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Team-mates to fight for victory in Japan

Ole Christian Veiby on his way to victory in Malaysia.

Team MRF drivers Ole Christian Veiby and Gaurav Gill will continue their battle for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship at this weekend’s Rally Hokkaido in Japan.

With two wins to his team-mate’s one, Norway’s Veiby starts the rally with a 10 point lead in the championship, and comes to Japan as a Rally Hokkaido novice, which may give the advantage to his Indian team-mate.

The Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia R5s have been the class of the field again this year with a one-two finish in all three rounds, and the team are determined to continue that trend.

Veiby had a brand new Fabia R5 last time out in Malaysia, and for this event Gill’s Skoda will sport a fresh engine.

The cars will have a slightly different set-up for this rally, with many of the stages held on fast public roads that are quite heavy with gravel.

“Japan’s a tricky event, with lots of blind corners that are hidden with heavy bushes,” team boss Lane Heenan said.

“We’ve seen in the past that if you’re fast here first time out, you’re really good, so we expect ‘OC’ to be on the pace.

“But having said that, Gaurav’s comeback to finish second in Malaysia was something special, and with his experience in Japan he’ll be going all out for the win to try and reduce the championship gap.

“As always, there’ll be no team orders and our drivers will be going flat out trying to beat each other.”

After a short spectator stage gets Rally Hokkaido underway on Friday night, competitors face a further 10 stages on Saturday over a competitive distance of 122km.

On Sunday, another seven stages complete the event, with the rally’s longest stage – the 29km New Ashoro Long – to be held twice.

Team MRF’s main rivals will once again be a pair of Mitsubishi Mirages in the hands of Jari Ketomaa (Finland) and Robert Bloomberg (Sweden), with New Zealander Mike Young driving a Toyota Vitz (Yaris) for the first time.

The event has a strong contingent of Japanese competitors, including a third Skoda Fabia R5, driven by Yuya Sumiyama.

Follow Rally Hokkaido via the official event website at http://www.rally-hokkaido.com/en/

APRC points after 3 of 5 rounds:

  1. Ole Christan Veiby, 108 points
  2. Gaurav Gill, 98
  3. Jari Ketomaa, 56
  4. Robert Bloomberg, 50
  5. P.G. Abhilash, 25

Peter has been the editor of RallySport Magazine since its inception in 1989, in both printed and online form. He is a long-time competitor, event organiser and official, as well as working in the media.

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