Finland’s Jussi Valimaki is the 2005 Asia Pacific Rally Champion after taking his third win of the season on the Gudang Garam International Rally Indonesia, the sixth round of the championship. Valimaki’s win also secured the manufacturers championship for Mitsubishi and the co-drivers championship for Jarkko Kalliolepo.
Rally Indonesia was held on the island of Sulawesi and centred around the historic city of Makassar and took in 235.92 kilometers of competition over 13 special stages. Run in temperatures of 38°C, the APRC crews battled against the extreme heat and in-car temperatures of 50°C. As well as the heat there was also the dry choking dust – rain has not fallen in the area for six months. The stages, run through vast sugar plantations, were a mixture of conditions – some fast and smooth and others soft and rough. The event marked the return of international rallying to Indonesia, as an FIA sanctioned event has not been run in the country since 2000.
Valimaki was quick from the out-set and won the first six stages to establish a lead of 57 seconds at the end of the first leg. On the second leg he backed off to preserve the car in the rougher stages and finished with a lead of 38 seconds. “I am happy to win the rally and get the championship. The car and the team have been working very well, but it wasn’t so easy as this rally was so hot and it takes everything out of my body. It’s not always a question of the speed – for sure we have the speed but sometimes it’s not necessary to push at maximum. I spared the car in the rougher parts and that’s the way to finish in a good position. This was definitely the hardest event to win, because of the heat. We Scandinavians are not used to these temperatures – it’s a bit too hot! For the next event in Thailand we have nothing to lose and can challenge Arai.”
Team-mates Katsu Taguchi and Australian Mark Stacey finished the event in second position after engine and handling problems in the opening leg. The Japanese driver was very relieved to get to the final control “The temperature is so hot – its like hell!! We pushed hard today, but my team-mate seemed also to be going quick. The car was much better than yesterday, the team fixed the engine and changed the differential mapping. We had an engine problem in the first leg – overheating is quite a serious issue here, especially on the long stages, and sometimes the car was misfiring and when I pressed the throttle there was nothing,” said Taguchi, one of a number of drivers to experience the same problem.
New Zealander Geof Argyle rounded off a top event for Mitsubishi with third position. “We’re very happy to be on the podium, but we did have some problems in the event,” said Argyle. “The suspension worked loose which lost us some time and then I made the mistake of running mud tires – I thought the soft conditions would have suited them. I took the risk and unfortunately it didn’t pay off. In the afternoon we got the right tires and things were a lot better, but then in the last stage we lost a lot of time with the car jumping out of gear. In the second leg, the engine started to over-heat and to combat that we had to put the heater on!”.
Dermott Malley was 4th after a determined drive “Like everyone we’re had our problems with the heat, but we’re happy to get back into 4th”. Brian Green was 5th his Mitsubishi Lancer suffering some very severe handling problems on the final leg.
But the weekend belonged to Valimaki taking the win and sealing the 2005 Asia Pacific Rally Championship. Valimaki proved from the first event in Canberra that he was going to be a major contender taking on the world fastest production car driver Arai, in a straight fight and winning the 1st leg of the event by 1.5 second. The MRF Mitsubishi driver did have some luck, such as Arai’s eventual disqualification at Canberra giving the Finn the win and then Taguchi’s retirement in New Caledonia, that lead to another win. “Fast Juss” proved though, to win championships first you must finish and thats the one thing he has done consistently all season – finish all events he’s started and with hardly a scratch on the car. The next event in Thailand will be interesting, Arai versus Valimaki on fast flowing roads around Rayong and 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions in the championship are still undecided.
Results – 2005 Gudang Garam International Rally Indonesia
1. Jussi Valimaki / Jarkko Kalliolepo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.23.50
2. Katsuhiko Taguchi / Mark Stacey Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.24.28 +38
3. Geof Argyle / Jane Black Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.32.9 +8.19
4. Dermott Malley / Jagdev Singh Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.42.35 +18.45
5. Brian Green / Fleur Pedersen Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.45.2 +21.12
Driver Championship Points – 2005 Asia Pacific Rally Championship
1 Jussi Valimaki (Fin) 71
2 Geof Argyle (NZ) 42
3. Katsu Taguchi (Jpn) 37
4. Toshi Arai (Jpn) 35
5. Dermott Malley (NZ) 26
6. Chee Hong Kan (Mal) 22
7. Brian Green (NZ) 15
8. Mitsuhiro Kunisawa (Jpn) 11
9. Fan Fan (Chn) 5
10. Julian Langlet (Fr) 4