Sungkar and Searcy win 2023 FIA APRC title

Rifat Sungkar of Indonesia and his Australian co-driver, Ben Searcy, secured the 2023 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title at the Danau Toba Rally in Indonesia after two days of intense competition.

Using looped road sections in North Sumatra’s Toba Pulp Lestari Plantation the fastest team across the 150.35km journey would be crowned the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) champions in an all-in one rally decider.

Of the 19 starters it was the experience of 45-year-old Sungkar and his co-driver that stood out. They began the event behind the favoured local duo, Sean Gelael and Hugo Magalhaes, in a Hyundai i20N Rally2 car. Sungkar and Searcy finished the opening day with a 5.7-second lead, driving their Skoda Fabia Rally2 car.

On Sunday, the duo extended their lead to 47.2 seconds. After a post-event Stewards decision, finishing places were adjusted, moving H. Rahmat and Hade Mboi to second (Ford Fiesta Rally2), with countrymen H. Rihans Variza and Anthony Sarwono (Hyundai i20N Rally2) securing third.

Ben Searcy and Rifat Sungkar, Danau Toba Rally 2023, Mitsuru Kotake

“To be an Indonesian and become Asia Pacific Champion – it’s a dream. My son said I’ve never seen you cry….I cried,” said an overwhelmed Sungkar – surrounded by his kids and fans at the finish.

“It’s worth it to wait but it’s been a long journey. This weekend has been a big fight and against a huge field.

“It was such a pleasure to race with my brother (Rizal) – we did it for our father (who passed away three years ago to the day).”

Danau Toba Rally 2023 podium, Mitsuru Kotake
The pair will be recognised by the FIA at the annual gala prize-giving in Baku, Azerbaijan, on the 6th of December.

It was also the final round for the Asia Cup – the sub championship title, contested across five rounds. Top-scoring team was H.Rahmat and co-driver Hade Mboi who completed two rounds with podium results to win the cup title.

Of the starters only nine were classified finishers – with many sliding into retirement from the slick and rugged roads. First of those was favoured local Sean Gelael and Hugo Magalhaes (Hyundai i20N Rally2). Having set fastest time in the opening 2.07km Super Special Stage and taking an early lead, it all ended on the first stage of the Saturday morning when he misjudged a jump and ploughed head-first into a bank. Returning on the Sunday they won all five tests and were classified seventh overall.

Other retirements included New Zealand pairing Mike Young/Amy Hudson in the Cusco Toyota C-HR – succumbing to underbody damage on the Saturday. Late entry Subhan Aksa and Mago Sarwono had been sitting in second overall until the fifth stage. The pair retired their Citroen C3 Rally2 on Sunday’s second stage.

A draft six-round calendar for 2024 has been submitted for approval and will be published once approved by the FIA.

Final results – 2023 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship: Danau Toba Rally

1. Rifat Sungkar/Ben Searcy, Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, 1:53:05.8
2. H. Rahmat/Hade Mboi, Hyundai i20 N Rally2, +15:16.1
3. H. Atuy Fatturahman/Emay Achmad, Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, +16:11.1
4. M. Suhem Kabeer/P.V. Srinivasa Murthy, Subaru Impreza STi N12, +27:22.7
5. Lokesh Ventakesh/Ashwin Naik, Subaru Impreza STi N12B, +31:08.9
6. Sanjay Takale/Musa Sherif, Toyota C-HR AP4, +38:49.4
7. Sean Gelael/Hugo Magalhães, Hyundai i20 N Rally2, +48:37.9
8. Jahaan Gill/Suraj Prasad, Subaru Impreza STi N11, +1:02:48.6
9. Achmad Aldio Oekon Aldio/Respati Adhi, Ford Fiesta Rally3, +1:16:32.5

Photos: Mitsuru Kotake and Asia Pacific Sports Media