MRF drivers to take challenge to APRC leader

MRF Tyres Rally Team drivers, Jussi Valimaki and Katsu Taguchi, hope that an extensive two-day test session will give them the edge over reigning Asia Pacific Rally Champion, Cody Crocker, in this weekend’s Rally of Canberra.

Valimaki, from Finland, has completed over 250km of testing in the lead up to the third round of this year’s championship, while his Japanese team-mate, Taguchi, has completed a similar amount. “I wasn’t happy with the set-up of the car at the first round in New Caledonia,” Valimaki said at the pre-event press conference. “We tried some new construction tyres and some new compound tyres from MRF, and they are a big improvement. I am very confident heading into this event.” The MRF team also fine tuned their suspension with the help of UK suspension specialist David Potter. Katsu Taguchi says that the car will be a lot faster in Canberra. “We have made big improvements to the car,” he said.

Reigning title holder and championship leader, Australian Cody Crocker, won the previous round in New Zealand, and says that his slender title lead counts for nothing once the Rally of Canberra gets under way.

“Our Motor Image Rally Team and the MRF team have now missed one round each, so from here on in it’s a race to the championship title,” Crocker said. “Our new Subaru performed brilliantly when we debuted it in New Zealand, and I’m aiming to continue that good form here on my home event.” The regular APRC drivers, which also include Crocker’s team-mate Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia (Subaru) and India’s Naren Kumar (Mitsubishi), will be joined this weekend by Crocker’s former Subaru Australia team-mate, Dean Herridge.

The winner of the Rally of Canberra in 2004, Herridge has recently signed a deal to drive for Subaru Rally Team China in China’s national championship, and is looking forward to matching himself against the APRC regulars.

“Although we’re also contesting the Australian Rally Championship component of the event, I’m determined to push for victory in the APRC rally,” Herridge said. “A good result here will help with our promotion internationally, and could lead to further drives in the future, so I’ll be pushing hard from the outset,” he added. After a ceremonial start in the centre of Australia’s capital city, the Rally of Canberra will begin with a 10.33km night stage on Friday night (June 1). After an overnight halt, crews will then contest a further 15 special stages, covering a total competitive distance of 231km. The Rally of Canberra is the third round of the 2007 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.