Former champion Karamjit Singh driving a Proton Pert took maximum points at the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the Rally of Canberra. The Rally of Canberra attracted 48 entries and lived up to its reputation for being tough on both car and driver with only half of the APRC field reaching the finish after 267 stage kilometres. The region has had no rain for over 10 weeks and therefore the tricky Canberra roads were made even more difficult with fine dust hanging in the windless air.
Starting in first position on the road meant the first day was difficult for Singh, sweeping the roads for his fellow competitors. However In his typical smooth style the Malaysian stayed out of trouble to win the APRC category easily and take a maximum 16 points. “we’re very happy to win convincingly – todays conditions were better, much than yesterday, apart from a little dust earlier this morning”.
Mitsubishi drivers and team-mates Armin Kremer and Katsuhiko Taguchi finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. 2003 APRC champion German driver Armin Kremer competing in a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, felt he could have gone quicker and was disappointed to not finish further up the overall positions after niggling new car problems prevented him from driving at full pace. Kremer’s efforts to gain time were thwarted by a competitor ahead of him rolling, forcing him to follow in his dust. ‘We drove 15 kilometers behind this guy and we lost a lot of time, yes OK, we have 2nd position but we didn’t come here for 2nd, we will go maximum for the Rally of New Caledonia in three weeks” said an unhappy Kremer after the rally.
After leg one Katsuhiko Taguchi was 2nd of the APRC drivers, happy with his position and looking to maintain his pace, but bad luck struck on the first test of the 2nd leg. Taguchi and navigator Mark Stacey suffering a puncture that required a change mid-stage, losing the pair 3 minutes 30 seconds and dropping them to 9th overall and 3rd APRC driver. Looking forward to the next event Taguchi said at the finish ‘The car is going very well and we’ll make some small changes for the next event in New Caledonia”.
Another giant killing performance from Australian Chris Atkinson in the Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 saw him finish 10th overall and 4th APRC driver. Atkinson was pushing the Suzuki to its maximum and on the 2nd leg rolled the car “I’ve given my crew some work to do but we didn’t lose much time, maybe 10 seconds and it ended up back on its wheels – we’re very happy with our final position 10TH overall and 4th in Asia Pacific”. Team-mate Vesa Mikkola had a troubled start to his rallying career rolling his Suzuki on the first leg and were not so fortunate as Atkinson. ‘ even if we could have got it back on its wheels we weren’t going anywhere as the drive shaft was broken’ said Mikkola after re-starting the 2nd leg.
Geoff Argyle in his new Total sponsored Mitsubishi Lancer 8, had a rally to forget, a major fuel feed problem preventing them from getting any further than the official start and the same problem afflicting team-mate Brian Green in Stage 4. The team fixed both cars enabling Argyle and Green to restart the 2nd day under the SuperRally rules. Argyle showed the cars potential with a fastest stage time and use the time to do further tyre testing. The Total team 3rd driver Dermott Malley was excluded from the results after going over-time at the end of the 2nd leg.
A troubled event for the Italian Top Run team with Noberto Cangarni out after the 1st stage with an engine problem in his Mitsubishi Lancer and Nico Caldarola debuting a new Subaru Impreza retiring with gear linkage problems.
The next event for the APRC is the tropical island paradise of French New Caledonia, where the conditions will be completely different. Although an island paradise, winter rain can turn the dirt tracks into treacherous mud slides.
Rally of Canberra Results (Provisional)
1. D Herridge/G Macneall (AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:58:40.5
2. J Kangas(AUS)/J Rabbett(AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 2:58:51.1 +10.6 secs
3. T Arai (AUS)/T Sircombe (NZ) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:58:56.0 +15.5 secs
4. C Crocker (Aus)/G Foletta (Aus) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:59:12.2 +31.7 secs
5. K Singh/A Oh (MAL) Proton Pert 3:00:05.6 +85.1 secs
6. A Kremer(D)/Timo Gottschalk(D) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.02.59.8 +4.19.3
7. M Peddars(AUS)/ Toni Feaver(AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 3.04.15.9 +5.35.4
8. B Goldsbrough(Aus)/D Moscatt(AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3.04.49.5 +6.09.0
9. K Taguchi (JPN)/M Stacey (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.04.51.1 +6.10.9
10. C Atkinson(AUS)/B Akinson(AUS) Suzuki Ignis 1600 3.05.03.4 +6.22.9
APRC provisional points after Round 1
Karamjit Singh 16 points
Armin Kremer 11 points
Katsuhiko Taguchi 8 points
Chris Atkinson 5 points
Geoff Argyle 1 point