Brian Green and Dean Herridge, both regulars in the APRC, have completed their 2008 seasons at the final round of the Chinese Rally Championship, Rally Shaowu.
For Green and co-driver Fleur Pedersen, just making it to the start line was a challange. After claiming second place at Rally Thailand on the previous weekend, it looked like they would not arrive in time to recce Rally Shaowu. Like other visitors to Thailand, their travel plans were disrupted by the political protests that saw Bangkok airports blockaded for more than a week.
"We were able to fly out on Wednesday afternoon to Hong Kong, before two more flights to reach the nearest airport to Shaowu", explained co-driver Pedersen. "We eventually reached our hotel in Shaowu on Thursday evening. Then it was recce the next morning before the Super Special stage and ceremonial start at 1:30pm. It was a busy day!"
Without the benefit of Wednesday’s recce, the Kiwi team did extremely well to sit in 6th place for most of Saturday’s stages. "We were going very well, and setting some very competitive times. However, on stage 6 we slid a little wide on a right-hand corner. The left-rear glanced a bank, but at the same time the left rear wheel also dropped off a small concrete edge of the road. We broke the bottom arm and pulled out the half shaft".
Although they were unable to finish leg 1, Green and Pedersen restarted on Sunday morning and were again on the pace. Part of the strong South East Motor Yu Million team, they eventually completed the leg 3rd fastest in their Mitsubishi Lancer.
For Dean Herridge and his co-driver Chris Murphy, their experience of Rally Shaowu was completely different. Having won the CRC classification at China Rally last month, Herridge and Subaru Rally Team China arrived in Shaowu on a high, confident they could claim another podium in the 2008 Impreza STI.
Setting times competitive with the leading Mitsubishis of Juha Salo and Jarkko Miettinen, Herridge finishedthe opening day in third place. "But we made some changes (during the day), which made the Impreza much nicer to drive. I was lot happier and more confident", said Herridge at the end of Saturday’s stages. "Jarkko is only 18 seconds in front of us, so he is the target for tomorrow".
But Sundays stages weren’t so kind to the West Australian, and midway through the day his rally took a dramatic turn. "Two kilometres from the end of the SS4 we hit a big hole on a fast right-hander. Hard enough to break the lower control arm, snapped the top of the suspension, the steering arm and then pulled the driveshaft from the gearbox. The wheel was hanging out near my door!"
Desperately trying to drive the 10km back to service park with the front-right wheel dragging on the ground, the tyre eventually caught fire. "Luckily we stopped in front of the local fire department. Which was handy because the tyre continued to reignite for some time!", Dean explained.
"Obviously today has been a disappointing way to end the year. But we have so many positives to take away from this season. The team and I are very happy with the results we’ve managed to achieve in 2008".
So not the way either team would have like to finished their seasons, but at least with pointers of better results to come. Maybe Fleur Pedersen summed it up the best. "The Chinese have a saying; ‘Thats Rally!’"
Rally Shaowu Final Results:
Jarkko Miettinen 2:00:23.9
Tony Green +1:27.9
Cao Liu Dong +5:41.9
Xu Jun +7:52.1
Li Wei +7:58.3
Fan Fan +8:21.0
Photos courtesy of www.sports.cn and Dean Herridge.