Motor Image Subaru driver Cody Crocker extended his lead in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship after collecting maximum points at the International Rally of Whangarei last weekend and now looks forward to taking on Japanese driver Katsu Taguchi at his home event in July.
Crocker, who won the round in Queensland last month, now sits on top of the points table with 32 points, 11 clear of his main rival MRF Mitsubishi driver Taguchi. New Zealander Emma Gilmour also in Subaru, is third with 16 points.
The reigning champion was clearly the fastest in the APRC competition across the weekend. Crocker added over 30 seconds to his day one lead to finish 46.4 seconds clear of Taguchi, with his MotorImage teammate, Gilmour, another 16.9 seconds further back.
While Crocker was the pace-setter on both days, scoring the bonus six points on offer, Gilmour beat home Taguchi on the second day by just one tenth of one second, the smallest margin possible in the sport and earning herself a valuable bonus point.
Crocker also took his 2008 Impreza WRX STI to second place outright, with local driver Hayden Padden taking the honours. Another Australian, Brendan Reeves, was third, also in a Subaru.
After finishing the event, which took competitors across 16 stages and over 250 competitive kilometres, Crocker was in a positive frame of mind about the remainder of the year.
“We’re really pleased with the result today,” Crocker said. “We struggled a bit yesterday with the set-up of the car, but today was much better and it meant I could drive with a lot more confidence.
“It is only the second time out in the car, so it is still a work in progress, but today we saw a big step in the right direction.
“On Leg One we were a bit behind the local cars but today we were basically right on the money.
“We now go to Japan, Subaru’s home event, in good shape. You can’t really ask for more than maximum points from each round, and we know that the car will only get better the longer the season goes.
“It was fantastic that Emma (Gimour) got third again. That’s the second event in a row that we’ve had both cars from the team on the podium, and that is a good reward for the MotoImage team who have continued to back us despite the current market difficulties hitting the automotive game.”
The Japanese round of the series will prove pivotal to Crocker and co-driver Ben Atkinson’s quest for a fourth straight APRC title. The rally takes place in Hokkaido on July 11 and 12.
APRC – International Rally of Whangarei
1 C Crocker/B Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI
2 Taguchi/M Stacey, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +46.4 seconds
3 E Gilmour/R Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +1:03.3
4 B Green/F Pedersen/ Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, +14:02.1
APRC Points after round 3 of 7
1 Crocker (Australia), Subaru, 32
2 Taguchi (Japan), Mitsubishi, 23
3 Gilmour (New Zealand), Subaru, 16
4 Green (New Zealand), Mitsubishi, 5
5 Gill (India), Mitsubishi, 4
Outright – International Rally of Whangarei
1 H Paddon/J Kennard, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9
2 C Crocker/B Atkinson, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +1:01.6
3 B Reeves/G Weston, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +1:33.9
4 K Taguchi/M Stacey, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, +1:48.0
5 E Gilmour/R Smyth, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +2:04.9
Source: Team Release