New Zealand driver Geof Argyle now leads the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, by finishing 2nd overall in the Japan round, Rally Hokkaido.
Japan’s Toshi Arai won the event outright by more than four minutes, but is not registered for APRC points and therefore Argyle won the APRC section followed by Armin Kremer from Germany.
Hokkaido is not an easy event and Argyle and his co-driver Steve Smith read the difficult conditions well, while their main competition ran into trouble. Malaysia’s Karamjit Singh was out on the first stage with gearbox problems and Fumio Nutahara on his home rally, broke his suspension on a jump. Many of Rally Hokkaido’s roads have a soft base and particularly in slow corners have huge ruts and the numerous concrete culverts have their sharp edges exposed after only a few cars, causing punctures and breaking wheels. Variable weather conditions added to the mix including fog, rain, bright sunshine and the threat of the typhoon that devastated South Korea.
“This weekends result makes up for our turbo failure at Rotorua where I thought we could take the APRC points lead. We couldn’t have hoped for a better result on our first ever trip to Japan. My crew have been fantastic and we couldn’t have achieved this result without my co-driver Steve doing such a great job”, commented Geof, “now we start preparing for Thailand.”
Armin Kremer won the Group N class and consolidated his position in the APRC points finishing 3rd overall and 2nd in the APRC, while drive of the event had to come from the Suzuki team. Junior WRC ace Daniel Carlsson finished an incredible 5th overall, but isn’t registered for APRC points and Australian Chris Atkinson in a similar car was 10th overall and 3rd overall in the APRC points. Other APRC finishers included Atsushi Masumura 4th and New Zealanders Brian Green and Andrew Hawkeswood 5th and 6th. Hawkeswood was lucky to finish at all after numerous engines problems including a broken piston and blowing a turbo resulting in the organizers cancelling the stage – due to a lack of visibility!!
Final placings: Overall classification
1. Toshi Arai (Subaru, N4) 2h59m55.1s
2. Geof Argyle (Mitsubishi, A8) 3h04m02.3s
3. Armin Kremer (Mitsubishi, N4) 3h05m51.6s
4. Takuma Kamada (Subaru, N4) 3h06m08.7s
5. Daniel Carlsson (Suzuki, A6) 3h07m30.0s
10. Chris Atkinson (Suzuki, A6) 3h13m41.2s
APRC driver standings: After round 3
1. GEOF ARGYLE NZ 34
2. FUMIO NUTAHARA J 32
3. ARMIN KREMER D 31
4. KARAMJIT SINGH MAL 16
5. ANDREW HAWKSWOOD NZ 15
6. CHRIS ATKINSON AUS 11
7. BRIAN GREEN NZ 10
Due to Rally of China’s cancellation there is break of 7 weeks until Rally of Thailand 28th October to 2nd of November. The 5th and final round is in India at the beginning of December.
Report by Brian Young, photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motorsport