Kopecky win in New Caledonia
The works-assisted ŠKODA MRF team overcame the miserable conditions to claim another one-two at the second round of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). European champions Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ) picked up their first win in the APRC in exotic New Caledonia, ahead of team-mates Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall (IND/NZ). Gill had previously triumphed ahead of Kopecký at the opening round in New Zealand. The two drivers are now tied at the top of the overall standings after two of six races in the APRC, while ŠKODA also holds a commanding lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
“We had quite a big lead on day two, so I just wanted to avoid making any mistakes on the muddy roads. I was under no pressure, and could relax in the Fabia Super 2000, which was perfect – as always,” said Jan Kopecký, who was delighted with his first win at only his second start in the APRC: “We are now level with Gaurav, which is good for the championship. It is always better when there is such a close battle.”
The Czech driver finished a full 6:12.8 minutes ahead of his ŠKODA team-mate Gill in New Caledonia. The Indian had initially led the rally on day one, but then damaged his car when he came off the road and consequently dropped a crucial amount of time. The drivers were once again faced with the trickiest of conditions on the French island in the South Pacific, with most of the route transformed into mud bath by the heavy rain. So bad were the conditions that six of the 17 special stages scheduled had to be cancelled.
Safety concerns meant that the two ŠKODA MRF drivers started the penultimate stage later than expected. This resulted in a time penalty from the jury, but this was subsequently reduced after an appeal from the ŠKODA MRF team. As such, Kopecký and Gill had to wait several hours to celebrate their one-two. “We were a victim of the conditions with our crash on day one. However, we still managed to make the most of the situation for ourselves and the team in the end,” Gaurav Gill commented. The two ŠKODA MRF drivers clocked the fastest times on all eleven special stages.
Following the latest one-two, Jan Kopecký is already looking forward to the next APRC Rally in Australia from 20 to 22 June: “I have never been to Australia, so the rally will be completely new territory for me. It will be exciting again.”
The starts in the APRC are of strategic importance to the Czech automobile manufacturer. The goal is to further increase awareness of the brand in international markets. ŠKODA is looking to increase its global sales to at least 1.5 million units per year over the coming years, with particular emphasis on the emerging markets in Asia.
The number for the Rally New Caledonia: 6
Like last year, a total of six special stages had to be cancelled due to heavy rain, which made the roads undriveable. As such, only eleven of the 17 scheduled special stages were actually held. After stages five and eight were cancelled on days one and two of the rally, only four of the eight special stages scheduled for the final day could actually be completed. The last three stages were all abandoned completely.