The second round of this year’s FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) will happen in New Caledonia this weekend. Defending champions Proton return to the Pacific island in search of their first win of the year, after finishing second and fourth in the opening rally in New Zealand.

The drivers in action are APRC reigning champion Alister McRae and Swedish driver PG Andersson – the latter is in his first full APRC season and will be competing in New Caledonia for the first time. Proton’s main rivals will once again be the Skoda Fabia S2000s of Team MRF.

As defending champion, McRae will again be in the unenviable position of having to start the rally first, clearing the road for the other drivers behind him.

“Winning the championship last year means I am first on the road on all the rounds this year and that was quite a disadvantage on the first round in New Zealand, but I don’t think it will be so much in New Caledonia. The rain is likely to have washed away much of the loose gravel from the surface before we got there and it’s possible that running at the front might even give us a small advantage,” said the optimistic Scot.

Teammate PG is ready to bounce back from the Kiwi bad luck which cost him an outright victory in the opening round. Comfortably setting fastest times en route to winning 11 of the 16 special stages in New Zealand, Andersson caught a puncture to surrender the lead. “One thing for sure is that I’m starting this event as I start every event – to win. I have never been to this rally before, so it’s always exciting to try some new roads,” he said.

Based in Noumea on Grande Terre, the largest island in New Caledonia, Rally New Caledonia moves through beautiful lush vegetation and farming plains, and will be contested over a competitive distance of 252.82 km covering 19 special stages.