The opening round of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) took place around the host city of Whangarei on New Zealand’s Northland. Heavy rainfall in the forests in the north of Auckland made the special stages on the first leg of the rally very slippery. “It was raining cats and dogs. The changing conditions of mud and rain made it slippery in places, when others were really grippy. Sometimes it was raining so heavily the wipers couldn’t clear all the water away – it was hard to see at all,” commented Ole Christian Veiby, who took the lead after the first leg of the rally with more than a half minute gap.
Teammate Gaurav Gill meanwhile was struggling with the setup of his ŠKODA FABIA R5. By the end of the first day, he changed the shock absorbers, modified the differential settings and was ready to fight back for the lead. The weather improved on the final day of the rally and a thrilling and close battle for the victory evolved. On Sunday morning Gill was fastest on two stages, Veiby fought back with one scratch time. With three more stages to go, Veiby was still 23 seconds ahead of Gill. In SS 14 Veiby had a brake issue and lost a lot of time in the stage. After a roadside repair, he checked in late on the time control for the next stage, got a time penalty and dropped to second place behind teammate Gill.
At the finish in Whangarei, Ole Christian Veiby was already looking forward to the next rally: “What an experience. I never thought I would be leading most of the rally, can’t wait for the rest of the APRC season!” Gaurav Gill and Stéphane Prévot celebrated their win on the podium in Whangarei after a tense and thrilling battle with their young Norwegian teammates.
ŠKODA Motorsport Boss Michal Hrabanek was delighted: “Congratulations to Gaurav and Ole Christian for their stunning performance. There is no better way to start the APRC season but with a double victory!”
Final Results APRC Rally of Whangarei, 1st round of FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC)
1. Gill/Prévot (IND/BEL), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 2:35:06.8 h
2. Veiby/ Skjarmœn (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA R5, + 2:02.8 min
3. Blomberg/Andersson (SWE/SWE), Mitsubishi Mirage, + 17:45.5 min
4. Takahashi/Nakamura (JPN/JPN), Subaru Impreza WRX STi, + 28:17.3 min
5. Abhilash/Gowda (IND/IND), Subaru Impreza WRX STi, + 37:42.9 min
Calendar of the 2017 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC)
Rally of Whangarei – New Zealand; 28.04–30.04.2017
Rally Canberra – Australia; 26.05–28.05.2017
China Rally; 07.07–09.07.2017
Malaysian Rally; 11.08–13.08.2017
Rally Hokkaido – Japan; 15.09–17.09.2017
Rally of India; 24.11–26.11.2017