In this post I’ll take a closer look at the teams and cars that make up the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The top few cars from the APRC are essentially ‘WRC lite’ – full spec cars with full spec teams, running significantly faster than anything we usually see. At IROQ about half of the APRC field was made of locally based Group N and ARC spec Evo’s. Most of these entries are fairly similar to what we usually see, so for this post I’ll focus on the international entries.
The dominant team this year is proving to be India’s Team MRF with their pair of Skoda Fabia S2000’s. Sponsored by the Indian tyre giant MRF, Team MRF is officially based in Chennai, on the west coast of India. In reality the team is Australian – the cars are run by Race Torque out of Perth, and most of the crew are Australian.
The team have previously run Evo’s for many years, only switching to the Super 2000 spec Skoda’s this year with the impending demise of the four-wheel drive turbo Evo and WRX. Skoda have good provenance in rallying lately, winning the SWRC and IRC in 2011. The MRF team cars are straight out of the European rally circuit, one of them having been driven by Freddy Loix.
Team MRF for this year consists of Australian ex Subaru factory WRC driver Chris Atkinson with co-driver Stephane Prevot. Atkinson and Prevot wrapped up the Pacific Cup in Queensland and are currently leading the APRC heading into the next round in Malaysia.
The second Fabia S2000 is occupied by Delhi’s Gaurav Gill, with Australian co-driver Glen Macneall. Gill won Round 2 of the APRC in New Caledonia a few weeks ago, and has also competed in the PWRC with Team Sidvin India.
It’s a professional operation, with a full team of mechanics and engineering following the cars around the world. Most of the Team MRF mechanics run their own tuning businesses privately and travel to rallies as contractors for the duration of the event. They usually arrive at the rally 7 days before it begins, and leave 1-2 days after it finishes.
The team brings everything they need with them, and is entirely self sufficient. Trucks, recce cars, tools, spares. It is all loaded into these containers. As a team member told me, “the only thing we need to source locally is beer”.
Even the service truck fits into the container with mere millimetres to spare.
The logistics of running an international rally team are astounding. Everything has its place and everything only just fits. The entire team needs to meet quarantine requirements for every country too – that means that every truck, rally car, recce car, toolbox and spare part needs to be spotlessly clean to pass immigration.
The S2000 cars themselves are just incredible to see and hear. I think it’s a good thing that rally is moving away from turbocharged cars – the sound of these S2000 screaming through the forest is like nothing else. The Fabia S2000 puts out around 270hp at 8,250rpm, and sends the power to all four wheels through a six speed sequential manual.
The other main team in attendance was the factory Proton squad. The Proton team are also competing in the Super World Rally Championship with their Satria Neo S2000 and have recently won the SWRC class at the Rally of Sweden, so it was a good chance to see how a fully fledged WRC operation works. They had a significantly bigger team than MRF did.
The sight and sound of them rolling through the small Queensland country towns was something to behold – the cracking, popping monsters sound evil, even at 40km/h. And the smell once they pass you – it’s almost fragnant. It’s the smell of very expensive Elf race fuel, at about $8/litre.
Karamjit Singh drives for the Malaysian Team Proton R3 Cusco. Karamjit holds the records for being a professional rally driver for the most time (since 1985), and has won the PWRC and APRC several times.
The other interesting car entered was the Citroen DS3 R3. Built to the FIA’s new R3T formula, the DS3 features a 156kw 1600cc turbocharged four, running a sequential six speed manual through to the front wheels.
It’s interesting to see how they’ve done the carlos bar – it doesn’t meet the side impact bar in the usuall ‘cross’ manner, rather it runs behind it and is then gusseted to it. I guess two straight bars are stronger than a welded join.
That concludes our quick look at the main APRC contenders. Next up will be a closer look at the Classic competitors.APRC #Asia Pacific Rally Championship #Caloundra #Gravel Rally #Imbil #International Rally Of Queensland #IROQ #Proton #rally #Skoda