Current European champion Jan Kopecky leads APRC Rally Hokkaido at the end of day one. Kopecky’s team-mate Gaurav Gill led the event after seven stages and the first service, but then crashed heavily on the very next stage Yam Waka. With Gill’s retirement Kopecky took over the lead and finished the day, 25 seconds ahead of Japan’s Toshi Arai.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to Gaurav, we were having a good battle but these roads are very unforgiving. Our plan today was to keep the same safe pace especially through the long stages. Tomorrow the stages are very tricky, very difficult and are different from today, so hopefully we can keep our position and bring the car back to the finish”, said Kopecky at final service back in Obihiro.”We must finish tomorrow as this will win for Skoda the APRC Manufacturer’s award”.
APRC returnee Hiroshi Yanagisawa from Japan is third overall in the new Cusco Subaru WRX STi, ahead of his team-mate Yuya Sumiyama. With Gill gone Sumiyama is the leading Asia Cup contender ahead of China’s Jan Xu is S2000 Skoda Fabia is next of the APRC registered drivers, just ahead of Indian driver Sanjay Takale in a Cusco Subaru.
Takale is aiming to win the Production Cup award in Japan, battling his Cusco team-mate Mike Young from New Zealand. “Mike and I are having a good fight for the Production Cup, I just to want to win one round outright as this probably my last APRC event for 2014. Its going well I have 1 minute and 12 second lead in the Production Cup and 11th overall in the rally. These roads in Hokkaido are wonderful, so fast”, enthused Takale.
Tomehide Hasegawa has had a good day but steering problems have prevented the Hasepro driver from challenging for a better position, while Dinesh Deheragoda is further back than he wanted too, with LSD and drive-shalf issues.
There are 93 kilometers of competition on Day 2 with the rally finishing back in Obihiro at 5pm.