Crocker wins in Japan

Australian rally driver Cody Crocker appears unstoppable in his quest to win the Asia Pacific Rally Championship for the second year in succession. In the fourth round of the 2007 APRC at Rally Hokkaido (7-8 July), Crocker beat Japan’s best rally drivers to win the event outright and extend his lead in the Asia-Pacific championship. The event was held on Japan’s beautiful northern most island, in fine warm weather, with dry and dusty road conditions. As always, the event was supported by a large number of local fans waiting by the road, waving flags and taking photos.

It was a dominating drive by Crocker the reigning APRC champion, taking ten points for the win and an additional six bonus points for finishing each day as the fastest car as well. Driving the Motor Image Subaru Impreza WRX STI, the multiple Australian champ now sits on top of the series table with the maximum 48 points, 14 clear of Taguchi on 34 points with Valimaki a further two points back on 32.

“This is a really tough event. Long, fast and very technical. Someone said always winning is boring, but not for us. Each rally is an enormous challenge, a great test, and at the moment we’ve got the winning formula, and long may that last.We’re developing a healthy buffer in the championship, but each round we have to produce a good result as that can all disappear in one round with a DNF. We’ve still got three events left, so our goal is to win each of those as well.” Crocker said at the final service.

Behind Crocker were Mitsubishi drivers Katsu Taguchi (Japan) and Jussi Valimaki driving for ‘Team MRF Tyres Mitsubishi’. Mitsubishi went into the event full of confidence after a successful pre-rally test and initially Taguchi led the APRC competitors after the first stage. However that advantage was lost on the 2nd stage, when Crocker went 7 seconds quicker than Taguchi, moving into the overall lead. At the first service break the gap was only 11.7 seconds and Taguchi was confident he could reverse the order and take back first spot, “The car was lacking power and we found the problem at service and the roads will be much different this afternoon. I think we can get the lead back”. As it turned out Taguchi actually lost more time to Crocker and even through he pushed hard for most of the event he couldn’t catch the flying Auzzie.

Finnish driver Valimaki was not happy with his 3rd position, but considering his physical condition on Saturday he was lucky to finish. ” I think I ate something that didn’t agree with me .I have felt much better today and we pushed hard to at least get some bonus points” said Valimaki at the finish.

Fourth overall was Japan’s Yoshi Yanagisawa in the Cusco Subaru. While the Japanese driver regularly won stages outright, over 4 minutes was lost on Stage 2 with a puncture and even though he drove hard for the rest of the event to make up the time, Yanagisawa could only recover to fourth position.

Naren Kumar from India bought his Sidvin Mitsubishi home in 5th. With a change in co-driver for this event Kumar upped his pace, regularly finishing in the top 4 times. A satisfied Kumar commented “Jeff Judd from New Zealand has been my co-driver for this event and it makes a big difference on these roads to have some-one with his experience. I am sure in future we can up the pace”.

Also with a new co-driver for Hokkaido was Indonesian Rifat Sungkar, taking advice from Bill Hayes who normally partners Australian Dean Herridge and lately New Caledonian Jean Leyraud. Sungkar found the experience extremely valuable particularly writing notes and he’s looking forward to the next event in Malaysia. Seventh in APRC was Japanese driver Yoshio Ikemachi followed by New Zealander Brian Green in 8th.

The next event in the APRC is the Malaysia Rally, 10-12th August and held on the Palm Oil Plantation roads in Johor Baru, very near to Singapore

Final Results – Rally Hokkaido
1, (AP), C.CROCKER, SUBARU, 2:32:13.0,
2, (AP) K.TAGUCHI, MITSUBISHI, 2:33:36.6, +1:23.6
3, (AP) J.VALIMAKI, MITSUBISHI, 2:34:12.6, +1:59.6
4, (AP) YANAGISAWA, SUBARU, 2:37:07.1, +4:54.1
5, (AP) V-R N.KUMAR, MITSUBISHI, 2:38:51.2, +6:38.2
6, (AP), R.SUNGKAR, SUBARU, 2:41:39.6, +9:26.6
7, T.KAMADA, SUBARU, 2:42:52.6, +10:39.6
8, S.TAGUCHI, MITSUBISHI, 2:44:30.2, +12:17.2
9, (AP), Y.IKEMACHI, SUBARU, 2:46:21.6, +14:08.6
10, (AP), B.GREEN, MITSUBISHI, 2:48:17.7, +16:04.7