?The first competition for the newly formed ŠKODA MRF team has turned into a total triumph. Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Finland) won the Rally Whangarei in New Zealand on their Skoda Fabia S2000. Their teammates Gaurav Gill/Glen Macneall (India/New Zealand) came second in what was a perfect weekend for the Czech manufacturer.
The rally in New Zealands north was the first of six in the Asian Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). „That was a perfect start to the new series“, said team manager Pavel Hortek. After a total of 16 special stages and 289 kilometres Lappi beat Gill convincingly by 4:03.2 minutes.
ŠKODA’s Head of Motorsport, Michal Hrabánek, was full of praise: „Congratulations to an outstanding performance by the ŠKODA duo at the start of the APRC in New Zealand and the great promotion of the whole ŠKODA brand in a region which so important for us. On this weekend we have also extended the lead in the ERC thanks to Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler - just a great weekend for ŠKODA.“
Esapekka Lappi was of the same opinion. He was extremely happy said the young man from Scandinavia who had never raced outside Europe before: „I couldn‘t have had a better start to the new series, we had a great rhythm.“ He won a total of twelve of the special stages, Gill the other four.
The experienced Indian was also happy with the result and was still 4:30.7 minutes faster than the third placed car: „This is one of the toughest rallies and I tried my best.?
The next leg of the APRC tour will take place in New Caledonia in the South Pacific from June 14 to 16. ŠKODA´s entry to the APRC is an important step in terms of the brand´s growth offensive in international markets. The brand´s ambition is to increase annual sales to 1.5 million vehicles/year by 2018, and Asia is exactly the region where ŠKODA plans to grow substantially.