Dean Herridge and Cusco Racing have announced they will extend their partnership to include the team’s home event, Rally Hokkaido. Fresh from claiming the inaugural Pacific Cup title, leading Australian rally driver Dean Herridge and Cusco Racing have extended their successful Asia-Pacific Rally Championship partnership to include next month’s Rally Hokkaido.
Initially contracted to contest rallies New Caledonia, Canberra and Whangarei, the former Subaru Australia factory driver delivered immediate success for the Japanese team with a pair of podium results and their first FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title, the Pacific Cup. Currently sitting third in the Asia-Pacific championship points, extending the partnership beyond the Pacific Cup portion of the series was a logical step.
Speaking from his home in Perth, Herridge is happy to continue his APRC campaign. “Although the initial plan was just to contest the Pacific Cup events, we registered to score points in overall series. Things have gone really well, both for myself and for Cusco”. “Our main goal was to win the Pacific Cup, which we’ve done. We now find ourselves third in the championship, just six points off the lead and a good gap to the guys behind us. And Rally Hokkaido is Cusco’s home event, and it’s a place I’ve been to a few times before. So I’m looking forward to continuing”.
“Over the course of the year, we’ve made some good progress with the feeling of the Cusco Subarus. Yeah, we had a few small problems in New Zealand, but on balance, we’ve been improving with each round. With the Pacific Cup locked away, Hokkaido offers a great chance to try and get closer to the guys in front of us”.
Herridge joined Cusco Racing at the beginning of 2008 with the intention of earning the Japanese outfit its first international title. And Herridge set about driving to a fast yet consistent pace when he began at the season opening round in New Caledonia. “To get second on our first event with the team was exceptional”, said Dean. “We planned to just take it carefully and hope to get a top five, but in the end everything fell our way.”
That gave Herridge confidence going into the second APRC round in Canberra, an event he has a solid track record at after claiming victory as a former Subaru Australia factory driver. With Cody Crocker, Taguchi and former Australian Rally Championship regular Scott Pedder leading the way Herridge once again opted for caution over aggression. “Canberra is always a tough event, it’s a real car breaker, so I was quite happy to sit back and let the guys ahead run their own race.” And again it was a plan that paid off with Pedder and Taguchi both suffering mechanical concerns. “I felt comfortable with my pace, the car was performing really well, and there was nothing to be gained by taking risks. Two podiums from two starts, and the points lead in the Asia-Pacific Championship – you couldn’t ask for more!” Dean beamed at the finish.
The third and final Round in the Pacific Cup took Herridge to New Zealand’s Rally of Whangarei. The event, based north of Auckland, utilises roads formerly made famous by the local round of the World Rally Championship and offers fast, smooth gravel and the unique cambered corners only found in New Zealand. Crocker, Taguchi and Pedder all stepped up their pace to chase the locals, Herridge fourth at the end of Day one. “The pace at the front was quite amazing. I probably lacked a little from grip throughout the day.”
Day two remained the same with drivers maintaining their position all the way to the finish line, Herridge able to hold fourth just ahead of team-mate Yanagisawa. The result ensured Herridge and co-driver Chris Murphy were able to hold aloft the Pacific Cup at the finish line. “Incredible result, something that I could only hope for at the start of this season, but to be here now with the Cup in our hands is amazing. A great result and it repays the faith the Cusco team put in me to drive the car for them,” exclaimed Dean.
His consistent performance this season encouraged Cusco to extend the partnership for the next round in Hokkaido, Japan. “It was something the team talked about at the start of the year. It will be good to compete in Japan again, and hopefully we continue the strong performances in front of Cusco’s home crowd.” Rally Hokkaido starts on July 12.
For information, check www.deanherridge.com , www.rally-hokkaido.com or www.aprclive.com.
2008 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for Drivers (After 3 of 7 rounds)
1. Cody Crocker (Australia) 32
2. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) 30
3. Dean Herridge (Australia) 26
4. Brian Green (New Zealand) 13
5. Scott Pedder (Australia) 12