Michael's 2014 Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) campaign got off to a great start by scoring a podium place in the two-wheel-drive class, and the Production Cup, on top of gaining valuable drivers’ championship points at the first round held at New Zealand's International Rally of Whangarei over last weekend.
As the only registered New Zealander in the APRC, Mike had a big task ahead of him to defend his two-wheel-drive title, especially with the introduction of Australian, Tom Wilde, in a more powerful Renault Clio G2.
The reigning triple champion says he really enjoyed being back home in New Zealand and is pleased with the results in his Cusco Racing Proton Satria Neo.
"Obviously, it’s always good to come home to compete on the roads I grew up on, and catch up with all my friends and family. But the most important thing for us, for the first round, was scoring points for the two-wheel-drive and Production Cup championship plus for my team, Cusco Racing.:
Day one started well for Mike, and new co-driver Erin Kelly from Australia, however the 21-year-old encountered a problem with a loose wheel on stage three, costing him valuable time.
"That was entirely my fault. We changed the tyres prior to the start of stage three, and Erin checked that the wheel nuts on her side were properly tight but I didn’t and paid the price. We had to stop mid-stage and lost around three minutes. But better to be safe than sorry as finishing each event is really important."
The time loss dropped Mike to eighth place but by mid-afternoon the kiwi had fought his way back up to sixth, and only three and half minutes behind Wilde.
While catching Wilde seemed impossible, Mike didn’t slow down and continued to set impressive times; especially on stage 11, across 27 kilometres, during day two, where he finished only 5 seconds behind Wilde, who had been fast all weekend.
Young eased off in the afternoon stages to ensure a finish. "It’s always nice to win of course, but there are a lot of events to go in the championship, and we decided that a solid points haul was more important than anything else."
The Cusco-backed team then finished an impressive sixth overall, along with second in both the two-wheel drive and Production Cup categories, and Mike credits Erin Kelly for playing a big part in their excellent placing.
“Erin did a great job in and out of the car and I think she enjoyed it. Having her co-drive for me, with her vast experience, was awesome. I’m looking forward to Malcolm [Read] being back for the rallies in New Caledonia and Australia because he was instrumental in our Asia Cup win last year."
Mike and his Cusco Racing team are now refocusing for the next event, Rally New Caledonia, which doubles as the second round of the APRC and Pacific Cup championships. New Zealand Co-driver Malcolm Read will return to the team for this event and Rally Queensland before he heads to Europe to work with Hayden Paddon’s Hyundai team. Kelly is expected to take over co-driving duties again at the Malaysian Rally.
Young’s APRC campaign is supported by Cusco, Dunlop, YodaRallying OMP, CRC Speedshow, Club Cadet and Sommet Sports.
Michael Young’s 2014 APRC Calendar
Round 1: 12-13 April, New Zealand
Round 2: 17-18 May, New Caledonia
Round 3: 21-22 June, Australia
Round 4: 16-17 August, Malaysia
Round 5: 27-28 September, Japan
Round 6: 08-09 November, China