Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh has won the Asia Pacific Rally Championship section of the 2004 Rally of Japan driving a Production class Proton Pert. Behind Singh came young Australian Chris Atkinson driving a Super 1600 Suzuki Ignis and third was New Zealander Geoff Argyle in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8.
The 2004 Rally of Japan was held on the northern island of Hokkaido and followed by thousands of enthusiastic spectators all revelling in the events promotion to World Rally Championship status. Unlike previous years the weather was hot and sunny over the 3 days and the roads in much better condition. The introduction of new stages bought a welcome variety of tests on each leg.
For Singh and co-driver Allen Oh the event was a dream run for their new sponsor JK Tyres of India. “It was good to give our new sponsor the best start possible and for us the event was easy as most of our rivals had troubles”. Singh’s win in Japan gives him a clear lead in the championship points race.
For Chris Atkinson this was a fantastic result in front of the World Rally Championship teams. Driving last years J-WRC Suzuki Ignis Atkinson raised a few eyebrows with his 8th quickest stage time on SS13 and then led the APRC race for several stages before a puncture lost him time to Singh. “Its been a pretty awesome result – 2nd Asia-Pacific and 12th outright so its pretty special”, said Atkinson at the finish.
Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 Geoff Argyle was happy to finish in 3rd position, “..quite a reasonable result considering I made some bad tyre choices on the first part of the rally. On the last set of stages of the event we finally got the combination right and set some fast times. We know now we’ve got the package. We just got make sure we come to these events earlier and do more testing in each country.”
For last years champion German driver Armin Kremer this was a frustrating event, with the only highlight being that he led the APRC competition after the first stage. However on the 2nd stage he lost 2nd gear, a handicap he had to run with for the rest of the day until his crew could change his gearbox at the evening service break. The second leg bought no better luck, further problems with the gearbox lost him more time and then in the final control the MRF Mitsubishi crew checked in early and incurred a 1-minute time penalty, dropping them to 4th overall.
If Kremer was unhappy with his result at least he finished, unlike his Japanese team-mate Katsuhiko Taguchi who retired from 2nd place within sight of the finish. “Its a pity because today my feeling was very good, we can take time from Karamjit and Mark (Stacey) was reading the pace-note very well, but this is rallying. For China Rally – we go flat out!”.
Finnish driver Vesa Mikkola under the watchful eye of his famous father Hannu set some good stage times in his Suzuki Ignis and is gradually coming to grips with international rallying, between his university studies For Subaru driver Nico Caldarola the event bought much needed points and a welcome finish, however he is looking forward to China where the Italian has won in the past. The 2004 Malaysian Rally Champion Kiwi Brian Green in the TOTAL Mitsubishi finished 7th APRC competitor having a good battle with his team-mate Dermott Malley who finished 8th..
Rally Japan 2004 APRC Results
1. Karamjit SINGH / Allen OH, PROTON Pert, 2:26:15.7
2. Christopher ATKINSON / Benjanin ATKINSON, SUZUKI Ignis Super 1600, +1:08.6
3. Geof ARGYLE / Steve SMITH, MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO 8, +4:41.1
4. Armin KREMER / Timo GOTTSCHALK, MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO 8, +5:24.0
5. Vesa MIKKOLA / Risto NIUKKANEN, SUZUKI Ignis Super 1600, +5:53.1
6. Nico CALDAROLA / Paolo CECCHINI, SUBARU Impreza WRX STI, +7:22.1
7. Brian GREEN / Fleur PEDERSEN, MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO 8, +21:19.1
8. Dermott MALLEY / Patrick MALLEY, MITSUBISHI Lancer EVO 6, +22:21.8
2004 FIA APRC Drivers Points after Round 4
Karamjit Singh (Malaysia) 48
Armin Kremer (Germany) 38
Chris Atkinson (Australia) 27
Geof Argyle (New Zealand) 25
Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) 22
Nico Caldarola (Italy) 9
Vesa Mikkola (Finland) 9
Brian Green (New Zealand) 8
Dermott Malley (New Zealand) 2
2004 FIA Asia-Pacific for Manufacturers: