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APRC Junior Cup leader faces challenges of Queensland

Teenage rally driver and current leader in the APRC Junior Cup Michael Young, from New Zealand, makes his debut drive in the International Rally of Queensland this weekend.

Young and Tasmanian Daniel Willson, an experienced co-driver, have arrived in the coastal town of Caloundra, about an hour north of Brisbane on Queenland’s Sunshine Coast, ready for the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) event which runs 25 to 27 May.

Young, at the age of 19, is the only New Zealander competing in the Junior Cup category of the highly-regarded APRC – a championship that Kiwi rally legend Possum Bourne won three times.

The APRC Junior Cup was first introduced in 2011 with the intention of increasing opportunities for young talented drivers from within the region. It’s open to drivers aged 28 years or younger as at 1 January 2012 driving currently homologated two-wheel-drive cars with a maximum engine capacity of 1600cc. The 2012 Junior Cup covers four APRC rounds – New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia and Japan – with competitors required to enter at least two rounds to qualify for points.

After the opening round, Brother International Rally of Whangarei, Young is currently leading the Junior Cup with 37 points ahead of closest rival Kenneth Koh, from Malaysia, with 26 points.

Young drives a two-wheel-drive Proton Satria 1.6-litre rally car built and prepared by Cusco Racing in Japan and races under his own identity as Mike Young Motorsports.

Young is focused on finishing the 231 kilometres of competitive stages which take him and fellow competitors north and inland from Caloundra across a mix of twisty rural and more open forestry roads.

“My main goal definitely is to finish. Our fastest rival and last year’s junior championship, Japanese driver Akira Bamba, didn’t finish in Whangarei so hopefully we can stay in front of Kenneth who’s coming second,” says Young. “I’m pretty sure I should have the pace to beat him. So the idea is to add to our points in Queensland and then on to the last two events in Malaysia and Japan. The championship is definitely our focus and I’m not worrying about stage wins or event wins.”

Young’s rallying career is barely a year old – his first event was the non-World Rally Championship edition of Rally New Zealand last May. Since then the horticulture packhouse team leader and keen surfer has competed in three events in Malaysia, one in Japan and last year’s Whangarei rally. That meant this year’s Brother International Rally of Whangarei marked the first time that Young had contested the same event twice.

“Yes, that was a good experience doing Whangarei for the second time and knowing a lot more about what to expect and what the roads are like. Also having in-car footage from last year meant I could watch it before the event and get more familiar with the stages again.”

Tackling the Queensland event for the first time doesn’t faze Young. His co-driver Daniel Willson has done the event many times in his ten-plus years of competitive rallying and Young has been reviewing television coverage of past events – a process made a little easier with access to footage filmed by his father Brian Young, who heads the sports television broadcaster APRC TV which produces the official Asia Pacific rally television coverage.

“I’m expecting a mixture of tight, twisty and quite rough roads, which open out to forest stages.

“Although I haven’t rallied in Australia before, I have played cricket for my school in Caloundra twice before, so it’s great to be back here.”