Whangarei (New Zealand), April 12: Team MRF was poised for a 1-2 finish in the VINZ International Rally of Whangarei, the opening round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) here Saturday as Jan Kopecky (co-driver Pavel Dresler) topped the time charts ahead of teammate Gaurav Gill (Glen Macneall), both in Skoda Fabia S2000.
Czech Kopecky led reigning APRC champion Gill by 23.2 seconds with the two Team MRF Skoda cars four minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Of the six special stages contested Saturday, Kopecky was the quickest in five.
Starting second car on the road, behind Gill, Kopecky said the emphasis was on not making mistakes and to finish the day’s stages.
“We are happy but we are not pushing too hard as we don’t know the stages and tyres as to how they go. So I have to find a rhythm and the speed to know how much I can push to be safe and finish. The dust was in a few places in each stage, so not a big issue. I have a lead but tomorrow everything could be different,” said Kopecky.
On his part, Gill reported a clean run of the roads though he struggled in the final long stage when he lost a lot of time.
“There was just way too much gravel and I may have been a little too conservative thinking not to overdrive it and that’s how we lost a lot of time. On Stage 2, we lost all grip at the rear and had a spin. We got some time back in the next stage and are only a little slower than our teammate,” said the 32-year-old.
Teams now have a double run of the night time Hella Pohe Island Super Special stage, totalling 2.5 km. While not expected to change the overall standings, there is a chance for an upset should a team fail to finish the lit spectator spectacle.
Sunday’s six remaining special stages take teams south of their Whangarei city base and to roads familiar to many. Departing Whangarei early morning, the competitors will do two loops of the three stages before returning here.