Crocker starts first, finishes first in Canberra Day 1

Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Cody Crocker, has made the perfect start to the third round of this year’s championship by finishing the first Leg of the Rally of Canberra with a commanding lead.

The Motor Image Rally Team driver steered his Impreza WRX over today’s seven stages to finish the day 12.5 seconds in front of Katsu Taguchi. Despite dropping over 16 seconds on the final stage of the day, held in darkness, Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson shrugged off the early challenge from Taguchi to retain control of the rally in the afternoon stages.

But with a day still to go, the MRF Tyres Mitsubishi driver is still within striking distance, and is sure to push hard for victory over tomorrow’s seven stages.

Taguchi favours Leg Two’s faster stages more than the slower stages of Leg 1, and with such a small gap between he and Crocker, the pressure will be right on.

In third place is another Australian, Dean Herridge. The winner of the Rally of Canberra in 2004, Herridge had a consistent day and lies 36 seconds from the lead, although he admitted that his tyres were too hard and too narrow for the dry conditions today.

The second MRF Tyres Lancer Evo 9, driven by Finland’s Jussi Valimaki, had a disappointing day and lies in fourth place, more than a minute and a half from the lead. Valimaki took one stage win, but he could not match the pace of Crocker or Taguchi and will be hoping for better fortune during Leg 2.

Crocker’s Indonesian team-mate, Rifat Sungkar, is in fifth place, four minutes and 21 seconds from the lead, while Indian Naren Kumar is sixth, despite an exciting moment on Stage five when he nearly rolled his Lancer out of the rally.

This year’s Rally of Canberra has witnessed bigger spectator numbers than it has for many years as fans flock to the forests to see the best drivers in the Asia Pacific region go head-to-head in one of the most popular rounds of the championship.

Tomorrow the APRC crews face another seven stages, with a total competitive distance of 106km. Cody Crocker looks set to increase his championship lead, but with Katsu Taguchi less than 13 seconds behind, there’s all to play for.

Results at the end of Leg 1:
1. Cody Crocker / Ben Atkinson – Subaru Impreza WRX 1h19m27.7s
2. Katsu Taguchi / Mark Stacey – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +12.5s
3. Dean Herridge / Bill Hayes – Subaru Impreza WRX +36.4s
4. Jussi Valimaki / Jarkko Kalliolepo – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +1m38.1s
5. Rifat Sungkar / H. Mohamad – Subaru Impreza WRX +4m21.4s
6. Naren Kumar / D. Ramkumar – Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +5m36.9s