Round 4 – Preview, Rally of Hokkaido, Japan

After three rounds in the southern hemisphere the 2007 FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship now heads north to four Asian events starting with Japan’s round on the island on Hokkaido. The series is currently led by last years champion, Cody Crocker driving a Motor Image Singapore prepared Subaru Impreza – the Australian driver now has an unbeaten record of 8 starts and 8 wins – and with 32 points – an 8 point lead.

Behind the Subaru driver is the MRF Mitsubishi pair of Japan’s Katsu Taguchi and Jussi Valimaki from Finland – both drivers equal 2nd on 24 points. Crocker is well aware that in Japan he will have a challenge to keep Taguchi and the Mitsubishi team at bay. “Its Katsu’s home territory, he got a quick car now we’ve got be to right on top of things. We had a great run last year, but the MRF team have upped the pace a bit this year, we need to work out a few things, we’ve got a few more things we can develop with this car, hopefully it will be even quicker for us” said Crocker.

With a good finish in Canberra and getting to 1.4 seconds of Crocker, Taguchi is feeling very confident about his home event – after finishing second in Canberra he said. “This is his home town rally, next one is my hometown. Here we ran some new MRF tyres and they were really good, but we only had a limited number – next events in Hokkaido and Malaysia we will have more, so should be good fight”.

Jussi Valimaki the 2005 APRC champ is equally confident that future events the MRF Mitsubishi team will be able to challenge Crocker’s dominance “Japan has nice roads and some stages like in Finland, so looking forward but we have to remember that Katsu-san is very very fast in Japan”.

Behind the leading three competitors there is big battle for 4th spot with Team India’s Naren Kumar holding the position at the moment on 14 points – 18 points behind leader Crocker.

Only 1 point behind Kumar is Crocker’s Motor Image team-mate Rifat Sungkar from Indonesia and Japans Hiroshi Yanagisawa in the Cusco Subaru. Yanagisawa finished 2nd in last years championship but with a DNF in New Caledonia will be hoping for a top result on his event in Hokkaido.

The Rally of Hokkaido is based in the city of Obihiro and runs 6 – 8 July.