New Zealand rally driver Michael Young is aiming to win the two-wheel-drive championship at this weekend’s round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) held at Rally Hokkaido in northern Japan.
On the back of his maiden APRC victory at the previous round at Rally Malaysia, Young and co-driver Malcolm Read say they are well prepared for the fast yet tricky Japanese roads but will be hunting down the two-wheel-drive win.
"Our main aim, like in Malaysia, is to be smart and just finish the rally. But of course we’ll be pushing a little bit in some stages to make sure we bank as many points for our championship campaign as we can," said Young.
"The stages this year are quite a bit longer, with some repeated stages which mean the roads could become tricky if ruts [channels] appear in the racing line, so we’ll take those stages quite conservatively."
While rally organisers have increased the total number of competitive kilometres this year, Young maintains his Cusco TRD team are capable of a strong result. "We have the potential to win the two-wheel-drive championship here so that's definitely in the back of our minds. We know we have the pace to do that after our win in Malaysia but we still have to be careful."
Young sits 42 points ahead of team-mate and rival Hiroshi Askakura in the two-wheel-drive battle, after a solid season with wins in both New Zealand and Malaysia earlier in the year. But Young says he has unfinished business in Japan and is determined to change history this weekend after competing at Rally Hokkaido twice before, but failing to finish on both occasions.
"Obviously I'm really focussed on changing my track record here. I have a great car, great team and great co-driver so I’m confident of a good result, but like I said, we still have to be very careful."
Rally Hokkaido is also the home event for Young's sponsors, Cusco, Toyota and Dunlop, and Young says he's enjoying the massive support from having them there.
Rally Hokkaido is set to start from Kita Aikoku service park near Obihiro city at 6.00pm on Friday 27th September. Crews then head north towards Rikubetsu to compete across 232 kilometres of closed special stages during Saturday and Sunday before concluding back at Kita Aikoku at 4.00pm on Sunday 29 September.
Young's APRC campaign is supported by CUSCO, Toyota Racing Development, Dunlop and Yoda Rallying.
Photos courtesy APSM and Rallyworld JP