Fresh from finishing first and second in the opening round of the 2014 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, Team MRF head into this weekend’s Rallye New Caledonia full of confidence.
Driving their Skoda Fabia Super 2000s, the team’s multi-national driving line-up was the class of the field in New Zealand’s Rally of Whangarei, with Indian Gaurav Gill and Australian co-driver, Glenn Macneall, taking victory.
Just 11.9 seconds behind were their Czech team-mates, Jan Kopecky and Pavel Dresler, who were making their APRC debut.
Gill won the Rallye New Caledonia last year, and knows the stages well. In a recent interview, he commented that his driving has become more refined over recent seasons. “With age and with time, my driving has become more precise now, that is what is required at this level of driving,” he told ‘The Hindu’. “We don’t get faster, we get more precise. So, when you’re more precise, you’re able to do the same thing, at the same time, at every corner throughout the rally stages. That’s very important. Not to have ten corners right and three corners wrong, that’s how you grow up in this sport.”
However, while Gill will be brimming with confidence, his team-mate, Jan Kopecky, will have a steep learning curve ahead of him as he starts the rally for the first time. That shouldn’t bother him too much though. He led in New Zealand after the first day, and it was only a big attack from Gill on day two that relegated the Czech driver to second place. Kopecky NZ 2014 Jan Kopecky will make his debut in Rallye New Caledonia.
Team MRF boss, Lane Heenan, expects his drivers to once again be the pacesetters this weekend. “As a team, we’ve been running the APRC for several seasons now and we have things running very smoothly,” Heenan said. “The Skoda Fabia S2000 is a great car and has proved perfect for this championship, as have the MRF tyres that the cars run.
“Gaurav won in New Caledonia last year, but we saw in New Zealand that Jan can be extremely competitive right from the very first stage, so we’re expecting another good battle between our two drivers this weekend. “It’s going to be another exciting rally.”
The Rallye New Caledonia will be held over a total distance of nearly 700 kilometres, of which 235km of that is competitive.Competitors will tackle 17 stages, the longest being the 17.10km ‘Paita’ test, which will be run three times.
The rally is run north of the city of Noumea, with road conditions traditionally proving challenging, particularly if the weather is wet.
2014 Asia Pacific Rally Championship – driver points after first round:
1. Gaurav Gill (IND) 38
2. Jan Kopecky (CZE) 31
3. Mark Pedder (AUS) 25
4. Tom Wilde (AUS) 19
5. Jun Xu (CHN) 17
6. Michael Young (NZL) 12
7. Sanjay Takale (IND) 8