Team MRF has finished the 2012 season in brilliant style, claiming three Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) titles at the final event in China.
After a fast and consistent display throughout the season, Australian Chris Atkinson and his Belgian co-driver, Stephane Prevot, clinched the championship with second place in the Chinese event. Team MRF also scored an emphatic victory in the Teams Trophy and Manufacturers championship.
“That’s the win!” a jubilant Atkinson said at the end of day one. “I’m stoked to be crowned the 2012 Asia-Pacific Rally Champion! We finished third for the day, but that is all we needed to win the championship. “A massive thanks to all the guys at Race Torque, ŠKODA Australia, Brakes Direct, MRF Tyres, the FIA APRC and, of course, all my fans out there. “This is my first major international championship win and I’m rapt to pick up the APRC title here in China.“
Heading into the Rally China Longyou, the Race Torque-prepared Skoda Fabia S2000s of Atkinson and his Indian team-mate, Gaurav Gill, simply needed a strong finish to help secure the titles. The first day of the two-day rally was a good one for Team MRF, with Gill and Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, leading their nearest rival, Proton’s Alister McRae, by 12 seconds. “I had a good feeling with the car over the first day’s stages,” Gill said. “The stages were a little bit rough, but we drove quickly and the MRF tyres worked very well.”
However, Gill’s hopes of victory were dashed on the first stage of the second day when his car retired with mechanical problems. It summed up a frustrating year for the Indian, who was often the fastest driver on events, but bad luck meant that his only victory came in round two, in New Caledonia.
Atkinson, meanwhile, won in New Zealand and Australia, and finished in the runner’s-up position in New Caledonia, Malaysia and in China. His winning margin in the championship was 33 points. He also claimed the FIA Pacific Cup for Drivers.
In the Manufacturers’ race, Skoda took maximum points on three of the six rounds, while consistency over the whole season enabled Team MRF to take a convincing 43 point win in the Teams Trophy.
Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, was thrilled to finish the season with three championship titles and praised both drivers for their efforts over such a diverse championship. “The APRC is such a challenging series, and both Chris and Gaurav have driven superbly this year,” Heenan said. “We’ve had a few technical problems that have cost us event wins, but overall the Race Torque Skoda Fabias have been the class of the field. “Congrautaltions to Chris on his first international championship victory, and commiserations to Gaurav – he showed incredible speed this year, but luck wasn’t on his side. I’m sure the title will be his in the not too distant future.”
Heenan also paid tribute to his hard working team. “The APRC throws everything at you, from hot, dry and dusty conditions to cold, wet and miserable weather. It’s not easy for the mechanics to work in such varying conditions, but the guys have once again performed brilliantly. “We’re already looking ahead to the 2013 season and planning a successful title defence,” he added.
Final results – China Rally Longyou Round 6, Asia-Pacific Rally Championship
Alister McRae / Bill Hayes, Proton Satria Neo, 3h02m33.1s
Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prevot, Skoda Fabia, +1m46.5s
Juha Salo / Marko Salminen, Proton Satria Neo, +6m58.6s
Yuya Sumiyama / Naoki Kase, Subaru Impreza, +9m30.9s
Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen, Subaru Impreza, +12m32.9s
Asia-Pacific Rally Championship final points Drivers:
1. Chris Atkinson / Stephane Prevot, 154 points
2. Alister McRae / Bill Hayes, 121 points
3. Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen, 114 points,
4. Gaurav Gill / Glenn Macneall, 82 points
5. Karamjit Singh / Vivk Ponnusamy, 72 points.
1. Team MRF, 243 points
2. Proton Motorsports, 200 points
3. Proton R3 Cusco, 158 points.
1. Skoda, 179 points
2. Proton, 159 points,
3. Mitsubishi 109 points
4. Subaru, 52 points.