This weekend’s second round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship presents a new challenge for Team MRF drivers Pontus Tidemand and Gaurav Gill. Driving their Skoda Fabia S2000s, the pair finished first and second in the first round of the championship in New Zealand in April, and will be hoping for a similar result on the Pacific island event.
Swedish driver, Tidemand, dominated the first round on his APRC debut, while his Indian team-mate recovered well from earlier problems to snatch second place on the last stage of the Rally of Whangarei. “It is always great to get a good start to the season,” Tidemand said ahead of another debut event for the 24-year old.
“We aim to help ŠKODA take home the championship title in the APRC and to score points early makes it easier for the rest of the series. “This year consists of many new experiences since every event is completely new for me, and Rally New Caledonia is no exception. “Our biggest goal this weekend is to make it all the way to the finish line and, of course, to do it as best as we can with a result as good as possible. I look forward to another challenge!”
Gill has won Rally New Caledonia twice, in 2012 and 2013, and finished in second place last year. The former Asia-Pacific Champion is determined to reclaim his event title this year and, in doing so, bridge the gap on his younger team-mate. The team will also run a third Skoda Fabia S2000, for New Caledonian star Jean Louis Leyraud, who is currently second in the Pacific Cup behind Tidemand.
Team manager for Team MRF, Lane Heenan, said that both drivers were in a confident mood heading into the event. “We had a great start to the season in New Zealand with a 1-2 result, and we’re confident of a similar showing this weekend,” Heenan said. “New Caledonia is always a tough event. The road conditions can be very rough, and if it’s wet it throws another variable into the equation. “However, the combination of the Skoda Fabia, MRF Tyres and two of the best drivers in the world should stand us in good stead.”
Team MRF’s main opposition in the Rally New Caledonia will come from local drivers Emmanuel Guigou (Renault Clio) and Eric Riandet (Peugeot 207).
Rally New Caledonia is located to the west side of the main island, Grande Terre. Friday’s start ceremony and the first two stages, a super special run twice, takes place near the capital, Noumea, in the southern part of the main island. On Saturday and Sunday, the event moves north and the remaining stages will be run in the area between Poya and Farino, with the service park in Bourail. In total, competitors will face 16 special stages totalling 245km.
2015 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship points after round 1
1. Pontus Tidemand 39 points
2. Gaurav Gill 29 points
3. Michael Young 26 points
4. Subhan Aksa 20 points
5. Jean Louis Leyraud 16 points
6. Mitsuhiro Aoki 11 points