India’s Gaurav Gill and Australia’s Glenn Macneall set fastest time in this morning’s shakedown of the international field contesting this weekend’s opening round of the 2016 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
The short 1.45km Hella Pohe Island gravel road test adjacent to the host city of Whangarei became a hive of activity as the three-day event kicks off the six-round six country journey for the coveted title. Piloting the new season international specification MRF Tyres ŠKODA Fabia R5 car, Gill set a time of 48.8sec at his fourth attempt around the course. Second fastest was team mate and debutant to the series – Germany’s Fabien Kreim and co-driver Frank Christian with a time of 50.7sec in their second attempt.
New Zealand nationals Michael Young and Malcolm Read set third fastest time in their Cusco-prepared EZY Racing Subaru Impreza with a best time of 51.3sec.WRC Rally Argentina winners Hayden Paddon and John Kennard led the Kiwi contingent contesting the national category event, setting a time of 48.2sec in their New Zealand specification Hyundai i20 car.
Following this morning’s shakedown test the teams are in final preparations before the rally show and ceremonial start from 5pm. Then from 7pm the cars will tackle two runs of the Hello Pohe Island Super Special Stage – being held under lights. This is where the clock starts, for the journey across 275km of the Northland region’s fast flowing gravel roads. The journey takes the teams as far north as Kawakawa for eight timed special stages on the fast flowing cambered roads the rally is famous for. Sunday’s final leg heads south of Whangarei for a further six stages, returning for a ceremonial finish at the Quayside Town Basin from 3pm.