German driver Armin Kremer has clinched both the overall and Production Class honours in the 2004 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, by finishing 2nd overall in the MRF India Rally, driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7.
Coming into the final round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, there were four drivers with a chance of taking the championship. Geoff Argyle from New Zealand headed the points race on 45 points, Kremer two points further back on 43, Japan’s Fumio Nutahara with 37 points and last year’s APRC champion Malaysian Karamjit Singh on 34. With a maximum of 19 points on offer for a perfect run in India, any of the above drivers could take the overall title.
As it turned out it was an event full of drama, the result not finalized until the very last stage – and it was close – 1 point separating Kremer from event winner Singh. Adding to the tension were the rough roads, that took there toll with nearly half of the field not finishing.
At the end of the first day Kremer lead the event from Singh, after Singh had lost a minute and a half with a puncture. Italian Nico Caldarola was third in a Top Run Mitsubishi Lancer 7 and forth was Kremer’s MRF team-mate David Doppelrieter.
Geof Argyle had a wretched day, first shock absorber problems, overheating and punctures that left him 6th at the end of the day. At least he was still in with a chance though, as the other contender for the championship Fumio Nutahara crashed off the road after suspension problems. Joining him in retirement was his team-mate Katsu Taguchi out with gearbox failure.
On the second leg Kremer eased off the pace, letting Singh into the lead, but content in the knowledge that he only needed to shadow Singh to take the championship win. It was not easy though as Kremer commented “If I just need to finish in 2nd position it was easy, but I also needed to finish 2nd in the bonus points for each day – it meant I couldn’t back-off. With the rough conditions it was difficult to know the right pace”. However Kremer judged it to perfection and after a short series of stages on the last day, the German headed back to the historical city of Pune with the championship victory – by one point.
Prior to the victory celebrations Kremer said, “I’m very pleased because we came to the championship with the idea of taking the Group N title for this year – but to win overall is fantastic. This is a wonderful championship with so many countries, conditions and cultures. For European drivers its such good experience to have so many events with gravel and they are all so different – now we think about next year”.
Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Motorsport.