris Atkinson and Gaurav Gill have ensured that the Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia S2000s have been the cars to beat in 2012.
Atkinson and co-driver, Stephane Prevot, have an almost unassailable lead over New Zealander, Brian Green, in the Drivers’ Championship, while Team MRF are 62 points clear of Proton in the APRC Teams Trophy. Fresh from a fighting sixth place in last weekend’s World Rally Championship round in Italy, Atkinson is in great form and is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of the Team MRF Skoda. “Having missed the previous APRC round in Japan, I can’t wait to get back into the Skoda and hopefully secure my first APRC title,” Atkinson said. “The Race Torque Skodas have been the class of the field in this year’s championship, and we expect that they’ll be the cars to beat again this weekend. “I’ve done quite a lot of driving over the past couple of months, so I’m confident that we can finish the season in style,” the Australian said.
His team-mate, Indian Gaurav Gill, has also shown incredible speed in 2012, although luck hasn’t always been on his side. “I’d love to see Gaurav have a good run in China – he really deserves to have some good luck,” Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, said. “It will also be great to have Chris back in the car again. He’s done a few miles of late, so he should be in good form.
“As we push to secure the APRC Manufacturers’ title, Skoda have sent two engineers from the Czech Republic to assist us in China. “The cars have been great this year and we have a very good base set-up heading into all events, but I’m sure we can make further improvements with their assistance,” he added.
The China Rally Longyou, based in the Zhejiang Province, about 400km from Shanghai, runs across a variety of different stages and surfaces, ranging from broken concrete, to the slippery roads cutting through the region’s bamboo forests.
After a shakedown on Thursday morning, the rally begins with a ceremonial start in Rong Chang Square the following morning.
The event finishes on Sunday afternoon after 13 special stages and 231 competitive kilometres.
APRC points after 4 of 6 rounds
1. Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prevot, 126 points,
2. Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen, 94 points,
3. Alister McRae / Bill Hayes, 86 points,
4. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall, 75 points,
5. Karamjit Singh, Vivk Ponnusamy, 57 points.
1. Team MRF, 208 points,
2. Proton Motorsports, 146 points,
3. Proton R3 Cusco, 133 points.
1. Skoda, 147 points,
2. Proton, 122 points,
3. Mitsubishi 109 points,
4. Subaru, 36 points.