Valimaki wins – Mitsubishi takes top FOUR positions at APRC opener

Finlands Jussi Valimaki won the opening round of the 2005 Asia Pacific Rally Championship – The Rally of Canberra, run over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of May. Initially Japan’s Toshi Arai took the APRC win in his Sanden Subaru but he was later excluded for a technical infringement, promoting Valimaki in his MRF Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 to first place.

It was the first APRC event for the very experienced Jussi Valimaki and he joins Katsu Taguchi in the MRF Mitsubishi team for a full APRC campaign. ‘Fast Jussi’ (his nick-name) instantly impressed with his speed and professional approach. Valimaki started out relatively conservatively, while he learnt about the tyres, the team and the car, but even then was not far off the APRC pace-setter Japanese driver Toshi Arai. Like most competitors the Finn lost time in the first set of stages with dust and early morning sun that made visibility almost impossible, but on the SS4 and SS5 he began to eat into Arai’s advantage and by the final stage of Leg 1 had fought his way into the lead – a mere 1.5 seconds.

On the first stage of the second day, a determined Arai snatched the lead back again, but when the Subaru suffered a puncture on the long Mine-shaft stage it looked like he might have to settle for second again. However Valimaki had problems of his own, first hitting a log dragged onto the road by a fellow competitor and driving the rest of stages before mid-day service with bent steering and then in the afternoon the MRF Mitsubishi lost 4th gear. Arai therefore held onto his lead eventually finishing 19 seconds head of the Finn, but post-event scrutineering changed all that, Arai excluded from the results and Valimaki promoted to 1st APRC competitor. At the finish Valimaki was happy, “This was a good first rally with a new team, new car and new tyres and I’m very happy with the result. I am sure with some more time we can get faster – it’s the biggest win of my career”

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8’s filled the top four positions with second going to New Zealander Geof Argyle, with team-mate Brian Green 3rd and followed by fellow kiwi Dermott Malley 4th.

For Kiwi Geof Argyle in the Silverstone Tyres Mitsubishi, second place was a great start to his third APRC campaign. Argyle suffered badly in the early morning dust of day 1 and lost further time with a puncture after hitting a rock. At the start of the 2nd leg Argyle made a decision to settle for 3rd place points and then was promoted to 2nd with Arai’s exclusion. “The gap was too big to the next competitor, it wasn’t worth risking the car today, I kept a conservative pace to save our gear which means we won’t have much work to do before the next event “. Argyle is looking forward to defending his title at the next event the Rally of New Caledonia – an event he won last year.

Argyle’s team-mate Brian Green in another Mitsubishi was 3rd APRC competitor after a trouble-free run,”Apart from dust it was a good weekend. Everything feels quite good, even though it took a while to get used to the new gearbox, but I’m now on top of that and we’ve been able to have a great time.”. Green and co-driver Fleur Pederson have a busy schedule of events in the next few weeks, with a national rally in New Zealand followed by a Malaysian Rally Championship round – Green is the reigning Malaysian championship.

Dermott Malley, another kiwi took 4th position points at APRC Canberra. Malley was enjoying driving his new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, “It is such a beautiful car to drive – I love it!!’

The final APRC finisher was Mitsuhiro Kunisawa, the WRC TV commentator from Japan and having his real taste of rallying “TV commentary is much easier than driving rally cars!!’ Kunisawa said after two days of rallying.

APRC points after Canberra Valimaki leading with 16 points, Argyle 12. Green 8, Malley 5, Kunisawa 4.

The one major causality of the event was Japanese driver Katsu Taguchi. His event ended on the 2nd stage – dust and blinding sun-strike had Taguchi off the road. At the end of the stage Taguchi and co-driver Mark Stacey realized that the damage was terminal and with a large log protruding from the radiator the team decided to withdraw from the leg and repair the car. Taguchi elected to start leg 2 under the APRC SupeRally regulations, but retired for the second time after taking a jump at full-speed and a very heavy landing that resulted in both he and Stacey being taken to hospital for observation. Both have since been released unhurt.

1 C Crocker (AUS)/D Moscatt (AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:55:41.9
2 D Herridge (AUS)/B Hayes (AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:56:10.8 +28.9secs
3 J Kangas (FIN) /J Rabbett (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:57:54.4 +2:12.5
4 J Valimaki (FIN)/ J Kalliolepo (FIN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 2:58:15.0 +2:33.1
5 S Pedder (AUS)/G Weston (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3:02:08.0 +6:26.1
6 G Argyle (NZ)/J Sinclair (NZ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3:02.32.0 +6:50.1
7. B. Green (NZ) F. Pederson(NZ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3:13.33.8 +16.51.9
8. D Malley(NZ) S. Smith (NZ) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3:19.17.01
9 . M. Kunisawa (J) / S Bachmann(AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX