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Czech car manufacturer Skoda has joined forces with Indian tyre firm MRF to enter a two-car team on six rounds of the 2013 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.

Indian driver Gaurav Gill, who very nearly won the championship last year for MRF, will drive one Fabia Super 2000 with current Finnish Rally Champion Esapekka Lappi, driving a second entry.

“Skoda’s tradition of excellent and competent motorsport is more than 100 years old,” said Skoda head Professor Winfried Vahland. “Skoda’s entry to the APRC is an important step in terms of the brand’s growth offensive in international markets. Asia is exactly the region where our ambition is to grow substantially in the coming years. Demonstrating local people’s enthusiasm about rallying, the APRC is one of the key motorsport competitions in this region, offering us a great opportunity to present our brand to a large audience.”

Skoda Fabia's run by the Racetorque team from Australia won the APRC manufacturers and drivers title in 2012 with Australian Chris Atkinson and MRF. Skoda has also won titles in the Super 2000 world championship, the European championship and Intercontinental Rally Challenge.

“Skoda is growing worldwide and is experiencing one of the most dynamic periods of its long history,” said Skoda Motorsport head Michal Hrabanek. “We are proud to see Skoda Motorsport contributing to this growth.”

For Esapekka Lappi, a Skoda factory driver since the start of the year, the upcoming APRC campaign presents a major opportunity. “Everyone knows the WRC is moving away from Europe so it’s good to try these different events in different countries,” said the 22-year-old. “After our first successful appearances for Skoda Motorsport, we appreciate this chance to represent the brand also in the APRC. It is a great opportunity to show our competence.”

APRC president Steven Kennedy added: “Official confirmation from Skoda that they will enter the 2013 APRC is great news and to bring the current Finnish champion Esapekka Lappi into the team adds another international element to our championship."

The 2013 APRC begins on the International Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand from May 18/19. It also includes events in New Caledonia, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, China and Thailand.

Last month it was announced that Toyota Racing Development and Cusco Racing would link up to run a Vitz RS in the APRC.
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