The 2009 Asia-Pacific Rally Championship has kicked off with a torturous Leg 1 in New Caledonia. With just three APRC-registered crews competing on the island paradise, local veteran Jean-Louis Leyraud and Kiwis Brian Green and Hayden Paddon, the event has extracted a heavy toll with none of the crews making to the end of Saturday’s stages.
First to be bitten was Brian Green, who clipped a guard rail on the second pass of Friday’s Noumea super special stages. The team thought they had broken a half-shaft, but further investigation revealed a broken hub and rear axle. With only a 25 minute flexi-service before the crews left for Saturdays, there was just too much work for the Reece Jones team and they were forced to sit out Saturday’s stages and prepare for a Sunday restart.
The other Kiwi in Noumea, series rookie Hayden Paddon, completed the super specials without incident, two seconds behind Leyraud and sharing second place with local driver Steeve Octobon. But during transport to the first of the Poya stages on Saturday morning, the ‘Team Green’ Mitsubishi developed a gearbox problem. They limped into the Poya service park with just 2nd gear, ruling them out on the spot.
And so that left just Leyraud. With full APRC points on offer, he was also determined to take victory in the local championship. And indeed he took wins on all of the first eight stages, with just one final stage to complete the leg. But that was where his luck deserted him, a broken piston bringing his Subaru Impreza to a sudden halt.
To rub salt into his wounds the damage suffered is likely to force an engine change, making Leyraud ineligible for APRC points. Pacific Cup and local series points the only prizes now available to him.
So that leaves the fast rookie Paddon, and the wily veteran Green to fight over the APRC leg 2 bonus points. Sunday includes two passes of the mountainous Katrikoin stage, a 35km monster that takes no prisoners. Last year MRF driver Scott Pedder saw a certain second place slip though his fingers as his car slid off the side of the mountain at just 5km/h.
For complete stage times, check out www.rallye-nc.net, and check back here at APRC Live for an end of rally update and out first audio podcast for the year.
Photos courtesy of www.aprc.tv