A change of venue has helped Cody Crocker get a jump on the rest of the APRC field today in Queensland. For many years the Australian round of the series had run through the dusty forests of Canberra, the conditions well-known to the APRC regulars. But a change of venue to Queensland has handed Crocker an advantage, the only driver in the APRC field to have experienced the technical conditions of the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
“This event, being such a technical event with pace notes and that sort of thing, if you have some local knowledge and experience it really, really helps”, Crocker noted on return to service park. “You can push on at the exits of corners and know where you can clip the crests, and sort of stuff really makes a difference but is hard to put into your notes”.
In his new Motor Image Subaru, Crocker was able to beat his main series rival, Katsu Taguchi, on all of todays seven stages to have a comfortable 45 sec at the end of leg 1. “The new car has been working perfectly today. The only issue was a warning light that came on in the afternoon stages, but that was just a warning. It’s been perfect!”
Although Taguchi is back in his proven MRF Lancer Evo 9, the technical nature of the Queensland roads proved the difference during leg 1.
“It’s very difficult roads”, said Katsu. “We’ve done Canberra many times, but here there are many high-speed crests and junctions, so it’s very difficult to judge the braking points. But we’re happy to be back in the APRC. MRF have given us a very good deal, so it’s very good to be back to fight for the championship”.
By contrast, Katus and Cody’s team-mates, Gaurav Gill and Emma Gilmore, have had a tough day, their new cars experiencing teething problems. For third-placed Gill, tyres and brakes have been the main concern.
“It’s not been easy. This stages are so fast and I’ve been struggling with brakes. I’ve had no brakes all day long. We’ve had a moment or two and we’ve been lucky to escape”, said the Indian champion. “We’ve only had a short test with the new car, and we haven’t unlocked its full potential yet. But we’re quite happy (with where we’ve finished).
Meanwhile Emma Gilmore has been thrown in the deep-end. If a new team, new co-driver and new event weren’t enough, the engine in her brand-new MIRT Subaru was down on power all day, and she struggled to complete the day in 4th place, nearly four and a half minutes off Crocker’s time.
“We’ve had an engine problem all day”, said Emma, having just returned the car to parc ferme. “It’s not terminal and the boys think they know what it is and will fix it at service tonight. But we’ve been down on power all day. It’s really been quite slow, but in saying that, we’ve been working on me and Rhianon working together (in the car) and on setup, so it’s been quite a positive day.
Jean-Louis Leyraud had held fourth for most of the day, but a last stage puncture saw him lose around 3 minutes, and he tumbled down the leaderboard to sit in 6th, just behind Hayden Paddon.
Paddon had his own problems today. Competing in both the Pacific Cup and the Pirelli Star Driver qualifier, Paddon had a day to forget. After settings good times in the morning stages, differential problems slowed him on stage 3, and it wasn’t until afternoon service that he could make repairs.
But the highest flyer was Brian Green. The veteran Kiwi made it home in 7th, but had a lucky escape early in the day. Flat in 5th gear over a blind crest, he and co-driver Fleur Pedersen landed their Mitsubishi in one piece, but were lucky to make the next corner.
In the Pirelli Star Driver, Rally Queensland being a qualifier for the final at Rally Indonesia, two former Les Walkden drivers are fighting for victory. Eli Evans took the first three stages, but Brendan Reeves clean-swept the final four to lead by a single point at the end of leg 1.
Rally Queensland concludes tomorrow with another seven stages before the final podium presentation at the Imbil Service Park.
Photos courtesy of Alan MacDonald – MacSpeed.
Leg 1 – Rally Queensland – APRC (Unofficial)
1. Cody Crocker, 1:11:34.0
2. Katsu Taguchi, +0:44.9
3. Gaurav Gill, +2:18.9
4. Emma Gilmore, +4:24.4
5. Hayden Paddon, +6:37.9
6. Jean-Louis Leyraud, +6:45.9
7. Brian Green, +8:44.6