- Fourth race in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) from Friday to Sunday at the Rally Hokkaido in Japan
- ŠKODA duo Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall travel to the race as championship leaders after claiming three wins out of three so far this season
- Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian gunning for their first APRC triumph
- Michal Hrabánek: “Victory would be an important step towards defending our APRC title”
ŠKODA has set its sights on victory at the fourth race of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), a win that would further increase the chances to clinch the title with races still to come. Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall (IND/AUS) from the ŠKODA MRF team have recorded three wins in three APRC races so far and travel as championship leaders to the 15th Rally Hokkaido, which takes place from Friday to Sunday. Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian (D/D), who lead the German Rally Championship (DRM), are the second ŠKODA pair in the land of the rising sun and are out to claim the first APRC victory of their career.
“In Japan, we can take an important step towards defending our APRC title at the Rally Hokkaido. We are represented by two strong driving teams, who will both want to fight for the win,” says ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek, adding: “The ŠKODA drivers have already recorded three wins and three more podium finishes in the APRC this season, proving that our ŠKODA FABIA R5 is a great rally car. Another win would allow us to extend our lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.” ŠKODA is currently 38 points ahead of Subaru with three rallies remaining and aiming for a fifth consecutive APRC title.
This year, the Rally Hokkaido is being held for the 15th time and will take place around the city of Obihiro on the island of Hokkaido. Sapporo, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and is the largest city on the island, is approximately two and a half hours from the rally HQ. A total of 18 special stages are scheduled, over a combined distance of 220.02 kilometres. The routes around Obihiro often become very slippery in cool conditions early in the morning, and in the evening. The experienced ŠKODA MRF team know how to deal with these conditions: in the last three years, ŠKODA drivers Gaurav Gill, Jan Kopecký (CZ) and Pontus Tidemand (S) have all triumphed at the rally, which aficionados say is reminiscent of the World Rally Championship event in Wales.
Gaurav Gill aims to extend his Drivers’ Championship lead in Japan and maintain his perfect record with a fourth APRC win of the season: “The season has been perfect for us so far. We have been able to build up a bit of a lead over Fabian Kreim. We want to extend this lead, but we know how strong Fabian is, so it won’t be easy.”
Gill leads the overall APRC standings with 115 points at the halfway point of the season. Kreim is 29 points behind in second place and still has every chance of claiming the title. The German driver is competing in the APRC for the first time this season and has delivered some convincing performances, claiming two second-place finishes and a third place in China. “The APRC is uncharted territory for me but I am satisfied with my performances and results so far. Of course it would be great to win, but Gaurav Gill is hard to beat. And, unlike me, he knows the rally,” says Kreim.