Subaru rally driver Cody Crocker is taking a much needed break as he looks back on his record-breaking 2009 season, which saw him claim an unprecedented fourth consecutive Asia-Pacific Rally Championship title.
For Crocker, standing on stage with World Rally and Formula 1 champions at the FIA Gala Dinner in Monaco is a long way from his debut season in a Mazda RX5, way back in 1994.
But that’s where the Victorian found himself last week, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastien Loeb.
Since 1994, when Crocker won the Australian Rallysport News Junior Rally Challenge and a prize package worth over $10,000, he’s been a Subaru driver through and through. In that time he’s won the Australian Rally Championship three times, has been Australian Group N Champion three times, and now has four APRC titles to his name.
We spoke to Crocker about his latest achievements, and asked what a fourth APRC title means to him.
“I’m quietly proud of the 4 titles, it’s been an amazing adventure, but I’m more proud of the team behind me. We’ve achieved a lot since I joined Subaru back in 1998,” he said.
It must be satisfying to have your name ahead of guys like Possum (Bourne) and Kenneth (Eriksson) in the record books?
“It’s quite amazing to think that I’ve surpassed them and I think the level of competition is no less now than it was when they won their titles. Katsu Taguchi has been my main rival for several years and he hasn’t given me an inch. It’s been incredibly tough – some of the APRC events are tougher than WRC rounds so it’s satisfying just to finish many of these events.”
How do you rate the 2009 win against the victories in 2006, 2007 and 2008?
“Easily as good as the others, if not better. There were a few more challenges this year with the team’s decision to run the new car. The new shape Impreza is quite different from the previous model – which we’d developed for around five years.
“It was a new learning curve and to give this new car a 100 per cent win rate (six out of six rallies) makes this year pretty special.”
The Subaru Impreza WRX STI again proved ultra reliable during the season. What was the biggest advantage against your opposition drivers?
“Just that – reliability. Possum Bourne Motorsport know how to build reliable, fast cars. We were able to put lots of pressure on the others by being fast – inevitably they would see many retirements due to mechanical failure with drivers pushing their cars too hard – you just can’t afford that.
“Our team has had 27 consecutive finishes in APRC events since 2003. Of those, we’ve been on the podium 24 times and won 23. That sort of record makes it very tough for anyone to beat and that makes me even prouder of my team.”
Crocker’s team manager in the MotorImage Racing Team, Philip Rodgers, agrees, and can’t give his driver enough credit for his efforts.
“Cody is without any doubt the perfect championship rally driver,” Rodgers said. “His performances are second to none and, in my opinion, he is the most successful Subaru rally driver in the sport’s history.
“He’s won seven consecutive championships for Subaru, which is an incredible feat. The APRC often gets overlooked in terms of importance on the world stage, but his efforts have been extraordinary.
“If you were selecting drivers for the ultimate rally team, World Champion Sebastien Loeb would be the first chosen, but Cody Crocker would be second pick in my book.”
Crocker says that the events in Malaysia and Indonesia were the toughest during the 2009 season.
“Simply because of the heat,” he explained. “It’s so taxing that you’re totally exhausted by the finish. Both events were also wet and very slippery. Indonesia has been the toughest event for us in the past so it was a bit of a monkey off our back to finally win it.”
For the fourth time you’ve headed to France to accept your award, along with drivers like Loeb and Button. It must be an incredible feeling to be on the same stage as these guys.
“As I write this I’ve just arrived back from Monaco to receive my trophy, which is really heavy and hard to get home in your hand luggage – but I shouldn’t complain! I met Lewis Hamilton a few years ago, and he came up to Ben (co-driver Ben Atkinson) and myself and congratulated us! Can you believe that? What an awesome guy!”
It now appears that Crocker’s reign on the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship is over – much to the delight of his rivals. He has bigger plans, although as is always the case in motorsport, it all comes down to finding a sufficient budget.
“We’re working hard on finding sponsorship for an assault on the Production World Rally Championship. We’re almost there and if it happens it will be a dream come true – something I’ve wanted for many years.
“Fortunately, I’ve got a great team behind me helping out while I’m busy collecting my trophy! Here’s hoping this next dream comes true.”
For now though, Crocker will enjoy the Christmas break with his wife, Nicky, and daughter Abbey.
“Now that I’m finally finished for the year it’s time to take a break from possibly the busiest time of my career. This year I’ve been away nearly 150 days, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do at home!
“We’ve been in our home for over three years now and I still haven’t finished the back yard, so that’s going to get some of my attention!” Crocker said.
We congratulate Cody on his achievements, and on becoming the most successful Australian rally driver of all time.
ARTICLE BY PETER WHITTEN: www.rallysportmag.com.au