Exclusive access from $6.55/month
Visiting New Zealand for their first time, 22-year-old Finn Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm have taken out this year’s opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) with a start-to-finish leading performance at the International Rally of Whangarei held this weekend 18 - 19 May.
Driving the MRF Tyres team Skoda Fabia S2000 Lappi extended his overnight lead to a winning margin of 4min03.2 after winning seven of the day’s eight remaining special stages. Second was team-mate Gaurav Gill from India and co-driver Glenn Macneall while Nelson based Kiwi Ben Hunt and co-driver Tony Rawstorn finished third in their international specification Subaru STI.
Held over roads through the rural Whangarei and Kaipara Districts provided a variety of testing conditions from fog, thick damp gravel, sun drenched crests and brows to heavy rain showers during the two-day journey of 730.40km. Teams from India, Finland, New Caledonia, Australia and throughout New Zealand contested the 16 special stages with 28 of the 40 starting the final day making it to the end.
Even though he pushed his team-mate hard, Gaurav Gill in the second MRF Tyres team Skoda was hampered by a rear differential mechanical failure during this morning’s loop of four stages. Continuing with an error free run ensured the reigning Finnish rally champion was never pressured for the top spot during the afternoon’s repeat loop through the Waipu Gorge, Batley, Wairere and Cassidy road stages.
Returning to Whangarei’s Quayside Town Basin for the ceremonial finish, Lappi was thrilled at taking victory on his first visit to roads so well known to his mentors in the World Rally Championship:
“A very good result,” said Lappi as he arrived. “We’ve had heavy rain and it got really muddy in some places with fog as well on the Saturday. I had to focus on keeping rhythm to suit these roads but basically they were how I thought they were going to be.”
Happy to be able to match the pace of his team-mate when things ran smoothly, Gill was pleased with his overall result: “I love the roads here and I really enjoyed it this year. We went faster than last year so hopefully by next year we will be faster again and hopefully we will be aiming to win. We always love the roads in New Zealand – they teach you new things.”
Just outside the podium was Queensland pairing of Matt van Tuinen and co-driver Erin Kelly in a Subaru STI while Christchurch’s Josh Marston and Mal Peden finished as leading two-wheel-drive in the Ford Fiesta R2 – fifth overall.
Perth based Kiwi Michael Young, the only New Zealander registered for this year’s APRC finished third in the points, bringing the Cusco backed Toyota Vitz home in ninth place overall.
Lappi heads home with 39 points – the maximum on offer. Gill trails by nine with six rounds remaining.
Securing a win in the chasing Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship field Geraldine based Hayden Paddon continued his dominating form after claiming maximum points in yesterday’s leg. Along with co-driver John Kennard the pair set or re-set four records for the day’s double-run loop of four stages in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Second, Richard and Sara Mason had a scare on the fifth stage of the day when the steering wheel in their BNT Subaru came away. Effecting repairs they were able to continue at pace although never headed Paddon’s pace. Third equal, after a fraught event battling brake, engine and suspension troubles, Timaru’s Chris West and co-driver Chris Cobham were glad to return with their best points haul for the season in the Andrew Simms Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Matching their haul of 18 points was Hunt – who’s strong run at the head of the field keeps him third overall in the standings, behind Mason and table leading Paddon.
Paddon also set fastest time in the day’s power stage – the final stage of the rally, to earn an additional five bonus points and $500 cash for being fastest car in the championship category’s Super Rally in association with Auto Finance Direct.
First home in the BNT Historic category was Christchurch’s Jeff Judd and Malcolm Read in the Ford Escort RS1800. The pair had a clean run across each of the 16 stages – focusing on finishing after rival and defending category champion Marcus van Klink retired earlier in the day with driveshaft failure. Van Klink returned for the day’s power stage, setting fastest time to add a further five points to his weekend total. Judd is now on 76 points, 37 ahead of Christchurch’s Deane Buist who opted not to contest the event.
Finding form in the brand new Suzuki Swift, Dunedin’s Emma Gilmour set second fastest time behind Paddon in the afternoon’s first stage. Retiring on the first day after breaking a steering joint, Gilmour and co-driver Claire Mole have spent the remainder of the event getting the debuting car to speed until their run ended on the final test with drive shaft failure.
Following post-event technical checks the APRC cars will be released to the teams for cleaning and packing in to shipping containers where they will be transported to the series second round: Rallye de Nouvelle Calédonie 15 to 16 June.
New Zealand competitors now have a six week break until the third round – being held in the Manawatu at the Daybreaker Rally on 29 June.
Get full, exclusive access for only $6.55/month.
  • Full access
  • Exclusive news
  • Store & Tour discounts

Show Your Support


Recent Posts