Finnish driver Jussi Valimaki won the Rally of New Caledonia, 2nd round of the 2005 Asia Pacific Rally Championship, taking his second win in a row.
Rally of New Caledonia proved again to be one of the toughest events in the championship, with torrential rain on leg 1 and although the sun shone through on leg 2, the roads were still as slippery as ice “It was just like Monte Carlo on slicks” said winner Valamaki. Most of the drivers had problems of one sort or another – it often came down to having a little bit of luck and driving to survive.
Most of the event was led by Valimaki’s team-mate Katsukio Taguchi in the MRF Ralliart Mitsubishi. During leg 1 he was the only top driver staying out of trouble while others around him went off the road or had mechanical problems.
Mechanical woes struck Valimaki early in the event, a front differential failing on the 25 kilometre stage 2, loosing him 20 seconds to Taguchi. Even after it was fixed in service, no matter how much he tried, Valimaki was unable to reel in Taguchi. The Japanese driver appeared to be on a mission, after no points from the previous round in Canberra he was determined to finish – and was setting a pace that others couldn’t match.
Many of the top contenders experienced problems on leg 1. Geof Argyle lost 8 minutes on stage 4 with a hose falling off the intercooler, Dermott Malley was forced out after his rear diff failed on a touring stage and Brian Green went off the road in the slippery conditions.
Taguchi finished leg 1 with a comfortable 40 second lead and was looking to maintain his pace in leg 2. Unfortunately it was not to be, as on stage13 the car over-heated. He said “We are driving quite slow today and on stage 13 we noticed the temperature is going up but we had to get to the end of the stage. After that we discovered the radiator fan is broken and had made a hole in the radiator. We cannot re-start the engine again and we are out. I think my luck is in another country at the moment, I must finish the next event in New Zealand”.
Meanwhile Valimaki, lying second, was able to take over his team-mates lead, a position he held until the finish. At the finish he said “It was a very tough event, we learnt alot of things and one of those is patience, you never know what is going to happen. It was so much rain, with wet and slippery conditions it was difficult to catch Katsu-san, so we had a tactic to wait and see – and then my team-mate has an engine problem. For us its victory again, I am happy we will try and make it a hat-trick and win the next event in Rotorua, because I enjoy and know very well the New Zealand roads”
In 2nd place was the surprise of the event, Malaysian based Kan Chee Hong with co-driver Bernard Chin who was entered under the Wan Yu Rally Team from China. Normally used to driving in the wet and slippery Malaysian jungles, the rainy and slippery conditions were not a problem to Kan, but the fast New Caledonian roads were something completely new. At the finish Kan said “The roads are slippery here same as in Malaysia, but here the speed is so fast. We didn’t expect to get any good result, just came here for experience. We must save the cars for the next rounds in New Zealand and Japan so we actually drive safely”.
After his leg 1 problems Mitsubishi Evo 8 driver Geof Argyle hauled himself back into a podium position at the finish taking 3rd place. “We’re really happy with our result, after loosing 7-8 minutes with the intercooler pipe, we’ve got another good haul of points for the championship. The next rally is our home event and we can and will do well there.”.
The 4th Place driver was Kan team-mate Chinese driver Fan Fan. Driving a Mitsubishi Evo 8, Fan drove a controlled event at his own pace and reaped the rewards with points for the championship.
Another new-comer to the championship was Julien Lenglet from Vanuatu, driving a Honda Integra. Lenglet impressed many with his aggressive driving, especially in the slippery conditions. His only problem all rally was a puncture on the last stage.
Both Dermott Malley and Brian Green elected to use the SupeRally regulations and rejoin the event for leg 2. Green had an unusual off-road excursion, a tight right-hander at the finish of stage 12 caught
the kiwi out and he disappeared off the road prior to the finish beam. When he finally regained the rally route it was after the finish-beam and therefore he never recorded a finish time.
The biggest disappointment of the event, apart from the weather, was the no-show of last years champion Karamjit Singh. Unfortunately the promised sponsorship did not eventuate and while Singh’s container and car was shipped to New Caledonia, the team cancelled their flights and stayed at home.
The next event is Rally of Rotorua and will see the return of the Mighty Motu has one long stage of 47 kilometres. Rotorua will also see Toshi Arai return to the series – it should be a good four-way fight between Taguchi, Valimaki, Argyle and Arai.
1 04# MRF TYRES 2 VALIMAKI Jussi – KALLIOLEPO Jarkko IND MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO 8 N4 2:23:11
2 08# WAN YU RALLY TEAM 2KAN Chee Hong – CHIN Bernard CHN MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO 8 N4 2:32:34
3 05# SILVERSTONE COMPETITION TYRES 1ARGYLE Geof – BLACK Jane ZEA MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO 8 N4 2:36:09
4 07# WAN YU RALLY TEAM 1FAN Fan – HE Yong CHN MITSUBISHI LANCER EVO 8 N4 2:45:50
5 15# M RALLY TEAM 2LENGLET Julien – GALINIE Karin ZEA HONDA INTEGRA R A7 2:50:40