APRC ought to be a magnet for manufacturers

APRC ought to be a magnet for manufacturers.

The entry list for the opening round of the 2014 Asia Pacific Championship, the International Rally of Whangarei, published this week, shows a depressing lack of serious manufacturer interest in the APRC.

Škoda is the only real manufacturer involved: last year it dominated proceedings, and will do the same this year. A third title beckons…

Good for Škoda, but for one of the biggest FIA rally championships to have become a de facto one-make series is sad – and also surprising.

The APRC offers great potential return – probably more than any other FIA Regional Rally Championship bar the ERC.

The Asia Pacific region contains some of the biggest emerging economies – China, India, Indonesia among them – plus traditional heartlands of rally: Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

China ought to be worth it on its own. The new Chinese investment in PSA through Dongfeng is aimed – amongst other objectives – to triple sales of vehicles from their long-established joint venture in China. PSA is the parent for Citroën and Peugeot, and it’s not difficult to see why DS3s, 207s or 208s might not feature in APRC, which already receives coverage on Chinese TV

Volkswagen and Hyundai are 2 of the top-selling brands in China: both have the strongest involvement in rally. There are VW Polo S2000s running in South Africa: why not develop a car for APRC based on these?

Why not a Hyundai i20 to APRC spec? Chinese manufacturers might also be interested. The giant SAIC group sold almost 4.5m cars last year and owns MG. MGs are on sale in China. Why not an MG rally car for the APRC? It has a touch more credence to it than the MG WRC recently mooted.

In India, the number 2 car brand is Hyundai…. India has the reigning champion in Gaurav Gill. If brands like Maruti Suzuki and Mahindra & Mahindra also took an interest, who knows what might develop there?

Japan remains an enigma. Japanese cars dominated the APRC for years, with Proton the only serious non-Japanese rival until Škoda’s arrival.

New Zealand’s Michael Young used a Toyota Vitz – the alternative name for the Yaris – to win the APRC Junior Cup and Asia Cup last year, though he’s switched to a Proton for this season. Maybe Toyota could look to the Yaris 2000s currently leading the South African championship, and consider a team for the APRC. It would yield valuable experience ahead of any possible return to WRC later this decade.

So there are plenty of brands that might take an interest. If commercial attraction isn’t enough, perhaps a certain level of arm-twisting could/should take place in the high councils of the sport.

Article courtesy Greg Strange  IRallylive.com http://www.irallylive.com/ir_news.htm?00006278&10

This article originally appeared on aprc.tv.