Indian rally driver, Sanjay Takale, is returning to the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) to defend his 2013 APRC Production title with a new car and a new team, with a Cusco Racing Subaru Impreza, at this weekend’s International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand.
The 2013 Production Cup Champion says getting used to the new car at this rally will be a tough challenge but he is looking forward to competing on the roads around Northland again regardless of the added challenges. Takale says: “Whangarei has a special place in my heart. It was on the New Zealand roads that I drove my first ever APRC rally during 2011, as a wildcard entrant. I was driving a Proton car back then but I finished the rally and that inspired me to do the full APRC season the next year. And here I am again in 2014.
“The roads in Whangarei are very fast. The white gravel is also very challenging and I hope to get used to my new car without too much trouble but there are so many things to learn. The handbrake is one example; I’m used to that sitting near the gear lever but in the new Cusco Subaru Impreza it is at eye level, so that makes things a bit difficult.” Despite the new challenges Takale is set to face, he maintains his goal is to finish the rally, gain experience and ultimately, win the Production Cup again in 2014.
“I would simply like to finish the rally without any hiccups. In the past, I have had fairly good success rate here at Whangarei and I hope this rally will be kind enough to me again to allow me to finish. In all three starts I’ve had at this event, I have finished on the podium and that is something I would like to achieve again, but I am not in a big hurry.”
The steady approach Takale uses is also indicative of his results last year, where he was often going head-to-head with the factory backed Skoda’s of 2013 APRC Champion Gaurav Gill and Finnish rally-ace Esapekka Lappi. This year Czech driver, Jan Kopecky, replaces Lappi but is still a European force to watch, explains Takale.
Takale’s regular co-driver, Sean Gregory from Malaysia, is again set to sit alongside Takale for the entire APRC after the duo’s former team, MRU Motorsports, recommended the strong partnership to continue. “Sean [Gregory] is the best co-driver in my opinion. He always knows what is happening and I enjoy his company. MRU Motorsports and Team Principal Mohamad Rafiq Udaya have been very supportive of my goals so I really have to thank them.”
The shift from MRU Motorsports to Cusco Racing was a friendly change, explains Takale, with MRU Motorsports simply not able to meet the specific vehicle demands of the APRC in time for this event. Although Takale adds he would not hesitate to work with MRU Motorsprots team again in the future but says Cusco Racing has also been very welcoming and he can’t wait to start the rally on Friday.
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 starts 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.