APRC regulars Brian Green and Fleur Pedersen have taken second place at last weekends Rally Thailand. And in fact, Green and Pedersen may have had the event to themselves, if not for the presence of Finnish competitor Jouni Arolainen.
Having not competed at the event for 10 years, Arolainen arrived ready for battle, with his 2005-model Ford Focus WRC and the experience of 2005 winner Jussi Valimaki as part of the CLO Racing team.
The only WRC car competing in the rally, Arolainen was able to run at his own pace and completed the weekend in first place with a one minute 25 second margin.
"…really well organised", a jubilant Arolainen exclaimed at the podium presentation. "The stages were great. Everything worked well and the weather was good. And thanks to the Finnish fans who supported us. We hope to come back again later next year".
But while Green’s Group-N Mitsubishi was no match for speed against the WRC car, the Kiwis familiarity with the hot and dusty conditions allowed him to keep in touch with Arolainen. At the end of Saturday’s nine competitive stages, the Finn was just over a minute clear of Green and Pedersen, who more than a minute clear of the next quickest competitor.
Arolainen extended the margin on Sunday by another 15 seconds, Green and Pedersen keeping up with WRC car on roads that were fast and open.
"It’s all good. The road was very slippery, and the surface very loose," Green commented during Saturday’s stages. "It’s been a bit rough. We drove over a (large) rock, but luckily the tyre didn’t deflate".
The Reece Jones prepared Lancer Evo 9, the same car used by Mark Tapper at Rally Malaysia, ran flawlessly during the event. Not even a collision with a dog on the final morning, and the resulting bent intercooler pipe, nor a final stage puncture could stop the Kiwi veteran.
"We thoroughly enjoyed this year. Congratulations to the winners. We had done our best and tried to go as fast as we could."
The next challenge for Green and Pedersen will be the final event on the Chinese Rally calendar, Rally Shaowu which starts next Friday. But with the on-going political turmoil in Thailand, and the blockade of international airports, the Kiwi pair will have their work cut-out for them just to make it to China in time for recce.
1. Jouni Arolainen Focus WRC05 2:02:52
2. Brian Green Lancer Evo 9 +1:25
3. Ruegchan Wittaya Lancer Evo 9 +3:56
4. Kasikham Suphot Subaru Impreza +6:37
5. Tasamrong Vorrawit Lancer Evo +27:42
Photos courtesy of www.thailandrally.com