PODIUM FOR YOUNG Kiwi rally driver Mike Young is stoked to have been given the opportunity to test and develop the Cusco team’s new four-wheel-drive Toyota Vitz in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and has managed to claim a podium at the third round in Malaysia.
The AP4 Toyota proved to be a weapon right from the first stage of 2018. Mike explained: “In New Zealand, we were second fastest in shakedown, and on the first three stages [were] only beaten by Hayden Paddon, who is a World Rally Championship [WRC] driver. This showed [us] that we were fast and the car was fast, too.”
A mechanical on stage five meant that the car had to retire, although Mike and the team were encouraged by its potential and shipped the Toyota to the next event in Canberra, Australia. There, the goal was just to finish the race, with Mike winning a couple of stages in the APRC category, but they were pipped 10km from the finish with a clutch failure. However, luck would change for the team in Malaysia. With a fresh clutch, improved suspension, and cooling for the Lexus two-litre, Young and co-driver Malcolm Read were able to reward the team with a podium finish.
“Malaysia was a great performance. We won many stages, and we were able to match the team’s R5 Skoda. I worked hard on the fitness and preparation before the rally, and it paid off with our first finish of the year and second overall,” Mike said.
Rally Hokkaido in Japan — taking place as this is written, 14–16 September — is the next event on the APRC calendar. It is also Cusco’s home rally. In preparation for the event, the team has taken the opportunity to return the Toyota Vitz to its Gunma-based workshops and give it a major rebuild. They planned to spend two days testing prior to the event.
This year will mark Mike’s eighth time over the start ramp at the rally. In 2011, while leading the APRC junior championship, he crashed at the Rikubetsu water splash — alongside six other drivers. He finished second in 2015 and third in 2016, but has never stood on top of the podium.
“This year, I really want to show the potential of the Cusco TRD Vitz. We are at the stage now where I think we can get a good result and performance. I’m not saying I’ll go flat out, but I definitely want to do well for myself, my team Cusco Racing, and TRD. It’s their home event, and an important rally for them,” Mike told us.