Cody Crocker has become the driver with the most wins in the 21-year history of the Rally of Canberra, his runaway success today eclipsing the four-title previous efforts of his mentor Possum Bourne and WA rally legend Ross Dunkerton.
Top seeds Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson, in the Motor Image Subaru Impreza, capitalised on their day one success and although easy winners of the Asia-Pacific section of the rally, nonetheless had to fend off a hard charge from Mitsubishi driver Katsu Taguchi, who had restarted today under SUPERrally rules.
Taguchi, co-driven by Australian Mark Stacey, knew his retirement with an electrical problem yesterday meant he couldn’t win the rally, but as bonus points in the championship were still up for grabs as well as the points lead in the A-P series, the Japanese driver wasn’t holding back.
Given the status and heritage of the Canberra event, Crocker was delighted to have more ROC wins than every other driver, and particularly pleased to top Bourne’s record.
“But I’m sure he [Bourne] is somewhere out there saying ‘well, it took you long enough to do it!’,” Crocker said.
“But our car was terrific today; we didn’t have a drama and our tyre choices were spot on. We knew Katsu was pushing hard for the bonus points so we had to fight back and in the end, we only just held him off.
“The big question for our Motor Image team now, given this car is so quick and well-sorted, when do we switch to the new car?
“We know we will switch to it sometime soon and of course, there are always some unknown quantities in running a new car. So that challenge is still ahead of us.”
Taguchi and Crocker staged a terrific battle for the bonus points during this afternoon and over the course of today’s competition, the Australian took the three extra points by just 0.4sec, with taguchi collecting just two for the entire .
“I was at absolute maximum everywhere today,” Taguchi said.
“We changed the rear differential at service today because we had that problem last year, and changed our set-up for more high speed. I pushed hard, very hard. Now we go to New Zealand and there, I think, too it will be absolute maximum.”
However, there was another surprise waiting for Taguchi and Crocker at the Rally of Canberra finish; when the points were tallied for the two rounds of the Asia-Pacific series held so far, it was Cusco Racing’s Dean Herridge who appeared at the top of the list.
Herridge, co-driven by Chris Murphy, grabbed a well-deserved second place among the international drivers in the Rally of Canberra to secure 10 series points on top of the 11 he had already collected in New Caledonia. Herridge now leads the championship with 21 points, followed by Taguchi on 18 and Crocker, who missed the opening round in New Caledonia, on 16.
“I’m surprised but it’s a pleasant surprise,” Herridge said.
“My plan for this season was a limited program with Cusco Racing to win the three-round Pacific Cup, and we’re achieving goal very well. To lead the Asia-Pacific championship is a welcome bonus. It shows how important consistency is in any program.”
Herridge finished the rally 2min51.6 sec behind Crocker, while his team-mate in the sister Cusco Racing Subaru, Japan’s Hiroshi Yanagisawa, was third, 3min24.1secs further back.
Indonesian rally star Rifat Sungkar was troubled by turbocharger problems in his Motor Image Subaru early and with a replacement fitted after service, upped his pace as the day progressed to secure fourth position. “I’m really happy with the improvement in my speed, this was a tough event and with lots of very good competitors, so to finish 4th is great! Bill Hayes my co-driver was so helpful and really knew when to push hard or back-off. I’ve been working on my fitness too and it really paid off on this event. I feel we’re really getting on top of the pace notes, even its in a foreign language for me”, said a delighted Sungkar at the finish. Sungkar was followed home by New Caledonia’s Jean-Louis Leyraud (Subaru), Japan’s Atushi Masumura (Mitsubishi), and Kiwi Brian Green (Mitsubishi).
Such was the torrid pace of the rally, only seven A-P-registered cars were classified as finishers.
Provisional APRC Rally of Canberra results:
1. Cody Crocker, Subaru, 02:23:31.9
2. Dean Herridge, Subaru, +02:51.6
3. Hiroshi Yanagisawa, Subaru, +06:15.9
4. Rifat Sungkar, Subaru, +07:06.3
5. Jean-Louis Leyraud, Subaru, +07:52.9
6. Atushi Masumura, Mitsubishi, +14:52.6
7. Brian Green, Mitsubishi, +17:50.2
APRC Points Standing after 2 rounds
Dean Herridge/Chris Murphy (Cusco Racing Subaru) – 21 points
Katsu Taguchi/Mark Stacey (MRF Mitsubishi) – 18 points
Cody Crocker/Ben Atkinson (Motor Image Subaru) – 16 points