Motorsports: Team MRF hoping for a strong start

Auckland, April 10: Team MRF will begin their campaign for a hat-trick of FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championships this weekend with the running of the Rally of Whangarei.

Using their Race Torque prepared Skoda Fabia Super 2000s, the team clinched the championship in 2012 with Australian Chris Atkinson, and then again in 2013 with Indian star Gaurav Gill.

For the six-round 2014 championship, Gill will be joined by the 2013 European Rally Champion, Jan Kopecky, from the Czech Republic.

Team MRF won five of the six rounds last season, and start clear favourites in 2014.

“In New Zealand, I would like to score some points, just to see how fast he (Gill) really is and how fast other drivers are and then we will see,” Kopecky said in a recent interview.

“I would like to win this championship, but it will not be easy. I’ve never been to New Zealand or any of the countries in the championship, but it’s a great opportunity to see different places.

Gill was similarly upbeat about his chances this year and preferred to focus on the coming season rather than his triumphs last year.

“We had a great season where we created history last year, but now our focus is squarely on this year. I will be working much closer with the MRF R and D team as well to ensure we have the best possible tyres.

“These guys are capable of developing tyres to match the best in the world and together we hope to achieve this. We will not rest on our laurels and will continue to push to ensure that we are fighting for the title again,” said Gill.

Team MRF’s Skoda Fabias are prepared at Race Torque’s factory in Perth, Western Australia, with a brand new car being built for Kopecky.

Gill will use the car that his 2013 team-mate, Esapekka Lappi, drove last year.

Along with the Team MRF Skodas, Race Torque will also run a third Skoda Fabia S2000, for Chinese pairing of Jun Xu and Sheng Liu.

The 2014 season will be the eighth that the Rally of Whangarei has been held on the flowing country roads north of Auckland.

This year’s route includes a mix of new roads and old favourites, with the highlight being the Hella Pohe Island special stage, to be run under lights and featuring several prime spectator viewing points, including the adjacent motorway bypass bridge.