Takale moves to 4WD for APRC

Indian rally driver Sanjay Takale begins his second straight season in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship with higher goals and long-term plans to prove his mettle on some of the world’s best rallying circuits.

Having proved his worth in all formats of rallying in the domestic circuits, Sanjay Takale, whose latest triumph was in February in the Desert Storm Rally, has decided to concentrate only on international rallies as he underlined 2013 as a year of learning the nuances of the 4-wheel driving.

“Four-wheel cars are the pinnacle of world rallying. I wanted to begin my APRC pursuits with 2-wheel drive class to get used to the circuits, and it was but natural to graduate to 4-wheel drive in the next season,” said Takale, who will be at the wheels of Japanese-make Subaru car in the N4 class.

Having become an APRC class champion, the first and only Indian to do so, Takale will be under less pressure even as he competes in a class where the competition will be toughest.

The year 2012 was watershed season for Takale as he scored historic triumph by winning the APRC title that catapulted him to become India No 1 rally driver. In the World Rally Ranking issued in January, Takale was World No 101, highest any Indian has been listed on the trusted rankings for the rally drivers.

That the largest of the team, Proton Malaysia, has withdrawn from this year’s APRC due to management change, but that does not take away the competitiveness which has always been there in the 4-wheel drive class. “We don’t have even a single sedan in India with 4-wheel drive, which makes it all the more difficult to get used to a car that is more powerful and needs greater control,” said Takale, who already has been through three weekends of training and testing with his new car in Malaysia, where his team MRU Motorsports is based in.

MRU Motorsports’ Team Principal Mohamad Rafiq Shankar Udaya has been extremely impressed with the driving skills of Takale, who won Group A 2-wheel drive class to become 2012 APRC champion. Given that Takale decided to move up to 4-wheel, Rafiq Udhaya offered him his trusted navigator Sean F Gregory, who co-drove with the Team Principal when Udhaya was an active rally driver.

“Sean is an expert in 4-wheel driving. He has knowledge and skill to make pace notes that are required for such faster cars and since he has been with the MRU Motorsports for long it was but natural for me to go with him this year,” explained Takale.

Having done three rounds of training and testing with the car, the MRU Motorsports had lined up to put Takale into competition mode in the first round of the Malaysian Rally Championship, which was slated for the last weekend of April. “We wanted to test the car in competition at the MRC. But the first round got cancelled due to Malaysian general elections,” informed Takale, who now will head for Malaysia a week before the New Zealand leg of the APRC to get last minute practice with the Subaru car.

“I am up for the challenge. My biggest competitor will be Hiroshi Asakura of Japan from Cusco Racing. If I do well, it will be a confidence booster for my future plans,” said Takale, whose new Malaysian navigator Sean shares some Indian connections. Sean’s grandparents were from Goa before they moved to Malaysia several decades ago. In Malaysia Sean has been active co-driver with Rafiq Udhaya. In fact the duo had won the Malaysian Rally Championship in 2010. They were third in Asia Cup and also in ARPC Group N, all their exploits coming in the Subaru car.

“That is where Sean scores over others. He has best knowledge of cars, the courses and terrains. He will be an asset for me no doubt,” said Takale. Takale knows Sean for years since he began driving for MRU Motorsports. That makes the tandem well as they both know each other well. “This year is a learning process for me. I want to get thoroughly used to the car, which is faster and heavier than what I drove last year,” explained Takale, who has decided to drive the New Caledonia Rally, the second leg of APRC, this year and skip the Rally China, the last leg.

FIA APRC Factfile: The FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship is one of the premier regional championships in World Rallying. The quality of events and the level of competition has grown from strength to strength. Taking place in one of the most diverse regions of the world, in a climate of rapidly expanding economies, the FIA APRC continues to attract drivers and teams from across the world.

The S2000 cars of the Proton team and the MRF team have created a new level of competition, alongside some of the best Group N drivers in the region. All of these cars and teams feature in this exciting and exacting championship, where television audiences around the world are measure in hundreds of millions. Each of the seven events of 2013 APRC has its own unique characteristics, adding to the allure of rallying in this part of the world.

From the dust and dirt of Queensland, to the tropical paradise of New Caledonia, to the humidity of Whangarei, to the home of Group N rallying in Japan, to the steaming jungles and plantations of Malaysia, to the majesty of China, APRC offers each and every participant something to savour. With its diversity of climate, topography, culture, language, cuisine and history, APRC is truly a regional championship offering the very best of what this region has to offer.

APRC 2013 will feature six events on the calendar, Whangarei (New Zealand), Noumea (New Caledonia), Queensland (Australia), Johor (Malaysia), Obihiro (Japan) and Longyou (China). In 2013 a seventh event (Saraburi, Thailand) will be included in APRC as a round of the 2013 Asia Cup series only. APRC has now moved from a primarily Group N production championship to a Class 2 championship where S2000 cars and R4 cars compete for overall honours.

The 2013 will see the re-introduction of the Production Cup, thus giving Group N competitors a chance to win a series. The FIA has decided to encourage Group N competitors, and have extended many homologations to cater for this. This, together with the Production Cup, will bring more competitors to the series.

Format: The championship runs under similar competition format to the FIA World Rally Championship and is subject to regulations as laid down by the FIA. These include the FIA International Sporting Code and the FIA Regional Rally Championship Regulations which include the APRC.

Most events follow the FIA format of a central service area with “cloverleaf” legs over 2 or 3 days. Parc Ferme’s are established at end of each leg or day. Vehicle eligibility is open to Production cars Class 2 – 10 range. Super 2000 cars including the new 1.6 L Turbocharged cars are eligible to compete.

Points scoring is based on finishing order in each round to calculate overall points, using the same formula as for World Rally Championship (25, 18, 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1). In addition to this, points are awarded for each leg of each event for the first 7 place getters (7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1). This is known as Rally 2 (formerly SuperRally) and allows for non-finishing competitors from the first leg to restart the second and any subsequent legs.

Points are awarded for each of the Cups on the same basis as the full APRC.

Major competitors:

Toyota:Toyota has returned to international rally competition with a Toyota Vitz RS registered for the 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Championship – a joint venture between Japan’s Cusco Racing and Toyota Racing Development (TRD). The Toyota Vitz will be driven by twenty year-old New Zealander Michael Young and Australian co-driver Daniel Willson.

ŠKODA: Czech Republic-based automotive brand ŠKODA have announced their backing of a newly branded two-car team for the 2013 FIA APRC. The newly formed ŠKODA-MRF team is to make its first appearance in the APRC this year with factory crew Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN) and Gaurav Gill/Glen Macneall (India/New Zealand) both starting in ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 cars.

This article originally appeared on aprc.tv.