Crocker leads championship after Round 3

Reigning champion Cody Crocker of the Motor Image Rally Team (MIRT) continued to rule at the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) when he won the Rally of Whangarei in New Zealand today.

Crocker, who seems unstoppable in his quest to win the third APRC title in succession, now sits in first place of the championship points table after garnering maximum points with today’s winning time of 2 hours 38 minutes and 18 seconds.

Today’s victory at the Rally of Whangarei makes it 13 out of a total of 14 APRC rally wins for Crocker. Together with his Australian co-driver, Ben Atkinson, Crocker overcame road conditions that ranged from dry gravel to wet surfaces along the 667.66km route. The MIRT driver outperformed other competitors, such as Japan’s Katsu Taguchi and fellow Australian Scott Pedder, to collect a maximum of 16 points from today’s triumph at the Rally of Whangarei.

Crocker now leads the championship with 32 points, two points ahead of closest rival Taguchi of MRF Tyres and six ahead of Dean Herridge of Cusco Racing.

“It has been an awesome weekend of great driving. This year’s road conditions are a lot wetter than the previous year’s and the rain this morning gave the roads a bit more substance. Ben and I made sure we kept up a good pace and didn’t take any silly risks. Thumbs up for the team and their fantastic work with the car, which made it a real dream to drive. With maximum points in the pocket from today’s win, we’re right on track for this year’s championship. But no time to rest on our laurels as the Rally of Hokkaido is Taguchi’s home territory. That should prove to be a real challenge to beat,” said Crocker.

Crocker’s MIRT team-mate, Rifat Sungkar struggled with a slight handling problem on Day 1 but managed to recover today with the help of the MIRT crew of mechanics who were on-site to solve his car set-up problems. Working together with his Australian codriver, Bill Hayes, the young Indonesian driver clocked a time of 2 hours 46 minutes and 5.4 seconds, earning himself a sixth overall placing in the rally. “The roads of New Zealand are amazingly fast and we struggled with our car set-up yesterday but thanks to the team, we got that fixed and the car’s handling was much better today. Overall, Bill and I had a good time today and we even managed a top speed of 206km/h. We’re catching up bit by bit, in terms of car set-up and communications. I’m looking forward to our next rally in Japan as it was the first rally Bill and I worked together on last year.

The Rally of Hokkaido is one of the toughest rallies as the roads are narrow and fast but with the car set-up in place and knowledge of the roads of Hokkaido, I am confident we can do much better in Japan,” said Sungkar.

Held yearly in Whangarei in New Zealand, the Rally of Whangarei is the third round of the seven-leg APRC. For the past nine years, the New Zealand leg of the APRC had been held in Rotorua. 2008 marks the 2nd year that this leg has been held in Whangarei. The Rally of Whangarei comprises of a total of 667.66km over 15 stages of gravelcovered road surfaces, through harsh and wintry weather conditions.

A total of 32 cars from over six countries competed in this year’s Rally of Whangarei. A total of eight APRC-registered rally cars started out on Day 2 of this year’s Rally. Out of this eight, only seven managed to cross the finish line at Waipu Caves 2.

APRC Results – Rally of Whangarei
1. C Crocker (Aus)/B Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 2:38:18.0
2. K Taguchi (Jap)/M Stacey (Aus), Mitsubishi lancer Evo IX, 2:40.25.4
3. S Pedder (Aus)/G Weston (Aus), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, 2:41:45.8
4. D Herridge (Aus)/C Murphy (Aus), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 2:43:10.1
5. H Yanagisawa (Jap)/Y Nakahara (Jap), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 2:43.29.3
6. R Sungkar (Ind))/B Hayes (Aus), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, 2:46:05.4
7. B Green (NZ)/F Pedersen (NZ), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, 2:49:39.4