Team MRF Skoda Czech driver Jan Kopecký has surged to the lead of the VINZ International Rally of Whangarei, New Zealand - opening round of the 2014 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Reigning APRC champion, Gaurav Gill, is in second place with the two Team MRF Skoda cars four minutes ahead of the rest of the field.
Of the six special stages contested so far today Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler topped the timesheets on five of them, amassing a lead of 23.2seconds in their MRF Skoda Fabia S2000 car.
Starting second car on the road, behind teammate and defending champion Gill, Kopecký said the emphasis was on not making mistakes. He commented, "We are happy but we are not pushing too hard, as we do not know the stages and tyres, as to how they go. I have a lead but tomorrow everything could be different.”
Gill reported a clean run of the roads, but he struggled in the final long test of the day. "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 two we had a spin, so we lost a lot of time. We got some time back in the next stage and are only a little slower than our teammate.” said the 32-year-old champion.
Teams now have a double run of the night time Hella Pohe Island Super Special stage, totalling 2.5km. While not expected to change the overall standings, there is a chance for an upset should a team fail to finish.
Sunday’s six remaining special stages take teams south of their Whangarei city base and to roads familiar to many. Departing Whangarei from 7:55am the competition is split with the morning loop of three stages repeated early in the afternoon. Look out to our follow up report, right after the event.