18-way Battle for 2023 Title

This weekend (24-26 November) there are eighteen teams in with an equal opportunity of claiming the 2023 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title – being held at Indonesia’s Danau Toba Rally.

The final and title deciding round for 2023 it is the largest entry list ever for the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) recognised championship, which concludes with a 150.35km all-in event. The team with the overall lowest elapsed time will be crowned the champion (pending technical clearance) and then recognised by the FIA at the annual gala prize giving in Baku along with all the other FIA Championships, including F1 and WRC, on the 6th of December.

Based around North Sumatra’s Toba Pulp Lestari Plantation, it is the location where sections of the 1996 and 1997 World Rally Championship were contested. At 900m above sea level the region has a tropical climate with significant rainfall. Weather for the weekend extends the likelihood of damp conditions, particularly on the Friday and Saturday.

Danau Toba 2023 stage preview
Contested across 12 all-gravel roads, spread between north-west and inland east of host town Parapat, conditions vary from wide-open plantation sections to twisty winding mountainous sections. The longest stage is the Huta Tonga stage of 16.42km – used both on the Saturday and Sunday.

Beginning with an opening ceremony at the very picturesque Kaldera 2pm Friday, the cars contest then contest the 2.07km Super Special Stage from 3:25pm. That’s followed by a service stop and overnight secure park. Saturday covers four special stages – two repeated, for a total of six special stages covering 86.4km.

Danau Toba 2023 service park
Sunday’s remaining five stages (65.88km) use a combination of repeat and reverse direction roads near Pandjaitah. Returning to Aek Nauli for a 45-minute secure park the cars convoy to Harungguan Bolon, Parapat, for the 3pm finish ceremony.

Top local entry is Jakarta based Rifat Sungkar with Australian co-driver Ben Searcy.

Sungkar has a long connection with the APRC, finishing third overall in 2011, followed by a stint in the production category of the WRC in 2012. Winning the qualifying round in 2022, Sungkar again qualified for the 2023 event and will compete using a Skoda Fabia Rally2 car.

A total of 12 Indonesian nationals are entered, 10 of them are in Rally2 specification cars, from Hyundai, Ford and Skoda.

Regular APRC campaigner Mike Young returns for another chance at the overall title. The New Zealand based driver will have regular co-driver Amy Hudson (NZ) alongside, and use the same Cusco backed Toyota C-HR he debuted in 2019 and has driven at multiple events in 2023.

“We are carrying 300kg more weight than the Rally2 cars so will be difficult. The roads will be a big challenge – very twisty and rough. Lots of places have been affected by heavy rain, so there are some harsh bumps and muddy areas,” commented Young.

Another familiar name is India’s Sanjay Takale, joined by Musa Sherif in a Toyota C-HR. Takale is joined by three other Indian national teams – all in Subarus.

Representing Thailand is Mana Pornsirisherd/Thanyaphat Meenil in a third Toyota C-HR (AP4).

Local Achmad Aldio Oekon and Respati Adhi will campaign the only Ford Fiesta Rally3 car – making it an all four-wheel-drive championship decider.

Also, to be determined is the Asia Cup – a multi-round title. Top points contender is Sean Gelael, tied with Mana Pornsirisherd. First one home will take the trophy.

Photos courtesy of Asia Pacific Sports Media – apsm.tv