The first round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) is set to get underway tomorrow in New Zealand, at the International Rally of Whangarei, where teams will fight for valuable points over two days of competition, as part of the six round championship.
Headlining the driver line up this year, is Team MRF Skoda team-mates Jan Kopecký from the Czech Republic and current APRC drivers’ champion, Gaurav Gill of India.
The duo, who offer different driving experience to the reigning manufacturer APRC winning Skoda team, will battle it out amongst themselves and other drivers from a range of other countries including New Zealand, Australia, India and China.
New Zealander Michael Young, the 2013 triple APRC champion (winning the Asia Cup, Junior Cup and Two-wheel-drive Cup), returns to the championship in a Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo, along with last year’s Production Cup champion, Sanjay Takale of India.
Takale is set to pilot a brand new Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza while new drivers to the championship include Australian drivers, Mark Pedder in a Mitsubishi Evolution 10, and Tom Wilde in a Renault Clio R3.
Jun Xu, of China, is also making his APRC debut in New Zealand with a full six round campaign planned in a Skoda Fabia S2000 but competes in New Zealand for the first time this year.
The diverse range of experience in the APRC field means the battles here in New Zealand should still be close, despite crews citing dry, dusty road conditions.
Rally stages in New Zealand are famous for their fast, flowing nature and this year will be no different despite the stages on the first day of completion being brand new for every competitor, meaning the crews who have competed here in the past are on an equal playing field with the New Zealand rookies.
But Gill has his “fingers crossed,” for rain because he believes it will give him more grip as he is the first car to complete the slippery stages. Kopecký, who accepted the official welcome on behalf of the international crews, is competing in New Zealand for the first time but the reigning European Rally Champion says some of the stages remind him of Finland.
The International Rally of Whangarei is based around the Northland city of Whangarei and sees crews compete across 14 special stages totalling 241 competitive kilometres during Saturday 12 April and Sunday 13 April, 2014. It all started earlier today, on Friday 11 April, at the Cameron Street Mall in Whangarei town centre, before finishing at approximately 3.00pm at the Quayside Town Basin in Whangarei city.
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