The 2005 APRC champion, Jussi Valimaki, has lined up ifor the first round of the Chinese Rally Championship, Rally Nanjing.
Driving for the Hongyun Honghe rally team Valimaki and co-driver Marko Sallinen found themselves pitted against last years APRC Pacific Cup title winner, Dean Herridge. Herridge is now in his third season as lead driver for Subaru Rally Team China, Nanjing was the Chinese event Valimaki has contested since 2005.
And although it was a long time between drinks, Valimaki struck immediate success by leading the rally from start to finish, defeating a high-profile field that not only included Herridge, but also Englishman David Higgins and Finn Juha Salo.
“This was a perfect start for championship”, said Jussi who battled all weekend in temperatures that reached into the high 30s. “However after Sundays second stage my heart was about to stop. On transit section two spark plugs of my engine started to have a malfunction. Eventually I was able to crawl back to service park. The final two stages waas pedal to the metal…I just enjoyed rallying”.
But while Nanjing was a great start to Valimaki’s season, it wasn’t such a happy event for Herridge, the Australian rolling out of the rally on Sunday morning.
“We were going well this morning”, commented Herridge after the event. “We were coming towards the end of the second stage this morning, and the intercom cut out after we hit a bump in the road. We kept going for another couple of kms while Chris (Murphy) was trying to fix it. But I got caught on a tight right-hander. We were just going too fast for the corner. I couldn’t slow the car down in time and we ended up in a slow roll”.
Neither Herridge nor Murphy were injured in the accident, and luckily the damage to their Subaru was only minor. The SRTC crew will have to quickly repair the car in time for the second round of the championship, Rally Beijing which begins in just two weeks time.
Final Result, Rally Jiangning Nanjing:
1. Jussi Valimaki, 2:01:12.3
2. David Higgins, +36.3
3. Juha Salo, +48.9
(Photos courtesy of www.jussivalimaki.com).