A closer look at the APRC S2000 & R3 spec cars

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.

You can tell it’s an international event when there are left hand drive full spec recce cars dotted around the service park.

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.

Other than how visibly quick they are, the other thing that got me is how far the driver sits back. Better for safety, better for weight distribution.

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 team is run and the cars are prepared out of the UK, but the Proton team is still 100% Malaysian. All of their significantly sized crew work full time on the rally cars.

Alister McRae along with co-driver Bill Hayes, the 2011 APRC champions, finished second at IROQ.

Swede Per-Gunnar Andersson and co-driver Emil Axelsson are the second drivers for Proton.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Per-Gunnar has the coolest name in world rallying.

Just looking at the Satria Neo’s you could tell they are factory cars – they’re just another notch up again from the Skoda’s.

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.

Their service setup was huge – two big tents and two shipping containers devoted to the S2000 cars, and a further 2 tents and 2 containers devoted to the FWD cars they were running.

Every team member had a job to do.

The team has several specially prepare shipping containers. One of them has the main office at the front…

… and space for spares at the back. The cars sit on those ramps, which are converted to work benches during the event. The containers are directly delivered to the service park of each event.

The team even brought 3 left hand drive Proton recce cars with them!

Everywhere you looked around the service park there were reminders of exotic rallies in exotic locations.

A Japanese crew had entered their Evo X.

It was largely the same as the X’s we have here, except for the little details – it was running Bride seats and these Weds Sport rims.

There were quite a few Satria Neo’s entered in the FWD and Junior classes, run by both the Proton works team…

… and the Cusco team from Japan.

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 was very nicely prepared with all the little details that only a major manufacturer can do, such as these specially moulded door trims.

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.

The other prerequisite for competing in the IROQ is the possession of a large moustache. Sadly I can’t meet this requirement, so will probably never be an international driver.

That concludes our quick look at the main APRC contenders. Next up will be a closer look at the Classic competitors.

International Rally of Queensland on Any Given Reason

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