Day one of Rally of New Caledonia was rain, mud and slippery roads. Leader for the day prior to the running of the evening super-special is Karamjit Singh in his Group A Proton PERT, revelling in the unpredictable surfaces and enjoying a trouble free run except for two punctures. “I really need to win this event out-right to give myself and the team enough points for the championship. We decided to run Group A after getting no points in Canberra and we’ve already won the Group N title – now we want to win the Group A title”. Singh’s main opposition comes from countrymen and former team-mate Saladin Mazlin and today the Hyundai WRC driver proved he is easily capable of an outright win, taking a fastest time on the last stage and only prevented from more wins by a problem with the cars emergency cut-off switch, shutting down the power several times mid-stage.
Behind Saladin in 3rd place overall and 1st in Group N is Nico Caldarola having a clean run and lying 21 seconds ahead of Kenya’s Alistair Cavenagh in 4th. Recce Jones from New Zealand is currently 5th but his position will change when Monster Tajima penalties are added for lateness out of service caused by an off in SS4. “It was so slippery we ended up in the sea!!”.
Kiwis and Mitsubishis take up the next positions with Stu Warren followed by Sean Gray and Brian Green. Eugene Creugnet driving a Subaru is first of the locals in 9th place. Nobuhiro Tajima and co-driver Julia Rabbett are currently in 11th in their Suzuki Ignis. Tajima is very happy with the car, “We have changed many things since Canberra and it is such a big difference. I really enjoyed today and now I have a good feeling for the cars future in World Rally Championship and Asia Pacific Rally.”
Story of the day was the early retirement of local legend Jean-Louis Leyraud. Having secured the budget to run further events in the APRC this year Leyraud was looking for a repeat win in his home event. But a few kilometres after completing stage one his turbo caught fire and he retired on the spot. “Maybe the problem was caused in the last water-crossing because it came over the bonnet and some got into the engine. We’ll fix the problem and hopefully return tomorrow.”