The factory-backed ŠKODA MRF team is celebrating the perfect start to the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with a one-two victory. The defending champions Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall (IND/NZ) won the Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand with an 11.9-second lead over the European champions Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ). The two ŠKODA MRF teams comfortably shook off their competitors and won all 14 special stages in the first of six races in the APRC season thanks to the Fabia Super 2000, which performed superbly once again.
“I’ve been close to winning here a number of times, and this time I finally succeeded. This is a fantastic victory for the entire ŠKODA MRF team,” commented Gill. Last year Gill, who comes from India, finished second in the season opener in New Zealand, behind his teammate Esapekka Lappi (FIN). This time, however, he put in a strong performance in a thrilling battle with Kopecký on the final day, to narrowly secure victory on the route which had been reduced to 220.87 kilometres.
The 2013 European champion had taken the lead on the first day on the dusty tracks around the rally base in Whangarei – an impressive achievement considering this was the 32-year-old’s debut in the APRC and also his first time of competing on tyres made by the Indian manufacturer MRF. “We had a really good battle with Gaurav over the entire weekend. This gives me the opportunity to improve. I haven’t had much experience with this kind of gravel rally and this is also the first time that I have competed so far away from my home in the Czech Republic. I’m therefore happy with the result,“ said Kopecký.
Gill and Kopecký are now at the top of the drivers’ standings thanks to their one-two finish. The front-runners ŠKODA MRF are also currently on course to defend their title in the manufacturers’ standings ahead of the second race of the season in New Caledonia from 16 to 18 May.