The 2016 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) is officially underway at the first round held at the International Rally of Whanagrei in New Zealand, with Fabian Kreim taking the lead after two short super special stages in the city centre.
With little over one second separating first placed Kreim from Team MRF team-mate Gaurav Gill in second, and Scott Pedder in third, the battle for top honours promises to be hotly contested during tomorrows eight stages.
Unfortunately local favourite Michael Young had his hopes for a good finish fade after an electrical problem with his Cusco EZY Racing Subaru Impreza meant the car lost all power at the start line of the first super special stage. The Kiwi crew have temporarily withdrawn from the rally though say they’ll be back tomorrow and will try to reduce their 10 minute deficit to get valuable championship points.
“This is obviously a disappointing start to the rally for us. We’re still not entirely sure what happened but as soon as we turned the spotlights on, the car just died. The boys are working on it now though and we’re sure it’ll be ready to go again tomorrow,” said Young.
“We also have to remember they’re [Gill and Kreim] in a much faster R5 while we’re still in a Group N car so I think there’s no point being silly and trying to chase them. We just need to score some points now.”
The New Zealand event also sees the debut of the new Skoda Fabia R5 car in the APRC, run by Team MRF, which are piloted by 2013 APRC Champion Gaurav Gill (India) and Skoda driver Fabian Kreim (Germany).
“The Team MRF Skoda is completely different to what I’ve been used to and what I’ve been driving over the years… It has a lot more power, a lot more torque and the chassis is incredibly responsive,” said Gill.
“We’ve only done some tests two days ago, of only about 50 kilometres, so its going to take some time to understand how the car is and how it responds. I will give it at least three to four stages to see how it goes and then enjoy the stages after that.”
It is also Kreim’s first gravel event after finishing as the runner up in the German Rally Championship last year, which features only has tarmac events.
“The roads are quite amazing and quite different to Germany. In Germany we have only tarmac but here the roads are really really nice,” said Kreim.
“It’s a bit different to tarmac and I think in the beginning, it’s only learning, learning, learning.”
Australian Scott Pedder also made an impressive start to the event in his Renault Clio and will be looking to maintain his position tomorrow.
Young’s team-mate, Indian driver Sanjay Takale is making his return to the APRC Championship following a serious illness that side-lined him last year.
“I’m so happy to be back after a very serious illness. I am looking forward to getting more seat time and getting back into the groove. My goal is just to finish here,” said Takale.
A trio of Japanese drivers also feature in this years International Rally of Whangarei with Fuyuhiko Takahashi [Subaru Impreza], Makoto Kawahara [Mitsubishi Evolution] and Tatsuo Koizumi [Subaru Impreza] all competing here.
The action starts again at 7.56 am and sees the crews battle it out on stages, totalling 154 kilometers, north of Whangarei.
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Results after leg one – part one (gap to first):