Malaysia's international rally driver Karamjit Singh is the 2004 Asia Pacific Rally Championship drivers champion and at Rally of India, Singh added to his championship wins by securing the manufacturers championship for Malaysian manufacturer Proton.
India's international event held in the hills around Pune, 170km from Mumbai, proved to be one of the toughest and roughest rallies on the world calendar 'definitely the roughest event of my rallying career' said Singh at the finish. Singh and co-driver Allen Oh were pushed hard all the way by Japanese driver Katsuhiko Taguchi in his MRF Mitsubishi Evo8 and at the
half-way point the pair were seperated by only 6.4 seconds. However this event was all about suspension and tyre wear and during the 2nd and final leg Taguchi lost time to Singh, who's Pirelli tyres seemed better able to stand the rough abrasive surface. Singh's other main competitor for the championship, German driver Armin Kremer also in an MRF Mitsubishi, went out
early in the event, after losing control on SS2 and crashing off only a few hundred metres from the stage finish.
At the ceremonial finish back in Pune, Singh was a happy man "This event even though its been the hardest is the highlight of the year for me, I wanted to win for Allen (Oh) as its his last event, I wanted to win the manufacturers championship for Proton and I wanted to win it for my sponsor JK Tyres of India, so this is definitely the sweetest one".
For Taguchi and co-driver Mark Stacey the win in front of their Indian sponsors MRF Tyres, alluded them and they were happy to reflect on a solid year in 2004 and look ahead to 2005 as Taguchi commented. "It was very close at the end of Leg 1, only 6 seconds away from Karamjit and today we push very hard but we choose the wrong compound tyre for the hard surface and lose a lot of time. Overall though, today and yesterday we are pushing
very hard, for us our driving has improved over the last couple of events, the car and tyres were getting better and better and my driving is much more improved from the first round. I hope to come back next year and get Asia Pacific champion".
Third overall for Mitsubishi driver and team principal Geof Argyle was an excellent result, considering that behind him in 4th and 5th place for APRC drivers, were his two team-mates Brian Green and Dermott Malley. "One of the roughest rallies in the world and we got all three cars in the Silverstone Tyres team to the finish - says something for the car, the tyres and our small crew. Third place is definitely a good way to finish the season , Hopefully we can get a package together for next year and we'll be back again' said Argyle at the finish.
With 2004 over, there is now a 4 month break before the first event in the 2005 championship - Rally of Canberra scheduled to run 22-24, April, 2005.
INTERVIEWS END OF EVENT
ARGYLE: 3rd place, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8:
One of the roughest rallies in the world and we got three cars (Silverstone Tyres team) to the finish - says something for the team. Third place is definitely a good way to finish the season , hopefully we can get a package together for next year and we'll be back again.
TAGUCHI: It was very close at the end of Leg 1, only 6 seconds away from Karamjit and today we push very hard but we choose the wrong compound tyre for the hard surface and lose a lot of time. Overall though, today and yesterday we are pushing very hard, for us our driving has improved over the last couple of events, the car and tyres were getting better and better and my driving is much more improved from the first round. I hope to come back next and get Asia Pacific champion.
SINGH: This event even though its been the hardest is the highlight of the year for me, I wanted to win for Allen (Oh) as its his last event, I wanted to win the manufacturers championship for Proton and I wanted to win it for my sponsor JK Tyres of India, so this is definitely the sweetest one.
GREEN: Mitsubishi lancer Evo 8 4th in APRC: Its our best result in Asioa Pacific this year its certainly been a very demanding event, very rough and long days and its taken a good crew and a good car to finish - and we've got all three cars in the team to the finish.
Taguchi - SS2
Argyle - SS8
Kumar - SS6
Argyle - Sunset
PROVISIONAL APRC 2005 DATES
Rally of Canberra
Rallye de Nouvelle Calédonie
Rally of Rotorua
Rally of Hokkaido
Rally of China
Singh is the Champion
Karamjit Singh & Allen Oh
Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh is confirmed as the 2004 Asia Pacific Rally Champion after the Rally of China last weekend. At the same event Singh's co-driver Allen Oh was confirmed as the co-drivers champion.
Singh went to China with a comfortable 10 point lead over arch-rival MRF Mitsubishi driver Armin Kremer from Germany and by the end of an intense weekends competition had increased that lead slightly to 11 points. With one round to go (India in December) Singh has 59 points and Kremer 48.
If Singh fails to score more points in India and Kremer gets a maximum 16 super-rally points, Kremer's total will be 64 points. However only the best five results from the championship count and Kremer will drop his worst result, 5 points from Japan, bringing the two drivers equal on 59 points each.
On a count-back Proton driver Singh will take the championship based on his 3 wins, where-as Kremer has not yet won a round in the 2004 championship.
While the drivers and co-drivers championship is decided, the battle in India will be for the manufacturer prize with Mitsubishi on 65 points and Proton on 59.
Katsuhiko Taguchi from Japan has won the 2004 Rally of China in his MRF Mitsubishi Lancer Evo8. Taguchi withstood constant pressure from former champions Malaysian Karamjit Singh and his team-mate Armin Kremer from Germany, but held onto his lead and finishing 16.4 seconds ahead of Karamjit Singh.
The event had a new base this year running out of the city of Haizhou in the southern Guangdong province. With a superspecial on the Friday near the city, the competitors headed into the countryside for two days of competition over fast bumpy roads that would see many competitors have major accidents. The Chinese local championship is very strong and features many international drivers in well funded teams, but for this event APRC competitors filled five of the top six places.
However the championship lost one of its stars in the second stage when young Australian Chris Atkinson driving a Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 hit a bump in 5th gear and rolled the car 4 times. The crew got the car back on its wheels and drove out of the stage but the car was too badly damaged to continue and further. Atkinson and codriver Glenn McNeal re-started on day 2, but went out on the first stage with engine problems. After the event Atkinson reflected ‘The worst event of my career, a DNF on the first stage of both days, really not fantastic, but you’re going to have these days in any rally career and we’ve had a lot of good days this year. Not the way I wanted to finish the championship and would have been good to have got an outright win, we came close but it wasn’t to be”. Atkinson’s DNF was made worse for the Suzuki team when his team-mate Vesa Mikkola hit a tree side-on and retired a few stages later with engine problems.
Needing an outright win to get his title chances on track again, Armin Kremer started off winning the second stage and taking the lead, but niggling problems with the car over the day, saw that lead surrendered to his team-mate Taguchi.
The conditions needed a good car and precision driving and Taguchi was happy with both, “the car is working well and we only made one slight mistake today, brushing a tree”. Going into the second day he and Australian co-driver Mark Stacey held a slender 14 second lead over Karamjit Singh. “ Karamjit and Armin are driving very fast, so we pushed hard today…..the short stage we backed off a bit, but the other guys are driving very fast, so we have to push hard in the last section to stay ahead. I like China and its nice to win here again. Now we look forward to India and we try and win again”.
Singh was completely focused on finishing the event ahead of his main rival in the APRC points race, Armin Kremer. “We could have gone harder and maybe gone for the win, but our plan here was to stay ahead of Armin (Kremer) and keep our lead in the championship. This event was the hardest in the championship so far, its very high-speed but at the same time very bumpy and lots of jumps. The repeat stages got very rough and rocky, its so easy for the car to jump off the road”.
For Kremer finishing fastest APRC driver on the 2nd day was little compensation for seeing his 2004 championship hopes almost gone. Speaking after the event “Today was good for us, we could go maximum with the car and we are fastest APRC competitor and get a maximum three points, but the championship is almost gone now. We see what we can do in India”.
For New Zealander Geof Argyle the event was pure frustration, losing too much time on the opening leg with set-up problems, a result of little testing time and recce in a local rental car. “It hasn’t been a great event for us, but today we finally got the car setup for the conditions here and set a couple of fastest times, pity the rally doesn’t go another day. We had too many problems yesterday as the car was very unstable over the jumps”.
Italian Nico Caldarola hasn’t had a great year so far, but came to China hoping to repeat his win here in 2000. The Top Run Subaru driver was satisfied at the finish “I’m happy to finish the event with no problems. The roads are different, much rougher and some big stones. We are happy with our final position, there’s a lot of top international drivers in the Chinese Championship and we and the other top five APRC competitors finished ahead of them.
Of the other APRC finishers Brian Green from New Zealand had turbo problems and finished 12th, but stayed one position ahead of his team-mate Dermott Malley.
Unofficial Final Results
Taguchi Katsuhiko / Mark Stacey
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8
Karamjit Singh / Allen Oh
Armin Kremer / Timo Gottchalk
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8
Yanagisawa Hiroshi / Ideue Tatsuya
Fuji Subaru Impreza
Geof Argyle / Steve Smith
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8
Nico Caldarola / Paola Cecchini
Oscar Svedlund/Bjorn Nilsson
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
Chan Chi Wah/Chan Tang Po Lin
Liu Caodong/Mei Jianbang
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
Wen Fan/Zhou Li
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6
Brian Green/Fleur Pederson
Mitsubishi Lancer EVO8
Dermott Malley/Patrick Malley
Mitsubishi Lancer EV6.5
Rally Japan - Download TV Programme
For those of you with high-speed connections you can go to the following website to view the latest round of the 2004 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Rally of Japan: Singh Wins and Atkinson the Sensation
Singh, Atkinson, Argyle
Malaysian driver Karamjit Singh has won the Asia Pacific Rally Championship section of the 2004 Rally of Japan driving a Production class Proton Pert. Behind Singh came young Australian Chris Atkinson driving a Super 1600 Suzuki Ignis and third was New Zealander Geoff Argyle in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8.
The 2004 Rally of Japan was held on the northern island of Hokkaido and followed by thousands of enthusiastic spectators all reveling in the events promotion to World Rally Championship status. Unlike previous years the weather was hot and sunny over the 3 days and the roads in much better condition. The introduction of new stages bought a welcome variety of tests on each leg.
For Singh and co-driver Allen Oh the event was a dream run for their new sponsor JK Tyres of India. “ It was good to give our new sponsor the best start possible and for us the event was easy as most of our rivals had troubles”. Singh’s win in Japan gives him a clear lead in the championship points race.
Argyle and Smith
For Chris Atkinson this was a fantastic result in front of the World Rally Championship teams. Driving last years J-WRC Suzuki Ignis Atkinson raised a few eyebrows with his 8th quickest stage time on SS13 and then led the APRC race for several stages before a puncture lost him time to Singh. “Its been a pretty awesome result - 2nd Asia-Pacific and 12th outright so its pretty special”, said Atkinson at the finish.
Driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 Geoff Argyle was happy to finish in 3rd position, “quite a reasonable result considering I made some bad tyre choices on the first part of the rally. On the last set of stages of the event we finally got the combination right and set some fast times. We know now we’ve got the package – we just got make sure we come to these events earlier and do more testing in each country.
For last years champion German driver Armin Kremer this was a frustrating event, with the only highlight being that he led the APRC competition after the first stage. However on the 2nd stage he lost 2nd gear – a handicap he had to run with for the rest of the day until his crew could change his gearbox at the evening service break. The second leg bought no better luck, further problems with the gearbox lost him more time and then in the final control the MRF Mitsubishi crew checked in early and incurred a 1-minute time penalty, dropping them to 4th overall.
The Atkinson Fan Club
If Kremer was unhappy with his result at least he finished, unlike his Japanese team-mate Katsuhiko Taguchi who retired from 2nd place within sight of the finish. “Its a pity because today my feeling was very good, we can take time from Karamjit and Mark (Stacey) was reading the pace-note very well, but this is rallying. For China Rally - we go flat out!!”.
Finnish driver Vesa Mikkola under the watchful eye of his famous father Hannu set some good stage times in his Suzuki Ignis and is gradually coming to grips with international rallying, between his university studies For Subaru driver Nico Caldarola the event bought much needed points and a welcome finish, however he is looking forward to China where the Italian has won in the past. The 2004 Malaysian Rally Champion Kiwi Brian Green in the TOTAL Mitsubishi finished 7th APRC competitor having a good battle with his team-mate Dermott Malley who finished 8th..
Asia Pacific Rally
Entrant Driver Co-Driver
Gr Cl. Pos
Diff. Prev. Car
Team Proton Pert
SINGH Allen OH
ATKINSON Benjanin ATKINSON
Lubricants Geof ARGYLE Steve SMITH
Tyres Armin KREMER Timo GOTTSCHALK
MIKKOLA Risto NIUKKANEN
Caldarola Nico CALDAROLA Paolo CECCHINI
Lubricants Brian GREEN Fleur PEDERSEN
Lubricants Dermott MALLEY Patrick MALLEY
2004 FIA APRC Drivers Points after Round 4
Karamjit Singh (Malaysia) 48
Armin Kremer (Germany) 38
Chris Atkinson (Australia) 27
Geof Argyle (New Zealand) 25
Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) 22
Nico Caldarola (Italy) 9
Vesa Mikkola (Finland) 9
Brian Green (New Zealand) 8
Dermott Malley (New Zealand) 2
2004 FIA Asia-Pacific for Manufacturers:
Rally of Japan: Singh leads, but Atkinson the Sensation
Karamjit Singh - SS13
Karamjit Singh from Malaysia, driving a Production class Proton Pert leads the 2004 Asia Pacific Rally Championship field after the first day of competition at Rally of Japan - an event also part of the World Rally Championship. Running in hot and dusty conditions and cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic spectators the APRC and WRC drivers tackled 10 stages and 124km of special stages north of the Hokkaido city of Obhiro.
After an initial scare Singh is 28 seconds in front of rival Katsuhiko Taguchi in a Mitsubishi. Singh commented at the end of the day, "we nearly went off the road on the 3rd corner of the first stage of the day, so we calmed down after that and had a good day".
Japanese driver Taguchi is happy to be 2nd and doing well in front of a huge home crowd and third place is held by the sensation of the event so far - Chris Atkinson in his Super 1600 Suzuki. Atkinson led the APRC race for part of the day after setting a sensational 8th fastest time (the only cars to go faster were WRC cars) on SS13 and then held that lead until SS18, when he got a puncture and dropped 30 seconds to his competitors.
Current APRC points leader Armin Kremer set the pace on the 1st stage, but then lost 2nd gear - a handicap he had to run with for the rest of the day until his crew could change his gearbox at the evening service break " the first stage was really good for us and after this we had some problems with the gearbox and we lost 2nd gear. It was a long day,, but we are still here. Tomorrow is a new day and we will go for bonus points in the Asia Pacific Championship'.
Geoff Argyle - SS13
New Caledonia winner New Zealander Geoff Argyle is 5th after making a wrong choice of tyres ' we got caught out as the roads are quite different from last year, the weather is much drier and hotter and we went for too softer tyre. On the 2nd run through the stages we were on the pace again'. Argyle was impressed by the number of people watching the rally 'in one town thousands of people were lining the road - they even had commentary on the cars as we went through'.
Italian Nico Caldarola is in 6th place, "the car is going well and I'm happy" he said at the last service. Caldarola is followed by Vesa Mikkola in a Suzuki, Brian Green in a Mitsubishi and Dermott Malley also in Mitsubishi.
The final leg is 120km long, with one stage Penke of 29kms - a test that saw many of the competitors crash out in the 2003 event. The finish podium is back at the Kita Aikoku service park near Obhiro.
Rally of Japan
The quaint Japanese city of Obihiro, on the island of Hokkaido, is taking on a dramatic new look as the FIA World Rally Championship rolls into town.
More than 15 years have gone into the planning to make Hokkaido ready to host a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Now the idyllic rural town - famed for its hot springs and soybeans - is being transformed overnight as the World Rally Championship teams move their equipment onto the island.
Tokachi Plaza - usually a community centre - has become the hub of the rally. As the rally headquarters, it will house the massive technology systems that monitor the cars, calculate the results and keep the event running smoothly. "In Rally Headquarters we have a number of other specialist technologies," explained Deputy Clerk of Course Ross Burbidge. "Even for an advanced country such as Japan, Tokachi Plaza will support a huge technological effort the likes of which this island will not have seen.
It's very exciting for the people working here and local volunteers to be part of such an event," said Burbidge.
The area at Kita Aikoku has been cleverly adapted to become a service park for the four World Rally Championship teams, the Asia-Pacific contenders, several leading Production Car World Rally Championship competitors and a host of local drivers who will make repairs to their cars there after rallying the area's smooth and flowing stages.
The service park, located just outside the centre of Obhihiro, has seen frantic work as the containers holding support vehicles, mechanical equipment and the all important rally cars are unloaded.
A purpose built special stage lies at the heart of the city's efforts. The 2.2 kilometre twin track super special stage close to the centre of town will give Obihiro the chance to see furious rally action without having to retreat to the countryside stages. The track has taken eight weeks to construct and features a challenging tunnel and spectacular jump that will thrill the crowds and drivers alike.
The rally action starts Friday morning in country stages north east of Obhihiro. Further information can be found on the Rally Japan website at www.rallyjapan.jp
For further information and photos please contact:
Mobile: + 81 90 2077 6302
Brian Green Malaysian Champion
APRC regulars Brian Green and co-driver Fleur Pederson have won the
international Rally of Malaysia and at the same time clinched the 2004 Malaysian Rally Championship. Green has been a top finisher throughout the Malaysian championship, leading home many of the top locals on several occasions. Rally of Malaysia is Green's first victory at international level.
Rivals Meet Again
Current Asia-Pacific drivers champion Armin Kremer has entered his home event the World Championship Deutschland Rally and will drive a Corolla WRC.
Kremer, who is also a former European Champion, is currently the 2004 Asia-Pacific points leader by 1 point from Malaysian Karamjit Singh.
Singh will also compete in the German event in the Production Car WRC class in a Proton Pert - and will be hoping for a better result than Argentina where he rolled his brand new Proton on the opening super-special after hitting a rut. In 2002 Singh was the P-WRC champion, was 3rd in 2003 and is currently in 10th place.
APRC Battle Hots Up After Rotorua
13JUL04 - By David Thomson
Defending champion Armin Kremer and former champion Karamjit Singh are locked in a neck-and-neck battle for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship lead after round three, the Rotorua International Rally.
Winning the New Zealand event outright for the first time, Singh (Proton Pert) has closed the gap on Kremer (Mitsubishi Lancer) to just one point. The Malaysian driver is delighted with the win, which could prove crucial as he seeks further backing to continue in the series.
"It was very important for us to win here for the championship, and let's hope this helps us with more sponsorship" said Singh. "Basically we have run out of money. It's getting tougher every year."
The early stages of the rally were dominated by local drivers, but Singh powered to the head of the Production Class field six stages into the event. He stayed there to the finish, eventually beating Kremer home by almost two minutes. He also gained the outright lead when top New Zealand Group A driver Andrew Hawkeswood (Lancer) retired two stages from the end.
Singh and Kremer were split in the overall standings by former New Zealand champion Neil Allport, although Allport's Group A Lancer was not eligible to be considered in the final APRC event placings.
Kremer, meantime, only managed to retain his outright APRC lead by claiming maximum bonus points for the second leg of the event.
Geof Argyle, who started the rally as Kremer's top APRC challenger, had a horror run on his home event. He became the major APRC casualty on leg one when a problem with his team's tyre-grooving equipment causing him to suffer three punctures. He still managed to finish the leg fourth in the APRC field, but then slipped back a further place on Saturday's second leg and
could only manage 11th overall in his Lancer Evo 8.
Mark Tapper, the best of the non-APRC Group N drivers came home fourth overall after an outstanding drive in his Ralliart Evo 7. Katsuhiko Taguchi (Lancer) was fifth, and third amongst the APRC-registered drivers. He is now third in the APRC points.
Locals dominated the next three places with Chris West (Subaru Impreza) sixth, Tom Pritchard (Lancer) seventh, and Dean Sumner (Lancer) eighth. West's result moves him into the New Zealand championship lead after three rounds.
Hiroshi Yanagisawa (Impreza) was ninth and Nico Caldarola (Impreza) tenth overall and fourth in the APRC pack.
Australian Chris Atkinson continued to show fine form in the Suzuki Ignis, easily winning his class. He climbs to fifth in the overall APRC standings, two points behind Argyle. Atkinson's team mate Versa Mikkola was not so fortunate, being delayed on leg one and retiring early on leg two. In fact Mikkola, the son of world rallying great Hannu Mikkola, was only APRC-registered driver not to complete the rally.
The other two APRC competitors were New Zealanders Brian Green and Dermott Malley, who finished well down in the overall standings in their Lancers.
APRC competitors now have a six week break before the Asia leg of the series commences with the world championship Hokkaido Rally in early September.
Hella Battery Town Rotorua International Rally, 9-10 August
Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (Standings after three rounds) Overall:
Armin Kremer 33
Karamjit Singh 32
Katsuhiko Taguchi 20
Geof Argyle 18
Chris Atkinson 16
Nico Caldarola 6
Brian Green 6
Versa Mikkola 5
Champions Head Rotorua Rally Field
By David Thomson
Defending champion Armin Kremer and former title holder Karamjit Singh will the first two drivers over the start ramp of next weekend’s Rally of Rotorua, which is round three of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
MRF Tyres Lancer Evo 8 driver Kremer (Germany), leads the series after strong performances on the opening rounds in Canberra and New Caledonia.
Singh, a former double title holder and Production Class world champion, was the round winner at Canberra in his Proton PERT. The Malaysian will be looking to improve on his best-ever Rotorua result, third overall, scored on last year’s event.
Third seed goes to top local Geof Argyle (Total Lubricants Evo 8), whose confidence received a major boost when he took victory in New Caledonia. The former New Zealand rally champion can also look back on his strong Rotorua performance last year; he led the event before being delayed with a blown turbo.
Kremer’s MRF Mitsubishi team mate Katsuhiko Taguchi (Japan) holds the fourth seed for Rotorua ahead of Subaru-mounted Italian Nico Caldarola. Both are former APRC title holders, Taguchi having won the outright crown in 1999, and Caldarola having raced to the Production Class trophy in 1999.
Impressive young Australian Chris Atkinson heads the two-wheel-drive contingent from sixth place in the first of two works Suzuki Ignis Super 1600s. His team mate, Vesa Mikkola (the son of former world champion Hannu Mikkola) is seeded 10th in the second Ignis.
12th seed Hiroshi Yanagasawa (Japan, Impreza), 17th seed Daniel Palau (France, Mitsubishi Carisma GT), 19th seed Masahiro Nakajima (Japan, Lancer Evo 6), and 28th seed Masaki Yamada (Lancer Evo) complete the international contingent.
The Rotorua event is also round three of the New Zealand rally championship, and seventh seed Chris West is the first of the national contenders. West, who drives a Possum Bourne Motorsport Impreza for Subaru New Zealand, has claimed a win and a third placing from his first two events of the year.
West’s great rival in the Kiwi Production Class, Richard Mason, will carry eight on the side of his Group N Impreza. Ninth seed belongs to the third top local Group N driver, Mark Tapper (Ralliart Evo 7), who will head for the event fresh from five days of intensive personal development work at New Zealand’s inaugural Motorsport Academy.
Other top locals to watch for in Group N include 11th seed Brian Green (Evo 8), and an Evo 6 quartet comprising 14th seed Tom Pritchard, 15th seed Dean Sumner, 16th seed Emma Gilmour, and 18th seed Deborah Kibble.
Gilmour and Kibble can also expect a strong opposition in the battle for first female honours from Lee-Anne Barnes and Sarah Kemp in new Evo 8s.
The strongest challenges for outright honours at Rotorua may, however, come from further down the pack, in the form of several leading Kiwi national contenders in Group A Evo 6 and Evo 6.5 machines.
They include current NZ championship leader Andrew Hawkeswood, super-quick Todd Bawden, Glenn Smith, Lewis Scott, and former national champion Neil Allport.
The Rotorua-based event runs begins with a ceremonial start on the evening of Thursday 8th July, and with two days on competition to follow on the Friday and Saturday.
RALLYE DE NOUVELLE CALEDONIE 29-30 May 2004
Argyle Wins in New Caledonia - Kremer Leads the Championship 31MAY04
Argyle & Smith Podium
New Zealander Geoff Argyle drove a well judged event to win the APRC Rally of New Caledonia. Driving a Mitsubsihi Lancer Evo 8, Argyle took the lead on the 10th stage, after initial pace-setters Armin Kremer and Malaysian Kramjit Singh had problems. Singh retired his Proton Pert with an engine failure, while Kremer recovered to finish 2nd in his Mitsubishi and take the Asia Pacific Rally Championship points lead.
The New Caledonian event is the second round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and for the first time the events first leg was held 220 km north of Noumea in the mountain roads near the township of Poya. The second and final day was back to the familiar 'red-roads' in the Nickel mining area south of Noumea. This year's event was 223 kilometers of special stages and held in mostly fine and hot weather.
Geof Argyle came to New Caledonia knowing that a good result was essential for his championship hopes after retiring early from the first round in Canberra. "We need to get points here and more miles in the car", said Argyle prior to the start. An intercom problem on the first two stages of the first day meant that his hopes of challenging for the outright lead suffered an early blow, but when the event returned for the overnight halt in Noumea Argyle had climbed to 3rd place and put himself firmly in contention for a podium finish.
Kremer - Watersplash
Fastest on day one was German Armin Kremer, enjoying the fast mountain roads in his MRF sponsored Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8. However Kremer was the first to have problems on the second day - dropping time on the first set of stages with front drive-shaft failure. More time was lost at service as his team had to replace the drive-shafts and differential, the final deficit dropping Kremer to 3rd overall. Howver with Singh's demise in stage 10, the two Mitsubishi's moved into 1st and 2nd overall with two stages to go - Argyle now leading with Kremer 20-seconds behind.
Kremer pushed hard on the penultimate stage and got the deficit down to 6 seconds and looked like he might get the lead back on the final 25 kilometer stage. Argyle on the other hand had reckoned on a safer approach for the final stages - a plan that paid off as the fast charging Kremer suffered a time consuming puncture 10 kilometres from the end of the event. "It wasn't our lucky day today, we got a puncture and lost 2 minutes", said Kremer at the final finish control.
The final time difference between the two Mitsubishi contenders was 42 seconds and Argyle was ecstatic to get a win as well as get 13 APRC points and said at the finish, "We got off to a difficult start, but the team worked really hard to get the car right and once we found the right combination of Silverstone tyres we set some good times - watch out in the next event Rally of Rotorua".
Atkinson - Finish Ramp
In third place and only ten seconds behind Kremer was young Chris Atkinson in his Suzuki Ignis Super 1600, 'that's our best Asia Pacific result to date and great for Suzuki, that we beat many faster 4WD drive cars', said Atkinson at the podium finish. Suzuki's result was made even more complete with Atkinsons team mate Finish driver Vesa Mikkola getting his Ignis home in 4th overall.
Brian Green finishing 5th place in his Mitsubishi Lancer 8 after a couple of off-road excursions, but at least he finished unlike many of the other APRC contenders. First to go was Italian Nico Caldarola 5 kilometres into Stage 1, off the road on a fast section and damaging the front suspension.
Next to depart was Kremer's team-mate Katsuhiko Taguchi crashing off on the 4th stage and retiring. The MRF Mitsubishi team repaired the slight damage and Taguchi was able to re-start the 2nd day under the super-rally rules and take 3 value points by finishing fastest of the APRC entrants for the day.
Noberto Cangani was headed for a good result after day 1, but on a spectacular river crossing his car injested water into the engine and retired early in day 2.
The next event for the Asia Pacific Rally Championship is the Rally of Rotorua, home of the mighty Motu road and this year to be run as one long stage of 44 kilometres.
Singh takes maximum points from Canberra
Former champion Karamjit Singh driving a Proton Pert took maximum points at the opening round of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, the Rally of Canberra. The Rally of Canberra attracted 48 entries and lived up to its reputation for being tough on both car and driver with only half of the APRC field reaching the finish after 267 stage kilometres. The region has had no rain for over 10 weeks and therefore the tricky Canberra roads were made even more difficult with fine dust hanging in the windless air.
Starting in first position on the road meant the first day was difficult for Singh, sweeping the roads for his fellow competitors. However In his typical smooth style the Malaysian stayed out of trouble to win the APRC category easily and take a maximum 16 points. "we're very happy to win convincingly - todays conditions were better, much than yesterday, apart from a little dust earlier this morning".
Mitsubishi drivers and team-mates Armin Kremer and Katsuhiko Taguchi
finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. 2003 APRC champion German driver Armin Kremer competing in a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8, felt he could have gone quicker and was disappointed to not finish further up the overall positions after niggling new car problems prevented him from driving at full pace. Kremer's efforts to gain time were thwarted by a competitor ahead of him rolling, forcing him to follow in his dust. 'We drove 15 kilometers behind this guy and we lost a lot of time, yes OK, we have 2nd position but we didn't come here for 2nd, we will go maximum for the Rally of New Caledonia in three weeks" said an unhappy Kremer after the rally.
After leg one Katsuhiko Taguchi was 2nd of the APRC drivers, happy with his position and looking to maintain his pace, but bad luck struck on the first test of the 2nd leg. Taguchi and navigator Mark Stacey suffering a puncture that required a change mid-stage, losing the pair 3 minutes 30 seconds and dropping them to 9th overall and 3rd APRC driver. Looking forward to the next event Taguchi said at the finish 'The car is going very well and we'll make some small changes for the next event in New Caledonia".
Another giant killing performance from Australian Chris Atkinson in the
Suzuki Ignis Super 1600 saw him finish 10th overall and 4th APRC driver.
Atkinson was pushing the Suzuki to its maximum and on the 2nd leg rolled the car "I've given my crew some work to do but we didn't lose much time, maybe 10 seconds and it ended up back on its wheels - we're very happy with our final position 10TH overall and 4th in Asia Pacific". Team-mate Vesa Mikkola had a troubled start to his rallying career rolling his Suzuki on the first leg and were not so fortunate as Atkinson. ' even if we could have got it back on its wheels we weren't going anywhere as the drive shaft was broken' said Mikkola after re-starting the 2nd leg.
Geoff Argyle in his new Total sponsored Mitsubishi Lancer 8, had a rally to forget, a major fuel feed problem preventing them from getting any further than the official start and the same problem afflicting team-mate Brian Green in Stage 4. The team fixed both cars enabling Argyle and Green to restart the 2nd day under the SuperRally rules. Argyle showed the cars potential with a fastest stage time and use the time to do further tyre testing. The Total team 3rd driver Dermott Malley was excluded from the results after going over-time at the end of the 2nd leg.
A troubled event for the Italian Top Run team with Noberto Cangarni out
after the 1st stage with an engine problem in his Mitsubishi Lancer and Nico Caldarola debuting a new Subaru Impreza retiring with gear linkage problems.
The next event for the APRC is the tropical island paradise of French New Caledonia, where the conditions will be completely different. Although an island paradise, winter rain can turn the dirt tracks into treacherous mud slides.
Rally of Canberra Results (Provisional) - Sunday May 9, 2004
1. D Herridge/G Macneall (AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:58:40.5
2. J Kangas(AUS)/J Rabbett(AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 2:58:51.1 +10.6 secs
3. T Arai (AUS)/T Sircombe (NZ) Subaru Impreza WRX STi
2:58:56.0 +15.5 secs
4. C Crocker (Aus)/G Foletta (Aus) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 2:59:12.2 +31.7 secs
5. K Singh/A Oh (MAL) Proton Pert 3:00:05.6 +85.1 secs
6. A Kremer(D)/Timo Gottschalk(D) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.02.59.8 +4.19.3
7. M Peddars(AUS)/ Toni Feaver(AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7 3.04.15.9 +5.35.4
8. B Goldsbrough(Aus)/D Moscatt(AUS) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 3.04.49.5
9. K Taguchi (JPN)/M Stacey (AUS) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8 3.04.51.1 +6.10.9
10. C Atkinson(AUS)/B Akinson(AUS) Suzuki Ignis 1600
APRC provisional points after Round 1
Karamjit Singh 16 points
Armin Kremer 11 points
Katsuhiko Taguchi 8 points
Chris Atkinson 5 points
Geoff Argyle 1 point
Rally Canberra kicks off the 2004 APRC Championship
Mikkola at the start ramp
This weekends Rally of Canberra (8th-9th May 2004) is the opening event of the 2004 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and the series looks set to be another thrilling battle for the teams and drivers. Rally of Canberra is a firm favourite with drivers and spectators - 14 gravel stages and 262.72 competitive kilometres that are based in the forests around Canberra, Australia's national capital - a beautiful purpose-built city, sited between the larger commercial centres of Sydney and Melbourne. After being ravaged by bushfires in 2003 the areas where the rally will go are completely devoid of trees or greenery and with no rain for several weeks dust may become a problem for the drivers.
Last year's APRC champion, German driver Armin Kremer, returns with the MRF team and will be competing in a brand new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 8. After claiming the 2003 APRC title at the final round in India where four drivers could have become champion, Kremer is well aware that retaining his crown will be no mean feat in one of the world's most hotly-contested series. "I will fight for the title again." Armin said, "It is my goal to retain this, the new car has a nice feeling and we had a good test." Kremer is a previous winner of the German Rally Championship for Drivers in 1996, 1998 and 1999 along with the title for FIA European Rally Championship for Drivers in 2001.
Former double Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Karamjit Singh from Malaysia heads the provisional entry of 31 crews in a Proton Pert. Singh continues a busy 2004 rally schedule competing in the Production World Rally Championship plus various rounds of the Malaysia championship.
New Zealander Geof Argyle was one of the four drivers who had a chance at the 2003 title and has entered the championship with a brand new
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8. Argyles New Zealand based team comprises two other kiwi drivers, veteran Brian Green also in a Lancer Evo 8 and Dermott Malley in a Mitsubishi Lancer 6.5.
1999 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Champion Katsuhiko Taguchi is team-mate to
Kremer in a similar Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 8. The Japanese driver and the MRF team are likely to be a dominant factor in the 2004 championship. "I am going to be contesting all the APRC events this year and plan on giving it my best," said Taguchi. "My goal is to become Group N Champion. I am especially looking forward to the fourth round, the Rally of Japan, which is also a round of the WRC".
Italian driver Nico Caldarola as been an avid supporter of the Asia Pacific series since 2000, winning the Group N championship in 2002 and taking several overall victories in a Mitsubishi. This year his Top-Run team have switched to Subaru Imprezas and Caldarola will drive the latest Group N version. Italy is also represented by Norberto Cangani in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7.
The Suzuki Crew and Friends
Suzuki have entered the Super 1600 class with a two-car team with last years driver Australian Chris Atkinson returning and this year joined by Vesa Mikkola, the son of one of rallying great legends, Hannu Mikkola. The Suzuki Ignis with its normally aspirated 1600 engine is hugely popular with the crowds and are identical models to those run by the factory team in the Junior WRC in 2003.
Other drivers entered in the championship are Japanese drivers Atsushi
Masamura (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7) and Haruo Takakua (Subaru Impreza).
Another young driver with a famous rallying Dad is Nick Marshall in a
Peugeot 106. His father Mike Marshall competed against Hannu Mikkola in the 1973 Heatway Rally in New Zealand
Changes to the championship this year include a 2-day format and all cars in the leading class will be FIA Group N specifications. The APRC is run using the SUPERally format, a concept planned for the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship - enabling a competitor who fails to finish any leg of a rally being permitted to restart the next leg, assuming the competitors rally car is technically eligible. For the first time in several years the APRC will run alongside the World Rally Championship at Rally of Japan.