Sumiyama’s Dilemma

Can Japan’s Yuya Sumiyama win the FIA APRC driver’s championship and the manufacturer’s title for Skoda Motorsport at this weekend’s Rally Hokkaido, his home event?

Sumiyama’s co-driver Takahiro Yasui has already secured the co-drivers championship, Cusco Racing the teams award and for Sumiyama to win the drivers and manufacturer’s title, the equation is simple.

After three straight wins Sumiyama has a 60-point lead over his nearest rival Italian Fabio Frisiero and with two rounds to go, there are 78 points available for the driver’s and manufacturer’s title.

Yuya Sumiyama, Malaysia Rally 2018
Therefore, to secure both titles this weekend in Hokkaido, Sumiyama needs only to score 19 points to make it impossible for Frisiero to sneak the title away from him.

Mathematically it’s also possible for Sumiyama’s Cusco team-mate Mike Young who has 37 points to draw equal (37 + 78 = 115), however on a count back of wins, Sumiyama would still win.

The dilemma for Sumiyama this weekend is should he secure the championship with a sensible controlled drive, or go all out to win his home event, an event he has never won and risk the championship title?

On paper Sumiyama is the driver most likely to win 2018 Rally Hokkaido, especially with his experience of the event and equipped with the best R5 car currently on the world stage, the Skoda Fabia. When pressed for his plans for the weekend though all he would say is “Safety drive for Day 1…..”.

Mike Young, Rally Hokkaido 2018
The other outright contender is Young driving Cusco’s 4WD Toyota Vitz. This will be the New Zealander’s 8th start in Hokkaido and an event where he’s finished on the podium twice driving a production class Subaru Impreza, but never won outright.

This time Young has the package to win, the question mark will be the Toyota’s reliability, but on the previous APRC event in Malaysia the toughest and hottest of them all, Young finally drove the Vitz over the finish-ramp.

The team has given the Toyota a major refresh over the past two weeks and two days of testing were largely trouble free, allowing Young and co-driver Malcolm Read time to fine-tune the handling and suspension.

Frisiero is a contender for a win especially driving the very reliable and fast Racetorque built AP4 Peugeot 208, however the Italian has little experience of the Hokkaido forests and behind him he has some tough local competition.

Atsushi Masumura is the most experienced and driving a well sorted Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10 will be a major contender. Eiichi Iwashita is next and after a stand-out 5th place in a Mitsubishi Evo 9 in 2016, could surprise.
Fuyuhiko Takahashi makes a welcome return to the APRC after a big crash in New Zealand that nearly wrote off his Ahresty Subaru.

Following Takahashi is the Immen’s team entry of Mitsuhiro Aoki who will be managed by 2015 APRC Asia Cup winner Hitoshi Takayama and Hasepro’s Tomohide Hasegawa, a driver with extensive international experience having previously registered and competed at APRC events in Malaysia, China and Japan.

Malaysian Abdul Kaathir Mustaffa enjoyed his APRC experience so much at his home event the International Rally of Johor, that he’s decided to enter the championship for the final two rounds. Mustaffa’s co-driver in Hokkaido will be countryman Kenneth Koh a former Proton R3 driver.

Fabio Frisiero, Rally Canberra 2018
Rally Hokkaido is the 4th round of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship and based in the city of Obihiro. Run over three days the event comprises 222 kilometres of mostly forestry stages, with a temporary service-park on Saturday in the town of Rikubetsu, famous for recording the lowest ever temperature in Japan of -45 degrees C.

Hokkaido accounts for a little more than 20% of Japan’s total land area and has a population of roughly 5.4 million. Japan’s most northern island is a popular tourist destination, famed for its skiing resorts, hot springs, gourmet food and natural parks.

Story: Brian Young –