New Zealander, Michael Young, is set to compete in Rallye New Caledonia, the second round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) this weekend, for the first time.
But while it is Young’s first time driving on the roads around the tropical island, he has visited New Caledonia as a child, and is surrounded by experienced crew who know the country well.
Young says: “I was only nine years old when I was here last time, and I don’t remember much. Luckily my team have a lot of experience here, like Malcolm [Read, co-driver], who has attended this rally quite a few times as a mechanic. So I’m pretty lucky and I’m sure that will be helpful.”
Read is set to navigate for Young again this weekend, after co-driving for new World Rally Championship (WRC) competitor Hayden Paddon in a Ford Escort at last weekend’s Otago Classic Rally.
“It’s really good to have Malcolm back. He’s excellent at what he does, we get along really well, and he’s been getting a lot of seat time lately.”
Young adds Read’s experience will help on the roads around New Caledonia, as he describes them as ‘completely different to anything else’
“It’s going to be quite tough for everyone as there’s not a lot of room for error. If you go slightly too wide, its either a tree, a hole or a rock to hit, so the notes are about driving tidy. While the roads are quite dry and grippy with the road tyres on at the moment, they’ve been rolled and are very hard and smooth. That means if it gets wet, the top layer of the road will be really slippery,” explains Young.
The 21-year-old driver also adds some of the steep climbs will be hard in a two-wheel-drive car, particularly if weather forecasts are correct with rain predicted.
“Even in the dry today, I was thinking if it was going to be wet it would be pretty difficult to get up. But coming down is fine, just like snowboarding,” laughs Young.
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. Young’s APRC campaign is supported by Cusco, Dunlop, YodaRallying, OMP, CRC Speedshow, Club Cadet and Sommet Sports.