Dean Herridge and Subaru Rally Team China have bounced back from a disappointing non-finish in Mohe earlier this month, capturing second place at the Changbai Mountain Rally.
The third round of the Chinese national rally series, Changbai Mountain was contested over roads near the North Korean border in China’s north-east. And the rally held plenty of drama for spectators and competitors right from the first forest stage.
After completing Friday’s Super Special stage in 3rd, Herridge and co-driver Chris Murphy moved up to second place when early leader Fumio Nutahara punctured, setting a trend that the rest of the field would follow. Juha Salo, Liu Dong Cao, Tony Green, Nutahara, and Dean all collected punctures during Saturday’s stages.
“It’s been a really tricky and demanding day”, Dean commented after the completion of the Saturday’s six stages. “The roads are twisty and narrow, but very high speed. The two 30km stages we ran today (used three times during the leg), averaged 130 km/h and 110 km/h.”
By the end of leg 1, Juha Salo lead the field, with Herridge and Wei Hongjie holding the podium places. But with large gaps between them, and only 60km of stages to run on Sunday, there was nothing to be gained by pushing too hard, and the top three maintained their positions to complete the event.
And that meant Herridge not only scored his first Chinese podium of the year, but also the first podium for the new SRTC 2008-spec Impreza GRB.
“Sunday was only a quarter of the distance of the entire rally, but the roads were really tricky; narrow and very bumpy. I think nearly 40% of the field were forced to retire, so we made sure we made it to the finish.”
“It’s the first podium for the new car, and I think the team was a bit nervous to make sure we scored a good result. Really, it’s our first true hit-out on gravel, so we’ve learned a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of the car.”
Meanwhile, Brian Green, once again driving a Mitsubishi Lancer for 000-Motor Sports, was unable to make it to the finish line. After a finishing leg one in 5th place, the Kiwi suffered gearbox damage on his EVO early Sunday and was forced to retire.
Speaking after the event, Green’s co-driver Fleur Pedersen reflected on a lost opportunity. “We were sitting in fourth place with a lead over the next car. However, on the second stage of four on Sunday, the gearbox and centre diff housings broke, around the bolt holes. We lost a minute and a half minutes in the stage, managing to make it back to service. However, our crew were unable to get the offending gearbox and centre diff out and new ones in in time, and we were out of the rally.”
For Green and Pedersen, their next event is Rally Malaysia, the second last of the APRC season. And although Herridge won’t be in Malaysia, the Australian will be competing against the other APRC regulars at Rally China in November, which is not only the final round of the APRC but also a round of the Chinese domestic series.
Changbai Mountain – Unofficial Results
Juha Salo 1:57:20.0
Dean Herridge 2:00:20.0
Wei Hongjie 2:01:20.4
Fan Fan 2:06:18.2
Tony Green 2:08:45.5