Having won the Malaysian Rally just three weeks before, the three times FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion and current series leader Cody Crocker (AUS, Subaru) arrived in the New South Wales Northern Rivers region of the east-coast of Australia on great form.
However, the 37-year old from Victoria initially found that the rear of his Impreza was sliding too much and was only able to get into a rhythm once adjustments had been made, allowing him to gain some pace and finish Day 1 in 4th, just 0.2 seconds behind 2nd.
Day 2 was to prove a little frustrating, as Crocker felt he was driving quicker than his stage times suggested. Softer suspension and an extra hard push in the afternoon failed to make a difference, and whilst Crocker was losing touch a little with the top two drivers, he was in an extremely strong 3rd position.
He tried to put Mason under pressure with a big push on the opening stages of Day 3, but the gap was too big and Crocker was still delighted with 3rd place.
Toshi Arai (J, Subaru) had a new Impreza for this rally, and spent much of the opening day fine-tuning the handling to his liking. The double P-WRC champion hit a rock near the end of SS7, bending the front right suspension arm and collecting a slow rear puncture. Indeed, the most experienced driver in the series looked a little out of sorts – ending Day 1 over a minute behind the leader.
It took Toshi until mid-way through Day 2 to get back to his hard-charging best, and after finding a set-up which worked he ended the middle day in 4th. A close encounter with a tree on SS28 almost brought Day 3 to a premature end, but he recovered and was on course to finish 4th, when an input shaft stranded him on the final stage – cruelly just 2km from the finish of the rally.
Arai’s dramatic SS35 retirement saw all the crews behind him unexpectedly move up a place, and this could determine who will be this year’s P-WRC champion.
Mark Tapper (NZ, Mitsubishi) set his first P-WRC fastest stage time of his career on SS3 to move up to 3rd, but then rolled heavily two stages later.
Double Chinese Rally Champion Chao-dong Liu (CN, Mitsubishi) crashed his Lancer Evo IX on SS7 on the second P-WRC event of his career, ending his hopes of winning the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship Pirelli Star Driver Shoot Out. It also ended his weekend’s sport, as the impact with a tree bent the roll cage and he was unable to continue.
Rally Australia, P-WRC Results
1 Martin Prokop (CZ), Mitsubihsi Lancer Evo 9
2 Richard Mason (NZ), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +42.2 secs
3 Cody Crocker (AUS), Subaru Impreza WRX STI, +1min 35.3 secs
4 Armindo Araujo, (P), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 +4:08.1
5 Stewart Taylor (NZ), Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9+5:39.1