“At the last APRC rally in China, we head to deal with extreme heat and desert sands, and this time in Japan we had muddy stages with big potholes. We were able to celebrate a win in the APRC standings on both occasions. This proves that the ŠKODA drivers and our FABIA R5 can cope with the most difficult of conditions,” concluded ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek. “Congratulations to the whole team from ŠKODA MRF. Now we have to continue to work hard and ensure that we don’t lose concentration in the remaining two races of the season.”
A typhoon with torrential rain had covered some roads on the island of Hokkaido in mud and detritus. However, the Japanese organising team managed to clear all the stages and make them ready for competition in time for the rally to start. Conditions were extremely complicated for the 19 competitors in the APRC – deep puddles and mud made the 220 stage kilometres hazardous and slippery.
Despite this, both ŠKODA drivers were in perfect control of their FABIA R5s. Fabian Kreim took the lead in Friday’s first stage, 0.1 seconds ahead of his team-mate Gaurav Gill. However, the 34-year-old Indian driver took command on Saturday and gradually extended his lead – although he had a new co-driver at his side in the form of the experienced Stéphane Prévot (47). Gill’s regular co-driver Glenn Macneall (AUS) was competing at a rally in Finland. As proceedings drew to a close Gill/Prévot won the battle of the ŠKODAs, 1:50.6 minutes ahead of Kreim/Christian in second place.
“Of course I was a bit nervous before the rally, due to the change of co-driver. But everything worked out really well, although we had changed the set-up of our FABIA R5 completely after the last APRC rally in China. So I am really happy with this win,” commented Gill.
He has now extended his lead in the drivers’ championship after four wins in four races this season and is ideally placed to repeat his 2013 APRC title win. This would mean the fifth consecutive title for ŠKODA in the prestigious continental championship. ŠKODA also moved further ahead of Subaru in the manufacturers’ championship. The final two races of the season, taking place in Malaysia and in Gill’s home country of India, will be decisive in the title race.
The 23-year-old Fabian Kreim once again proved just how talented he is – gravel rallies are completely new territory for the German driver. “This was my first time here and the conditions were really extreme, with deep potholes and a lot of mud. We can be more than pleased with the fourth podium finish. As always, our ŠKODA FABIA R5 ran perfectly,” commented Kreim. He is the clear leader in the Germany Rally Championship (DRM) – and he has the chance to secure his first national championship title at the “3-Städte-Rallye” on 21st and 22nd October, before returning to compete in the APRC again.
The number of the Rally Hokkaido: 18
It doesn’t get any better than this: the schedule for the Rally Hokkaido contained 18 stages over 220 kilometres, and a ŠKODA FABIA R5 was fastest on 18 occasions. The victorious Gaurav Gill recorded the fastest time on twelve stages and his team-mate Fabian Kreim was quickest on six occasions.
FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC)
Rally Whangarei – New Zealand 29.04.–01.05.2016
Rally Queensland – Australia 18.06.–19.06.2016
Rally Zhangye – China 06.08.–07.08.2016
Rally Hokkaido – Japan 23.09.–25.09.2016
Rally Malaysia – Malaysia 29.10.–30.10.2016
Rally India – India 10.12.–11.12.2016