Motor Image Rally Team, the most successful team ever to have competed in the APRC, announced on Friday it would withdraw from the series it has dominated for the past three years.
Quoted in a press release, Glenn Tan, the man behind the team said, “MIRT’s strong showing over the past three years is testament to the skill and hard work of our team, and a tribute to the rally heritage of the Subaru brand. We had a good run with the APRC and I am proud to say that our team has achieved what we set out to do – to make a lasting impression on Asia Pacific’s rally circuit.”
Having dominated series since it first entered in 2007, the decision is not surprising. Motorsport teams like close competition, and that is something Motor Image has not had.
Its three years in the series has, no doubt, enhanced the image of Motor Image as an organisation that can supply rally winning cars.
But what of the key components of the APRC’s most sucessful team?
Possum Bourne Motorsport, the team behind the team, will continue on. It was their expertise that built and developed the latest-spec WRX STi Impreza that dominated the series last year.
Although no longer the driving force behind Bourne’s stellar motorsport career, they have developed into one of the most professional and successful Production rally outfits in the world.
Emma Gilmore, who snared the runners-up laurels in the series last year, announced her international ability with a string of cleverly calculated drives. And driving through the pain of a broken wrist at Rally China to sneak past Katsu Taguchi for second place in the series, only helped to evalate her reputation as a professional rally driver.
She started 2009 as a Kiwi privateer with potential. By the end of the season she had clearly marked herself as a driver with not only with skills and talent, but the smarts to know when to push, when to be cautious, and how to make the most of her rivals misfortunes.
In fact, the only loser from the decision could be the four-time champion himself.
Since 1998, the fortunes of Cody Crocker and Possum Bourne Motorsport have been inextricably linked. And with the death of Possum Bourne in 2003, Crocker stepped up become the teams lead driver.
During that time, the partnership has produced 11 championships. PBMS provided cars with the potential to win titles; Crocker turned that potential into a reality.
But the one thing Cody Crocker has never been is a driver who pays for drives. His career has been built on his results and his reputation. And that means 2010 could, potentially, see him out of a drive.
That prospect last faced him at the end of 2006. Having just won his first APRC title in a Les Walkden Subaru, and having completed a contract with Subaru Australia, he was out of work. But the last-minute entry of Motor Image onto the APRC stage ensured he had another season in the championship, as as history shows, another three championships to win.
It seems unlikely he’ll find a seat in his national series in Australia, which has struggled since Subaru pulled out its factory team at the end of 2005. The Chinese series is always looking for the best Group N drivers, but Crocker’s FIA seeding makes him ineliglible. And cost of stepping into the PWRC has always been a little beyond his reach.
Whether another team will step into the APRC spotlight for 2010 and provide Crocker with the opportunity to showcase his incredible skills, we’ll have to wait and see.
The one that is for sure, Cody Crocker has set a standard in the APRC that will be very hard for those who follow to eclipse.