European champion Jan Kopecky (pictured) says his lack of stage knowledge won’t hold him back when he makes his Asia-Pacific Rally Championship debut in New Zealand from April 11-13.
A heavily revamped route for the all-gravel International Rally of Whangarei this year means that defending champion Guarav Gill, who partners Kopecky in the MRF Skoda team, won’t necessarily have the edge that Kopecky feared he once would. “I saw there is only one stage which is completely the same compared to last year so it’s really good for us because our team-mate Gaurav will be very fast but it seems he can now no longer use his knowledge of the stages,” Kopecky told MAXRALLY.
“Of course he will be very strong and can use his experience but his knowledge of the stages will be missing, same as us.” Of his own chances on the 14-stage event, Kopecky said: “In New Zealand I would like to score some points, just to see how fast he really is and how fast other drivers are and then we will see. I would like to win this championship but it will not be easy. I’ve never been to New Zealand or any of the countries in the championship but it’s a great opportunity to see different places. I believe the character of the rallies will be completely different compared to Europe so it’s a big challenge.”
Kopecky and co-driver Pavel Dresler will get a 60-kilometre test prior to Friday’s shakedown. Although he’s more than familiar with the Fabia Super 2000 having driven one since 2008, Kopecky has no knowledge of the MRF tyres he will use.
“It will be a short test to get the feeling because we are using the MRF tyre so they are a little bit different and we need to get used to this,” said Kopecky. ‘The car is the same, of course, and there will be some guys coming from Skoda Motorsport as well. The team has their own engineer but they’re working really well and did a great job last year.”
Of his journey to New Zealand, Kopecky revealed that it would take 40 hours from leaving home in Czech Republic to arriving in Whangarei, a two and a half-hour drive north of Auckland. “Luckily we have a business class ticket from Skoda but there will be three different flights,” he said.
The International Rally of Whangarei totals 241.29 competitive kilometres and runs from Friday until Sunday. Seven drivers are eligible for APRC points, including India’s Sanjay Takale, Australian Mark Pedder and New Zealander Michael Young.