Braving the unforgiving conditions in Rally Hokkaido, Sanjay Takale came up trumps and won the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) Production Cup title amassing insurmountable points after an incident-filled weekend in Rekibetsu Island.
Driving his Subaru Impreza Dreams India car, Takale and his navigator Sean Gregory put up a solid show after having crashed out in the last round in Malaysia, to finish second behind Gaurav Gill of Team MRF. The penultimate round of APRC, however, was last for Takale as he had notified to skip season-ending China Rally at the start of the season.
In the five rounds, Takale came out empty-handed only from Malaysia, but scored points at every other rounds—Whangarei in New Zealand to New Caledonia, Queensland and Hokkaido in Japan—for an aggregate of 151.5. He needed to at least finish second in his class to steer clear of his main challenger Hiroshi Asakura as the Japan round was his final fling on the 2013 APRC.
Takale was home in 2 hours 56 minutes 50.8 seconds in his MRU Motorsports-backed Subaru. Gill was much faster and finished in 2:26.26.2. Though there were 10 more drivers between Gill and Takale, but all were either Asia Cup drivers or Japanese National championship competitors.
Asakura earned 30 points from Japan and now has a total of 74 and will be competing in the season-ending China Rally after having skipped the Round 2 in New Caledonia. But maximum he can earn there is 39 points, while the gap between him and Takale now stands at staggering 77.5. Hypothetically speaking, it would require two more rounds with full points to surpass Takale by half-a-point.
“It was a fight fair and square. We won the Production Cup title beating Asakura on his own home ground,” said an elated Takale after winning the title.
In the super special stage Takale beat Asakura by 6 seconds and then kept the Japanese under leash by constantly winning all stages ahead of him.“We were well-prepared for the Rally Hokkaido and decided not to commit Hara Kiri in Japan,” said Takale, who leapfrogged one place to No 2 in the APRC overall championship title race.
Takale began the Stage 1 by beating Young and Asakura by half-a-minute when he completed the 29.11-km New Ashoro Long stage in 20 minutes 36.5 seconds. This was a riposte to Young who had beaten Takale in the Super Special stage, SS1, on Friday.
The SS3 at Yam Waka saw Takale extend his lead by over a minute taking the tricky Rikubetsu Long in 4 minutes 10.7 seconds. The contest went on so with Takale (2:12:47.4) extending his lead slowly but steadily to end Saturday being second behind Gill and roughly two minutes ahead of Young (2:14:38.1). Asakura (2:21:21.5) was further down by 9 minutes.
Sunday saw an ominous sign for Takale as Young went all out and won six stages ahead of Takale, but the Pune driver had enough gap to stay ahead in the overall classification. Two short stages remained and Takale decided to take on Young and won the penultimate SS17 and the final SS18 through the Satsunai river to stamp his class.
Championship standings after Round 5
Production Cup Championship:
Drivers: 1. Sanjay Takale 151.5, 2. Hiroshi Asakura 74.
Co-drivers: 1. Sean Gregory (Mas) 151.5, 2. Takumi Takahashi (Jpn) 44, 3. Osamu Yoda (Jpn) 30.
Rally Hokkaido results: 1. Gaurav Gill and Glenn MacNeall (Skoda-Fabia) 2:26:22.2, 2. Sanjay Takale and Sean Gregory (Subaru Impreza) 2:56:50.8, 3. Michael Young and Malcolm Read (Toyota MTZ) 2:58:25.0, 4. Hiroshi Asakura and Takumi Takahashi (Proton Satria Neo) 3:06:25.8. Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm (Skoda-Fabia) DNF.